Coral Etiquette 101 : Make sure you enjoy coral areas responsibly by taking a few simple actions during your time in the water and on land.

Corals and other marine habitats are a must-see if you live in or are vising one of the many places in the U.S. that are home to these magnificent underwater resources. However, corals and the marine life they support are often threatened or damaged by the same visitors who come to admire them.

Luckily, a little marine etiquette goes a long way in preventing damage to these amazing resources. Here are five simple things you can do to enjoy corals and other marine habitats responsibly.

Leave corals and shells in their place

Don’t take corals and seashells home for souvenirs. Corals are alive and seashells are home for many animals. Both also play an important role in creating beautiful, sandy beaches. In many coastal states and territories collecting corals as souvenirs is prohibited. Admire them in their natural habitats.

Observe corals from a safe distance

Don’t touch! Corals are fragile animals. Be careful not to touch, kick or stand on the corals you see in the water because this may damage or even kill them.

Don’t litter

Dispose of your waste properly, and recycle whenever possible. Anything left on the beach ends up in the ocean. Litter, like plastic bags and bottles, can become entangled on corals. Marine life also often mistake our trash for food.

Be a cautious boater

Ask about the locations of mooring buoys so you can safely tie off your boat without damaging it or any surrounding marine life. Additionally, always anchor your boat in areas with a sandy bottom. Anchoring on corals or in a seagrass bed will cause damage.

Be reef smart

Learning more about the corals and marine life you encounter on vacation is easy and fun. A quick visit to a local dive shop, marine park center or aquarium will put you in touch with knowledgeable experts with more information about corals, the marine life they support and how you can help conserve them. Your hotel or cruise may also have additional resources.

Coral Etiquette