Coral Reefs: Why do they matter? - The Maritime Financial Group
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‘Coral reefs are known to be noisy underwater metropolises bustling with sea creatures living in and among the infrastructure built by corals. These underwater cities are densely populated and rich in diversity: they comprise about 25% of marine life, yet they occupy only one percent of the ocean floor (approximately the size of Ecuador!)’ writes Dr. Anjani Ganase, Trinbagonian marine biologist and project leader of The Maritime Ocean Collection. Our country of Trinidad and Tobago is home to beautiful, unique coral reef ecosystems. However, less than one percent of our citizens have ever seen our reefs. We all know the old saying – out of sight, out of mind. So we want to share some love for our reefs and take a moment to talk about them – why do coral reefs matter?

Our reefs are essential for biodiversity – remember Dr. Ganase’s statistic? Over 25% of marine life on the planet lives in reefs. In Tobago, many creatures make coral reefs their home, including starfish, lobsters and squid, while giant manta rays and sharks regularly visit. You may ask, why is biodiversity important anyway? Well, healthy, biodiverse reefs also contribute to a healthy ocean. A healthy ocean contributes to a healthy planet… and a healthy you. “You like to breathe?” asks Michael Crosby, a marine scientist and the president of Mote Laboratory and Aquarium, “estimates are that up to 80% of the oxygen you are breathing in right now comes from the ocean. It doesn’t come from the land.”
Reefs also create natural barriers that protect our shorelines and coastal communities from big waves, storms and hurricanes. This is especially important as climate change enhances the threat of hurricanes and small islands like ours are particularly vulnerable to these storms.

But reefs do more that keep us safe – they also provide a livelihood for our people. If you have seen Tobago’s coral reefs, chances are this was made possible by a local business like a scuba diving centre or one of the famous glass bottom boats. However, many more Tobagonian businesses thrive because of coral reefs. A variety of holiday accommodations can support everyone from students and backpackers to the those who prefer a vacation in luxury. It’s highly unlikely that these ecotourists will exclusively visit our reefs – so Tobago’s restaurants, bars, taxis, clubs and other tourist attractions will also benefit.

Reefs help to feed us – estimates suggest that reefs provide food for up to one billion people worldwide. Unfortunately, industrialized fishing practices in T&T have hurt our fish stocks. That’s why our fishing needs to be sustainable – as we use our coral reefs, we also have to protect them so that future generations can continue to benefit.
Our reefs are also a part of who we are as Trinbagonians. Generations have benefited from our reefs and their underwater beauty helps to define our islands. At Maritime, we were saddened by the statistic that indicated that less than one percent of our people had the opportunity to experience the beauty of our reefs. That’s why we launched the Maritime Ocean Collection, where state-of-the-art 360º photography combined with the latest technology that allows anyone – adult or child, Trinbagonian or visitor – to view our remarkable underwater world. Let us not let our reefs be out of sight and out of mind. Let us cherish our first online coral reef collection and use this as a catalyst to show more love to our reefs.