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Protecting Our Reefs

Vacationers: help prevent damage to coral this summer

eTN Staff Writer  May 13, 2009

As millions of summer vacationers prepare for their annual trek to a beach or favorite vacation spot, a coalition of conservationists, scientists, and fashion and jewelry designers is encouraging travelers to consider bringing home coral-inspired souvenirs instead of real coral this year. Scientists estimate that 20 percent of the world's coral reefs have already been lost. Those that remain are threatened by climate change, pollution, destructive fishing methods, overfishing, and other human-induced damage, including activities related to tourism, such as harvesting for jewelry and other decorative items.

Leaving real coral where it belongs is one of the most immediate and tangible steps vacationers can take to prevent damage to corals and reefs. SeaWeb's Too Precious to Wear campaign is working with those in the jewelry industry, including Tiffany & Co., in addition to coral scientists and policymakers to encourage a demand for coral conservation by highlighting other alternatives available to consumers who love the look and feel of ocean-inspired accessories.

"The Tiffany & Co. Foundation has been active in coral conservation since its inception and we applaud the work of SeaWeb," said Fernanda Kellogg, president of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation. "The Foundation's programs reflect the values of Tiffany & Co., which has refused to use real coral in jewelry designs since 2002, and we believe that coral should not be harvested for jewelry or home decor."

The Trade Environment Database (TED) calculates that 3.3 million pounds (1.5 million kilograms) of corals and pieces of reef are removed from the ocean each year.

"The unregulated trade in coral and coral reef species puts unnecessary pressure on fragile ecosystems that are already under threat from a poisonous cocktail of global climate change, overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution," said Andrew Baker, assistant professor of marine biology and fisheries at University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

"Souvenir seekers who purchase actual coral products as mementos from their summer travels are unknowingly contributing to the loss of one of our ocean's most important ecosystems," said SeaWeb president Dawn M. Martin.

Coral-saving tips include:

- Avoid purchases of products made from real coral.

- When snorkeling or diving, refrain from collecting pieces of coral or other reef creatures as souvenirs or from even touching them.

Vacationers: help prevent damage to coral this summer
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