Coral reefs under threat: Roxy x Liberty Fabrics pay homage

Our Roxy pals have teamed up with London-based Liberty Fabrics to launch an eco-friendly capsule collection inspired by the ocean’s vivid underwater life.

Envisioned and engineered up by iconic design house Liberty Fabrics, the Marine Bloom print collection captures the beauty, colour & intricacy of spectacular coral reefs. Because our oceans are in need of some TLC, the ROXY x LIBERTY FABRICS collection boasts Roxy’s highest standard of eco-fabrication.

Vaimiti rests on her surfboard in a Roxy x Liberty Fabrics one-piece swimsuit, inspired by coral reefs

All photos by Roxy / Séréna Lutton. Surfer / model: Vaimiti. Click on any photo to shop.

Coral reefs and why they’re important

At the mention of coral reefs, your mind’s eye probably conjures images of dazzling organic structures, brilliant hues, crystal-clear waters and jostling marine species. Reeling tubes, possibly also. In short, a carnival of life. Healthy coral reefs are vibrant and incredibly biodiverse ecosystems; they cover less than 0.1% of the ocean floor, yet they house nearly 25% of life in the ocean. But the health of coral reefs is under threat, and the gap between these idyllic visions and their real-world counterparts is widening. All around the world, these delicate ecosystems are being drained of life and colour by anthropogenic environmental change. 

Coral reefs provide what you might call ecosystem services, all of which have hugely important and far-reaching benefits. They protect coastal areas, they’re a source of food and medicine, and they’re also used as a recreational space.

Causes of coral reef degradation

An accumulation of threats resulting from human activities has led to coral reefs’ current state. Overfishing, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and coastal development are at the top of the list of chronic stressors. Other reefs have been dredged, dynamite-blasted or otherwise altered for their limestone or to improve access and navigational safety.


Our oceans absorb most of the excess heat generated by the greenhouse gas effect, which drives water temperatures up. This in turn puts the endosymbiotic relationship between coral and zooxanthellae (basically algae) under strain. Coral polyps become more likely to expel their zooxanthellae, which is is what causes coral bleaching.

Without it, coral polyps lose colour, become white or “bleached” in appearance, and begin to starve. A rise of just 1ºC above pre-industrial averages is enough to kickstart this process.


When transported by rivers into coastal waters, or via sewage and other manmade systems, waste from land-based human activities can have a harmful effect on coral. Eutrophication is the technical term for nutrient enrichment, which isn’t as benign as it sounds; really, it’s nutrient pollution. An excess of nutrients – nitrogen, for instance, often in the form of fertiliser runoff – will result in the overdevelopment of algae. Macro-algae then colonise the substrates used by coral larvae, and can proliferate to the point where the reef is unable to regenerate. In some cases this proves irreversible.


Aside from the more general knock-on effects of overfishing elsewhere in the food chain, increased demand for fish has led to the overfishing of specific reef species. This inevitably affects the ecological balance and biodiversity of the reef. Reduced numbers of herbivorous fish in coral-reef environments, for example, is likely to be followed by high levels of algal growth, which in turn may suffocate coral (see above). Meanwhile a lack of natural predators can easily result in outbreaks of coral-eating species.

Surfer Vaimiti noserides in Tahiti wearing a Roxy x Liberty Fabrics bikini


Fishing with dynamite and cyanide makes fish easier to catch, but obviously these practices can’t target one species in particular. The destruction is indiscriminate and often permanent, not only killing numerous marine species at once but damaging the habitat they rely on. This is the antithesis of sustainability and ultimately self-defeating, for such methods have a detrimental long-term impact on the livelihoods of the fishermen responsible. Any short-term gains are outweighed by reduced fish stocks in the future.

But the buck doesn’t necessarily stop here. It’s worth noting that overfishing elsewhere – using industrial practices that are greater in scope and almost equally sweeping and untargeted – can reduce the fish stocks on which local fishermen depend, encouraging these fishermen to engage in ever riskier, more reckless activities.


In another global-warming knock-on effect, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. This causes the ocean’s pH to drop, leading to ocean acidification, with dire consequences for oceanic carbonate organisms such as coral reefs. This phenomenon reduces their ability to build their skeletons, making them much more vulnerable to erosion. Which leads us to…


According to the IPCC, data collected since 1961 shows that the ocean has absorbed more than 80% of additional heat in the climate. The average temperature of the oceans has thus increased, even at great depths. Warmer water causes the volume of the ocean to expand, and on top of this glaciers and ice sheets are beginning to melt. The predicted sea-level rise will cause multiple problems for coastal areas, including reef damage.

A piece from the Roxy x Liberty Fabrics collaboration inspired by coral reefs


Most sunscreens you’ll find in the supermarket contain chemicals that are deadly when they come into contact with coral, awakening dormant viruses within the zooxanthellae. If this sounds like a trivial or unlikely threat, consider the sunscreen oil-slick that can often be seen on the sea’s surface at a busy beach on a calm day. Make sure you choose your sunscreen right, especially if there are coral reefs nearby. (We sell Sun Bum, which is certified reef-friendly.)


Tourism generates large amounts of income for host countries, facilitates cultural change, and has led to many a mind-altering tube. Another thing it generates, of course, is greenhouse gas emissions, but that’s an argument for another day. What’s more, when unregulated, the pressures of tourism can cause damage to the immediate environment: careless divers, badly placed boat anchors, hotels discharging untreated wastewater (see POLLUTION, above), etc.


Over the past 10 years, the incidence of diseases developed in corals appears to have increased dramatically, contributing to the deterioration of coral reef communities around the world.

Tahitian surfer Vaimiti underwater in the Roxy x Liberty Fabrics bikini

What can you do to protect coral reefs?

Most damage incurred by coral reefs is the result of overconsumption (of fossil fuels, for example), unsustainable modes of consumption (industrial fishing), and overdevelopment of coastal areas. These problems are often structural and none can be solved by any one person, but that’s not the same as saying personal choices are meaningless. The accumulation of individual action – many people making better choices – has a significant impact in itself, and is a powerful socioeconomic force in its own right.

  • Reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions
  • Choose sustainably caught seafood
  • Don’t send chemicals into our waterways
  • If you dive, don’t touch 
  • Use reef-friendly sunscreens
  • Support charities that protect our oceans
  • Apply political pressure through peaceful protest and the democratic process

Further reading:

“Shallow Coral Reef Habitat.” NOAA Fisheries. Accessed August 12, 2020.

Isabella Kwai. “A Voracious Starfish Is Destroying the Great Barrier Reef.” The New York Times (Bryon Bay, Australia), January 5, 2018. Accessed August 4, 2020.

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