Coral reefs are home to more than one quarter of all the known marine fish species. Reefs also provide a home for lobsters, crabs, shrimps, clams, starfish, worms, sea urchins and marine plants. The reef structure is used for protection and food. On a healthy coral reef every hole, cranny, crack and cavern is teeming with life forms. The immense biodiversity has caused coral reefs to be nicknamed ‘the rainforest of the sea’. In their relationship with man, they are important to the fishing industry and as tourist attractions. They provide protection for coastlines against erosion and provide sand for beaches.
Many of our large coral heads were severely damaged in the storms of 2017 and are recovering. The growth rate for most coral is one inch per year. We strive to protect the reef and encourage new growth as much as possible.
While swimming, snorkeling or diving remember that even the lightest touch with hands, feet or equipment can damage the delicate coral polyps. Avoid any contact. Snorkelers should wear flotation vest to allow for the opportunity to adjust gear without needing to stand. Never stand on a coral reef. Also avoid contact with rocks and other ocean bottom surfaces, areas that appear empty may support new growth that is just developing and if left undisturbed will grow. Do not touch or collect marine life. Do not feed fish and marine animals, this changes their natural behavior and diet and alters the natural life cycle of the coral reef. It is illegal to remove anything from the National Park which extends into the waters surrounding St. John.
Recent legislation has been passed in the Virgin Islands to ban sunscreens that are not eco-friendly and ‘reef’safe’. Please abide by this new law to help protect our reefs from harmful chemicals. Read the ingredients and be an advocate for sea creatures, not just here, but everywhere! A good alternative to sunscreen is UV clothing, swim shirts and hats.