in conversation with two (non-marine) biology majors

“did you see a lot of sea urchins?”
“they blanketed portions of the seabed.”
“that means the reef is dying.”
“what? why?”
“there is a lack of natural predators, an imbalance in the eco-system somewhere.”

thus i learnt that the sandy bottoms so common in tioman, where sea urchins are the only creatures around in a 7-10m radius, are referred to as urchin barren(s).

the natural predators of urchins include star fish, crabs and lobsters (also, trigger fish, apparently). their disappearance from the reef can usually be attributed to overfishing, or climate change forcing them to leave in search of cooler waters.

* * *
one usually hears divers comparing dive sites, and how some places aren’t worth visiting because there are only dead/bleached corals in the sand, and not much fish. granted, divers do spend a sizable sum of money and time to get to their dive sites, and it’s understandable for them to demand to see spectacular coral seas, and kelp forests teeming with creatures big and small peeking out from behind. dead corals, skeletons of calcium carbonate, are not exactly pretty or interesting.

what surprises me is that, having seen first-hand the degradation that man’s actions have wreaked on the once beautiful seabed, we are not shocked into further action. my life does not show any change – i still pack takeaways in environmentally-unfriendly styrofoam boxes, i use disposable plastic utensils when i could use reusable steel utensils, i switch on the airconditioning more frequently than i dare admit etc… obviously, i treasure convenience far more than i do some abstract environmental concern, and im afraid to say there are many more like me, for whom laziness is the way of life.

we must do more to save our seas or risk losing forever to our foolishness this last frontier of exploration.

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