Threats to the coral reef ecosystem are numerous.

But did you the 2 main ones are the two most common?

Sunscreen and anchors.

Boating is fun. Floating around on the water is fun. And setting the anchor to have a swim is really fun.

But did you know that one single act of anchoring can cause 23-years worth of coral damage in one go?

How might you ask?

Well, it is about the mindset as much as the boat. The effects are a real oar-deal…

Intro – a whole new meaning to ‘shipwreck’

Are you wondering if the last sentence was an appallingly intended pun?


Yes, it was.

If you cannot stomach bad puns, then leave a comment with your disgust. 

Still, back to why coral reefs are important.

companies like Omaze are great for helping to stop threats to coral reefs

Coral reefs are important simply because they are the foundation of practically all life underwater.

Yet, the simple activity of dropping anchor without taking into consideration your surroundings can produce irreversible damage to a very fragile ecosystem.

Do you see that cover image l included?

That was a photo l took of a Flying Gurnard, surrounded by 100s of square-metres of ruined coral reef completed flattened by previous anchors and moorings.

Tragic, no?

Certainly, l couldn’t believe my eyes when l dove into the water, eager for another opportunity to explore the underwater, only to be greeted with this sight.

And, can you see how much of it is pretty white?

That is a classic case of coral reefs bleaching.

Read more: Eco-anxiety: a guide to what it is and why it matters

It’s made worse by how sea life, including the Gurnard, especially rely on reefs for camouflage and even breeding possibilities.

So, you see. Some people are basically preventing our fishy friends from getting it on!

The shock value: seeing the coral reefs are dying

I have made that crudely simplified, but it is true that fish do have elaborate courtships as you read here.

Initially, l’d been going to write about the wonders of the Barbadian diving scene.

However, the severity of the damage upon the reef, which shocked my own diving instructor Malcolm, caused me to reconsider.

Malcolm had only just visited this dive site 3 weeks before, yet was blown away.

For him, a diver with over 35-years experience.

I think you can begin to imagine and appreciate the contrast we are talking about.

Why anchors are threats to coral reef systems

When you think of ships, anchors or boating, what comes to your mind first?

Well, whatever it was l bet it wasn’t of cruise liners.

Yes, you heard me right.

Those behemoth horizontal hotels that bob about between Caribbean or South-Asian islands can somehow enter shallow waters.

And when l say, ‘somehow’, l mean that they do so at the expense of the coral reefs when they drag their car-sized anchors and chains along the seabed to adequately moor.

From there, entire reefs can be decimated requiring in excess of 50 years to recover.

Most simply never do.

These activities can also happen when container ships waiting to enter foreign ports anchor outside. In many incidents, they have even run aground.

That’s right.

Sometimes negligent anchoring can even cause the entire ship to then run aground, completely annihilating the coral ecosystem.

this is one simple reason why coral reefs are important
So, BOOM, they’re no more.

But that’s not all. These ships indirectly affect them too.

As they proceed over shallower waters they stimulate so much silt off the ocean floor it flies up covering the reefs, preventing them from obtaining vital sunlight that they require.

Ironically, it is purposely designed mooring sites that help to avoid this.

It’s crucial to know where coral reefs are found so that we can avoid them when we are dropping anchor to go for a swim or relax.

By having areas zoned off prevents craft from speeding above reefs and causing noise or physical disturbance.

It something l always do when visiting places with water activities. Click here for an example of trips to Ibiza.

But how to improve boating?

It will only come back to harm us

You might be thinking:

  • ‘Well we don’t all own boats’
  • ‘I don’t dive so what does it matter’
  • ‘What impact can l have?’

Sure, those are all very normal responses.

But, it’s possible, even probable, that you did have a connection in some way.

Remember those cruise liners?

Well, chances are, if you have ever taken a trip on one, then they contributed to the worsening of a reefs ecosystem, much as happened here.

Or for smaller boats.

