Healthy coral has color to it. In the picture above, you can see healthy coral thriving at Gab Gab reef on May 2nd, 2017. This is what it is supposed to look like.
Unfortunately, the coral around the world is dying, and I want to talk about it for a moment.
Coral is made up of many tiny animals called Polyps.
These little animals have specialized chloroplast cells inside called zooxanthellae. These chloroplasts absorb sunlight and convert it to food for the polyp. Without them, a polyp will die.
When the water temperature in an area gets too hot, the zooxanthellae stop being able to work. They are sensitive to temperature, and so they die.
When they die and the polyp pushes them out, the coral becomes white (since polyps have no color.) Eventually, the polyps die and the coral becomes nothing more than skeletons covered in algae.
The reefs on Guam are bleaching. This is part of a worldwide event, which is being driven by climate change.
I wanted to share these pictures and videos in an effort to draw attention to the fact that this is happening, and how awful it is.
These pictures are taken at Gab Gab, just like the one at the top of the page. The difference is only a few months, but the difference in the temperature in the water is extremely noticeable.
Before, it used to be a little chilly when you first got in. Gab Gab is a reef that goes from the surface water level down more than one hundred feet. Deeper water, in my experience, tends to be colder.
And yet, yesterday when I got in the water, it was hot.
I beg you all to take a very close look.
I think a lot of people who have never been snorkeling or diving are able to easily ignore the bleaching of the corals and the dying of the reefs.
For me, living here, it is much harder.
Coral are home to thousands of species of animals, and as they die, those animals will also die.
The diversity of life that we had in our oceans was amazing, and losing it is absolutely horrifying.
I have no words beautiful enough or sad enough to write the eulogy for our oceans. Nothing said or written could capture how beautiful this reef was just a few months ago.
Seeing the reef now as it bleaches and dies is one of the most painful things I have ever seen.