One shell at a time

one-shell-at-a-timeWords by Amyline Quien Ching

There are only two things worth taking home after a trip to the beach— funny moments with your family captured on film and those shells, whether stringed to make a necklace or preserved for your shell collection. But do you know that bringing these shells home with you can indirectly deprive aquatic animals a piece of their homes?

Although often nondescript and largely taken for granted, seashells and corals play crucial roles in the ecosystem. Corals provide a home for small fishes and serve as their protection against predators. The same goes for shells, which are homes to soft-bodied animals called mollusks that help clean the water. If these are irresponsibly taken from their natural environment, the balance in the ecosystem will be affected, creating problems for marine life. Even the shells washed ashore serve a purpose by keeping the sand in place and providing food for birds.

One shell in particular that collectors are going after is the Triton’s Trumpet, which is worth a couple of thousand pesos. But because it is now part of shell collections at home, it is in danger of becoming extinct. This is unfortunate because Triton’s Trumpets can limit the number of crown-of-thorns starfishes and prevent the destruction of coral reefs.

In some countries, taking live shells and corals are prohibited while collecting those on the shoreline is given a limit. According to Rina Bernabe of Conservation International (CI), people should even refrain from buying shell souvenirs from vendors and stores in the beach area because these are often seized by people without a thought to the environment.

“Don’t buy these kinds of souvenirs because you are only encouraging these vendors to continue with what they are doing and are indirectly helping them destroy marine life.. Instead, support products that promote the local culture and economy but do not cause harm to the environment.”

In a children’s book that CI recently launched, Inseparable Shells, the author Maria Isabel Garcia mentioned how each creature in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape depend on each other for survival. Take one creature and you kill another. The same is also true for the conservation corridors that make up this world conservation site: Verde Island Passage, Cagayan Ridge and Balabac Strait. Destroy one corridor and you destroy the rest.

But the good news is, the same way that one small action can destroy marine life, one saving act can help preserve the country’s rich marine life for generations to come. So don’t think you can’t save the environment. You can, one shell at a time.

What kids can do to help save marine life

You don’t have to be a marine biologist or an environmental worker to help conserve marine life. Here are some of the things that you can do to help with the fight:

1. Limit your shell pickings. Better yet, just enjoy them right there on the beach and leave them there where they belong.
2. If you really have to bring home some souvenirs, make sure that what you bring home is not alive or does not house creatures that are alive.
3. Don’t buy products or souvenirs made from wildlife resources such as corals and shells
4. If you’re going snorkeling, don’t touch or step on corals. They are very sensitive creatures and even the oils from your hands can cause damage or kill them.
5. When snorkeling, avoid feeding the fish.  This disrupts their natural behavior and they may lose the ability to find food on their own. Moreover, giving them bread will deprive them of the proper nourishment that they should be getting from their natural environment.
6. Throw your garbage in proper waste baskets. Participate in coastal clean-ups


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