Global Warming Threatens Americans' Favorite Diving and Snorkeling Destinations

National Wildlife Federation Launches Public Awareness Campaign

12-30-2003 // NWF Media Team

WASHINGTON, DC -- Warmer ocean temperatures are causing coral bleaching at some of the world's most popular dive destinations, threatening the future of coral reefs that divers and snorkelers visit in ever-increasing numbers.

At five of the most popular destinations among American divers and snorkelers, rising water temperatures are combining with other pressures such as pollution and coastal development to form a deadly mix for fragile coral reefs, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

In the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the trend is the same – global climate change is warming ocean waters, contributing to coral bleaching and threatening the long-term survival of popular reefs.

To combat the problem, NWF is launching a public awareness campaign targeting American divers and snorkelers, arming them with information about how they can help minimize the impact of global warming on the coral reefs they love to visit.

"Many of the most popular reefs for diving are nearing a point of no return," said Patty Glick, Climate Change Specialist at NWF. "With more than 60 percent of reefs already severely threatened by coastal development, pollution, careless tourism, and harmful fishing practices, global warming could deal these ecosystems a serious blow."

The campaign is being kicked off with a free multi-media DVD, Coral Reefs: Canaries of the Sea, being distributed through dive shops, zoos and aquariums, and tourism offices, and other venues. The DVD explains how global climate change is affecting reefs, and offers practical tips for marine enthusiasts to help reverse some of the damage.

"Coral reefs are like the canary in the coal mine, sending us important signals about the health of our ocean ecosystems. With this DVD, we hope to motivate people to heed this warning and become voices for change," Glick said.

Below are some of the most important actions divers and snorkelers can take to help protect coral reefs from the many threats they face:

  • Observe careful diving practices and obey park or reserve regulations.
  • Help scientists monitor the health of coral reefs by volunteering with an organization that can teach divers how to set transects, identify reef species, and survey the reef floor.
  • Never anchor on a reef. One option is to use specially-designed mooring buoys.
  • Volunteer with organizations working to clean up local waterways. The health of all waterways (rivers, lakes, bays) ultimately affects the ocean.
  • Call or write your Senators and ask them to support the McCain Lieberman global warming bill, which will take a first step toward reducing the global warming pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the oceans. Forty four Senators currently support this concrete plan of action, and momentum is building.
  • Help slow global warming by conserving energy. Many hotels, resorts, and cruise lines are saving money and the environment by using energy-efficient lighting and appliances and offering guests the option to reuse sheets and towels.
  • When making travel plans, consider energy-saving options for transportation. Buses and rail may offer a more efficient means of transport than air for shorter-distance trips. Once at a destination, walk, ride-share, or use available mass transportation whenever possible.

The nation's largest member-supported conservation education and advocacy group, the National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life to protect nature, wildlife and the world we all share. The Federation has educated and inspired families to uphold America's conservation tradition since 1936.

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