What You Can Do to Protect Hawaii’s Reef Fish


Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by Snorkel Ken

clownfish swimming around reef

The tips here are going to give you some great info on how you can protect all reefs, all fish, and all marine eco-system’s worldwide.  I only mention Hawaii because that’s where I concentrate my efforts. 

A little back story on me:  I moved to Oahu in 2014 as my last US Army station. I retired very recently.  Upon arriving on the island I quickly fell in love with it and the ocean in a way that I never thought I could.  (I’m a Gloucester, Massachusetts kid so I figured I would be bored of the ocean).

Along with that love of the land and sea came a desperate need to do everything that I could to protect what was left of this tropical paradise as the Island becomes more and more populated.  I embraced the “Malama Hawaii”  (Protect Hawaii) mantra and I haven’t looked back.

One year after arriving in Hawaii, I started a Snorkel gear website and in that time frame have really gotten into protecting the oceans, fish, and reefs around this island. I can still hardly contain myself when I see people stepping on coral or pulling it apart.  Urrrgh…

So, here’s what I’ve learned in 3 years on how to protect Coral Reefs.  Keep in mind, this is only what you and I can do.  There are numerous things that commercial fishing can improve on and the home aquarium industry is a true enemy of reef and exotic fish.  But, you have to start somewhere, right?

6 Pretty Easy Things You can I Can Do to Protect Hawaii’s Corals and Fish

Don’t Step on It!

Seriously, man! Would you want a giant to step on your house?  Or your neighborhood?  Coral reefs are home to about 1/3 of all saltwater fish at some time in their life spans.  The different kinds and amounts of marine life that call coral their home is overwhelming.  When you step on coral you’re damaging algae and other stuff that these fish depend on for food.

Also, you could always break the coral by standing on it.  That is destroying a home.  Seriously.  When I go to Hanauma Bay to snorkel with my (frequent) visitors, I’m always ready to pounce on people who stop and stand up on coral.  Mind you, if it’s an emergency then IMO it’s okay.  But to do so just to wave and for a photo op is ignorant.

Don’t Feed the Fish

Fish live in or frequent coral because they need to eat.  Whether they’re eating the algae that grows on it (sea turtles) or if they’re a predatory fish eating smaller fish hiding in crevices, it’s all part of a delicate eco system that needs to be maintained in order to keep said balance.  When you feed the fish then you throw the whole thing completely out of whack.  Not only that, what you’re feeding them is most likely not good for them and is the reason why you can’t find it in nature.  Bread doesn’t grow on coral.  Frozen peas don’t either.  Don’t do it.  You’re doing more harm than good.  And if you’re doing just to attract attention from the fish then you’re a jerk.

Use Coral Safe Sunscreen

Protecting your body and skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun is important and having a good, coral safe sunscreen is usually at the top of my “snorkel safety” speeches to anyone.  So, don’t ever forego sunscreen to protect the coral.  There’s no need for it. 

In case you’re wondering: Some of the chemicals that are contained in non-coral safe sunscreens are very bad to the reefs and can damage them.  When reefs get damaged or start to die, then the fish have no place to live, hid, and eat.  This does no one any good. 

It’s easy these days to get a cheap and effective, coral-safe, sunscreen solution.

Plant Trees and Use Less Water

Seriously.  Waste water run-off is bad for the ocean and the reefs so using less water will help to reduce the run off.  Planting trees causes a barrier to water run-off into the ocean.  Not only that, you’ll be helping the planet as a whole by using less water and taking part in reducing the global warming that is currently underway by planting trees.

Fishing and Litter

Look, I like to fish as much as the next guy.  In fact, one of the ways I stay healthy in Hawaii is by eating some of the great tasting fish that they have in the waters.  Fish is healthy and natural and it feels great to feed yourself.  That being said, I’m always careful to pick up all of my tackle and line before going home and I NEVER discard line or trash into the ocean.  All it takes is one sad video of a turtle snagged in a fishing line to make you want to do a better job of that, IMO. 

Lastly, when at the beach, pick up your trash!  The tide comes in and washes trash into the sea.  The wind blows it into the sea.  The damage done by plastics and wrappers that make it into our oceans is so drastic!  It’s so easy to just NOT leave anything laying around and to dispose of all you waste properly.

Join the Defense!

Depending on where you live you could always join a Coral Reef clean up group.  There are lots of them in Hawaii as I am sure there are in many coastal areas  It doesn’t have to be directly caring for coral either.  A snorkel or dive group that cleans up trash from the bottom of a bay or cove is just as important as a group (or family) taking time out to walk a beach and pick up trash.






Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.