That time you went for an afternoon snorkelling excursion, it’s possible that the boat anchored incorrectly and spoilt the corals.

That could be from coral reefs bleaching or from boating directly which is one of many threats for the coral reef ecosystem.

Read more: Sustainable Travel: 10 surprising but seriously simple tips

The very corals YOU went to see.

So it is the carefree decisions which can have significant repercussions.

It’s about simple choices

I was reminded of the power of choice after my dive where l saw that Flying Gurnard.

While packing up, l got talking to a local, named Patricia,

She explained to me the volume of change she witnesses daily. How the activities of most people who behave in such a way that they rarely account for the impacts.

Or what a split-seconds decision can mean in the long-term:

‘We carry on expecting nature to work around us when really, we should work round nature’ she said, so eloquently.

I simply stood there and took those words in.

I could not say it better myself. Life experience has taught her the fragility of the reef, but more critically, our reliance upon it.

And it only reinforces why coral reefs are important. SO important.

Simply because:

  • Destroying reefs denies us the opportunity to experience and appreciate their beauty – we lose our snorkelling 
  • Loss of reefs means less biodiversity overall since fish rely on them – diving and other activities become worse
  • An overall degradation in the oceans which need reefs for the basic necessity of improving water quality – this ruins human communities who depend on the oceans for livelihoods

Of course, larger factors cause reef wreckage too.

Dredging, climate change, ocean acidification.

But anchoring is often prevalent at the local-scale, which we can have greater influence over.

Simple things, like avoiding cruise liners, or being conscious of where and how you’re anchoring can be major factors.

Or it could be going as far as to report such acts.

Yes, report them.

Any companies that don’t pursue business sustainability management – read more on that here.

For if a boating company is offering you excursions to swim, sail and sunbathe, they should be doing it responsibly, knowing that their entire business rests on the reefs.

And, if they aren’t, then they are a central example of threats to the coral reef ecosystems.

Plain and simple.

Equally, you support the brands, like Pela Case, with this tasteful Ripple Effect Case which gives directly back to conservation efforts.

For it they put profit before preservation it reflects a loss of priority and complacency in taking the reef for granted.

The smallest actions can have the biggest impact.

They can mean the difference for coral reefs before and after any activity. Be it boating or anything else.

Takeaways – we must stop threats to the coral reef systems

There is no doubt: boating directly contributes to why coral reefs are dying.

So, when thinking about it, there is perhaps more we can all do.

With such direct control over choosing where to anchor, it is worth being diligent.

This could be as simple as:

  • If you hire a boat or jetski, you moor and drive far from reefs as best as you can
  • If out on a boat trip, observe and ensure those in charge anchor responsibly
  • Report those companies, big or small, that abuse their positions and cause damage
  • Spread the word or support the causes of environmental and preservation initiatives

There are many ways to make a difference. And as this article has shown, the backlash against plastics was led by social media, not science.

Perhaps by considering what type of straw you use.

Or sharing this post.

Trying out various eco-friendly products is a great way to gain an appreciation for being more eco-conscious.

So, these gift boxes by Earthlove are an ideal place to start!

Have you ever witnessed coral reef destruction due to anchors or mooring? How do you try to take care of the ocean’s ecosystems?

Please leave a comment below or contact me here!


  • Pyotr Kurzin is the founder of My Global Muse, a space to talk about travel, sustainability, wellbeing and more. He works in climate change and humanitarian affairs, while loves to travel, dive, learn and more in his free time.

Pyotr Kurzin

Pyotr Kurzin is the founder of My Global Muse, a space to talk about travel, sustainability, wellbeing and more. He works in climate change and humanitarian affairs, while loves to travel, dive, learn and more in his free time.


Beryl · 23 January 2021 at 22:17

Fascinating blog! Is your theme custom made or did you
download it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few
simple tweeks would really make my blog shine. Please let me know
where you got your design. Bless you

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