When trying to find a viable solution against the worldwide decline of corals, it is essential to ask the question; why are coral reefs overexploited in the first place? Coral reefs are unimaginable sources of wealth. Through tourism, fishing and even the selling and exploitation of coral reefs and limestone, companies are making a fortune and getting away without giving anything back. In order for these things to change, the entire paradigm needs to shift, along with the mentality of most people, from scarcity to a more sustainable future. But is that possible?
Why are coral reefs overexploited through fishing? This isn’t hard to answer, and anyone who has been to a third world country where local fishing practices are the only thing that keeps food on the table will know the answer. Hunger is a powerful motivator, and many of the people who practice destructive fishing also lack the necessary education and understanding to try something different. In many areas in Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East, even those who know all about coral reefs feel compelled to try dynamite fishing in order to earn some quick money, despite the fact that the practice is now outlawed in numerous states. Improved education, better designated protected areas and alternative fishing technologies are some of the solutions that could turn this problem around in time.
Exploitation through unplanned tourism is another problem that has hit coral reefs hard over the past few decades. Overpopulation and better economic conditions in developing countries have led to more and more tourists being able to afford trips to places like the Bahamas, Hawaii, Malaysia and other places where significant populations of coral reefs are still left. Why are coral reefs overexploited here? Because many of these regions lack the necessary funding, education or mentality in order to invest in more responsible and sustainable tourism practices. While efforts are being made by NGOs to diminish the harmful effect on coral reefs everywhere, it is still highly necessary to raise awareness on the topic and convince more people to get involved.
The coral reef trading market directly harms corals, because it takes them out of their natural environment. Corals bred and adapted to life in captivity rarely survive for long, and many of those who buy them are either unaware, or don’t care about the fact that one by one, the industry is eliminating coral reefs entirely. In this case, we have a clear answer to the question “why are coral reefs overexploited?” and the only way to counter this issue is to inform as many people as possible about the future harm that supporting this industry will involve.