'What we do to our planet and our oceans is going to have a significant and long-term effect on what happens to us.' Laddie Akins executive director, REEF
The SouthCarolina Aquarium celebrated Earth Day early Tuesday by unveiling a series of programs focusing on a part of the Earth people seldom see - the reefs below the ocean surface.
Reefs will be the subject of Gardens of the Ocean, a series of programs at the aquarium through the end of summer.
"They have the highest mountains, the deepest valleys and incredible biodiversity that rivals the rain forests," Laddie Akins, the executive director of the group REEF told schoolchildren as he dove inside the aquarium's 330,000-gallon ocean tank.
REEF stands for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, a nonprofit group of recreational divers who conduct fish surveys and work to educate the public about maintaining marine habitat.
Akins said reefs are stressed because of pollution.
"What we do to our planet and our oceans is going to have a significant and long-term effect on what happens to us," he said.
There are about 42 reefs off South Carolina, said Chris Andrews, executive director of the aquarium. He said reefs are "home to a dazzling array of animals and plants, some of which we catch for sport, others we like to just look at and some we are studying as potential treatments for a whole range of human diseases."