Corals reefs and sea grass beds are an essential component to the food chain and to human life. Coral and algae live together in reef colonies providing food source for marine organisms. Sea grass beds stabilize shallow, sandy bottoms, providing habitat for juvenile fish and shellfish, and the primary food source for our endangered turtle species.
A Coral reef consists of colonies of very small animals which often take hundreds of years to form the structures we see today as the coral reef to explore. The sea fans which are soft corals are often mistaken for plants, take many years to even grow a few inches.
Just touching corals to see what they feel like, can kill an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from disease. A snorkler or divers fins can accidentally hit and break off coral colonies. Standing on coral to adjust a mask can do significant damage to a colony.
Boat anchors should be placed in sandy bottom areas to avoid dredging up vast areas of corals or sea grass. Make sure the anchor rode will swing clear of any coral heads or sea grasses. The best practice is to use one of the many moorings provided by the National Park Service or the Reef foundation.