Wednesday December 7, 2022

NOAA Fisheries

It’s Corals Week! Did you know corals are animals related to jellyfish and anemones? Coral reefs are formed by individual animals, called polyps, that produce calcium carbonate which gives them their hard skeleton. You’ve probably interacted with coral reefs in some way, whether snorkeling or diving with them in warm tropical waters, or viewing them in movies. 

During your interactions, have you noticed the large number of fish hanging out in or around the reef? That’s because some fish rely on coral reef systems for food, shelter, nurseries, and breeding grounds. The coral reef also benefits from having the fish around. Fish help to clean algae off the corals, provide nutrients for coral growth, and keep pests in check. While this partnership works great, it is at risk by a variety of threats.

Overfishing Threatens Reefs

So, what could interrupt this partnership? The primary threats to coral reefs are climate change, pollution, and overfishing. Overfishing occurs when the annual rate of fish caught is too high, leaving the population size too small to recover. Fish need healthy coral reefs and coral reefs need healthy fish populations. That’s why it’s so important to prevent overfishing, particularly those fish that feed on algae. When fish populations decline, algae can grow out of control, leading to the death of corals. This may lead to a less productive, algae-dominated ecosystem, with fewer fish and no living coral.

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