Earth Focus: Vanishing Coral Comes to KCET

There’s so many fascinating things to learn and discover on land that I often forget there’s an equally fascinating world underwater. Luckily, here in SoCal I’m never too far from the ocean and I have several opportunities to learn about its rich environment. Recently, I learned about the fascinating yet endangered world of coral reefs when I joined KCET at the Aquarium of the Pacific for a screening of the Coral Seas episode of Blue Plant and the latest episode of Earth Focus Vanishing Coral.

I got to the aquarium a little early so I could say hello to my otter friends and check out the coral on display. It really was the perfect location for the screening because there is an entire Tropical Pacific Gallery filled with a variety of it.

The evening started with a screening of the Coral Seas episode of Blue Planet. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough it’s a comprehensive examination of the world of the coral reef and I found the entire episode enthralling. Upon initial viewing of the reef it would appear that nothing is happening. Maybe a few fish are swimming by but mostly it looks like some colorful stationary objects. Not so. The reef teams with life from microscopic shrimp that make their homes inside the coral to blue whales who come to the area to mate. There are schools of fish, swarms of sharks, octopi, eels and more. Not to mention the coral itself. I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten they are living, breathing animals who have a most fascinating existence.

Following Coral Seas we viewed the latest episode of Earth Focus, Vanishing Coral. After spending an hour in its captivating world it was upsetting to learn its environment is disappearing at an alarming rate. Rising ocean temperatures, pollution and unsafe fishing practices are all contributing to it’s destruction. To see the effects after just one year was heartbreaking – vibrant fields teaming with fish were replaced by dead, bleached coral with no sign of life. But hope is not lost and the episode highlights some of the efforts made to stop its destruction, specifically those of the Biosphere Foundation and their efforts to save the coral off the coast of Bali.

                                             photo courtesy of KCET

After the screening there was an informative discussion with Janet Monday, Senior Aquarist at Aquarium of the Pacific, Kim Spencer, Programming Director for KCET and Stephen Olsson, producer of the episode. Janet shared her experience working on the SECORE project where, through cross pollinating coral, she assisted in saving a reef off the coast of Guam and Stephen shared his experience in Bali working with the Biosphere Foundation.

I must admit I was completely unaware of the threat to coral reefs prior to viewing Vanishing Coral. It’s important that we save this significant part of our ecosystem and I encourage viewing of the episode. It premiers on KCET tomorrow at 8:30pm followed by Blue Planet’s Coral Seas and will continue to air throughout the week.

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