Coral reefs aren’t just pretty. They’re some of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth! Did you know that coral reefs support more species per unit than any other marine environment? Sadly, polluted storm water, trash, and sewage are putting our reefs in danger. Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income and protection, including all of us here in Hawaii. As kama’aina, it is our kuleana to preserve the reefs surrounding our islands for future generations to enjoy. Here are five reasons why you should help to protect our coral reefs.

1. They are an important source of food.
Coral reefs provide a habitat, feeding, spawning, and nursery ground for many of the fish we love to eat. Kole, manini, ‘omilu, aholehole and uhu all depend on the reef to survive. The fish eat corals and the plants living in them, too! A healthy reef helps maintain fish populations so fishers can continue providing food for themselves, their family, and friends.

2. They provide jobs for local communities.
Besides fishing, coral reefs support jobs in marine science, tourism, and even medicine! According to the United States Geological Survey, Hawaii’s nearshore reefs generate about $800 million in gross revenues each year.

3. They protect coastlines from storms, erosion and large waves.
Without coral reefs, many islands surrounded by oceans would be completely vulnerable to powerful waves with the ability to destroy coastal towns and villages. Reefs protect the shoreline by dispersing wave energy, which helps to lessen damage caused by storms, strong winds, and other natural disasters.

4. They are important for the discovery of new medicines.
Did you know that coral reefs are now being called the medicine cabinets of the 21st century? According to NOAA, because corals are stationary creatures, many of them have developed chemical defenses over time to protect themselves from predators. Plants and animals from coral reefs have been found to be important sources of new medicines being created to treat cancer, arthritis, bacterial infections, heart disease, and more.

5. They are home to thousands of fascinating species, many of which are just waiting to be discovered!
Have you ever gone snorkeling? If you have, you’ve probably spotted at least a few cool animals or plants. The Northwest Hawaiian Island coral reefs support more than 7,000 species of fishes, invertebrates, plants, sea turtles, birds and marine mammals, and nothing’s better than exploring a vibrant underwater world.


To read more about how stormwater affects our coral reefs and learn how you can help, visit our tips section to learn How Storm Water Impacts our Reefs.

University of Hawaii