Blacktips, Whitetips and Silvertips! Oh My!

Day 7 of our underwater journey celebrating coral reefs ends with the apex predator and their value to coral reefs worldwide: reef sharks. Sharks are commonly misunderstood and widely feared. These remarkable animals, however, are valuable to the tourism industry and the economic health of coral reef destinations. A report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that shark tourism accounts for approximately eight percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the island nation of Palau. The study showed that the roughly 100 sharks inhabiting the most popular dive sites in the area were each worth $179,000 annually to the local tourism industry, giving each shark an approximate lifetime value of $1.9 million. Worldwide, established shark-related diving operations can be found in at least 83 locations in 29 different countries. However, shark populations are declining at an alarming rate. Approximately 30 percent of … [Read more...]

Tourism & Marine Protected Areas

Day 6 of our underwater journey continues with marine protected areas (MPAs). MPAs help protect fish living on coral reefs by safeguarding certain types of fish that are vital to the reef’s ecosystem. However, creating a management program costs money and many of them do not have adequate staffing or financial resources to be effective. Luckily there are creative solutions being developed around the world to create self-sustaining MPAs, such as the Roatan Marine Park (RMP). In 2009, we helped RMP develop a business plan and from that plan they have become 100% self-sustaining financially. They’ve created merchandise shops that bring in a third of their total revenue; another third comes from the sale of voluntary dive tags. In 2015, RMP received a $12,000 grant to hire a sustainable finance coordinator who has since multiplied that initial grant to cover position costs for several years. In fact, RMP has been so successful at … [Read more...]

Grouper, Local Fisheries & Marine Protected Areas

Day 5 of our underwater journey continues with groupers, local fisheries and marine protected areas. Five hundred million people around the world depend on reef fish and other animals for food and income. In addition to providing a significant source of protein for up to a billion people, coral reef fish support commercial and artisanal fisheries and serve as a key tourist attraction. By one estimate, the coral reef global fishing and tourism industries are worth four hundred billion dollars each year. Many fish populations around the world, however, are overfished. Overfishing can harm reef ecosystems by removing fish that perform essential functions—for example, when too many herbivorous fish are harvested, reefs become overgrown with macroalgae (seaweed). Overfishing can also harm the communities that depend on reefs for income. Groupers are one type of fish that can be sold for a high value and given such, many species of … [Read more...]

Conservation Action: Through the Eyes of Communities

Day 4 of our underwater journey continues with Tulamben and Amed—two small fishing villages in Bali, Indonesia that were featured in our 2015 Annual Report. Dive tourism, fishing and farming are the lifeblood of Tulamben and Amed, and there is a deep concern about the health and management of local coral reefs. Because of these concerns, we have been working with our partners in these and other villages along the north coast of Bali to establish a network of well-managed marine protected areas that are ecologically connected and socioeconomically sustainable. Effectively managing this network requires the support of local communities. To garner this support, community concerns and knowledge must be understood and incorporated into management plans. To build an effective management plan, we partnered with Lens of the Community of Indonesia and asked villagers to use photos to document their natural environments, cultures, … [Read more...]

Coral Reefs: The Medicine Chests of the Sea

Day 3 of our underwater journey continues with soft corals and their importance as a source of many medicines. Coral reefs are often referred to as the medicine chests of the sea. A number of creatures found on reefs produce chemical compounds that have been isolated to treat human diseases—and researchers believe that many more are yet to be discovered. Soft corals, in particular, have been found to possess compounds that could be used to treat various types of cancers. Take sea fingers and sea whips, for example, corals that are soft and bendable and often resemble plants or trees. These corals do not have stony skeletons, but instead, grow wood-like cores for support and fleshy rinds for protection. Namena Marine Reserve in Fiji is an excellent location to see gorgeous soft corals and one such place where protecting coral reefs is vitally important. A study published in 2013 in the journal Marine Drugs titled, Secosteroids and … [Read more...]

One Person Can Make a Difference

Day 2 of our underwater journey continues with Paulo Kolikata, a Fijian fisherman from Kubulau and our 2015 CORAL Conservation Prize Winner. Individuals, like you or me, can profoundly impact components of the natural world – and that is particularly true with coral reefs. Over five hundred million people depend on coral reefs to support their livelihoods. This can present challenges – such as overfishing or pollution. But all it takes is one individual to recognize a problem, rally others behind a positive solution and change the course of the future for the better. One such individual is Paulo. He recognized the importance of his village’s reef and started working to protect it for future generations. Over the last decade, his dedicated and collaborative efforts with CORAL, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Bose Vanua (the council of village chiefs) and the community have led to more than 78 km2 of protected marine … [Read more...]

Hard Corals, Nature’s Seawalls

Day 1 of our underwater journey starts with hard corals and how they protect our coastlines. Healthy reefs act as natural barriers that protect coastal cities, communities and beaches from pounding ocean waves. Without coral reefs, many beaches and buildings would become vulnerable to waves and storm damage. And with increasing storm intensity predicted as our climate warms, these coastal protection services will become even more important. Research conducted on Palmyra Atoll by members of the Reefs Tomorrow Initiative found that pristine coral reefs dampen much more wave energy than expected. In other words, healthy reefs are better at protecting coastlines from wave and storm damage. Conversely, a reef that is not as healthy (perhaps due to poor water quality or overfishing) is less able to absorb or dissipate wave energy. This creates a negative feedback loop: less healthy reefs take more of a beating which leads to—you guessed … [Read more...]

Join Our Underwater Journey

  We are excited to participate in this year’s #GivingTuesday by highlighting the importance of the world’s coral reefs. Starting tomorrow, November 22, we will curate an underwater journey for you and CORAL’s supporters to celebrate the various marine life, people and organizations that are integral to creating and maintaining healthy coral reefs. You can follow along via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. As many of you know, #GivingTuesday was created to harness our world’s global giving power, encourage philanthropy and celebrate generosity. For us here at CORAL, coral reefs are an embodiment of this giving spirit. They help protect two million marine species and five hundred million people that depend on them. We encourage all of you to #GiveToReefs given how much reefs give back to us. Here’s a sneak preview of a just a few of the ways that coral reefs give back to our planet and people: Biodiversity: Coral … [Read more...]

Protecting More Coral Reefs in Fiji

It’s a hot, humid day and I’m visiting the village of Waivunia on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. I’m sitting around a kava bowl with community elders, and we are discussing how to protect and conserve their marine resources. You see, this community depends on coral reefs, but the reefs are facing mounting threats. The elders are concerned: they want to ensure there are fish in the sea for their grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am here, in Fiji, as part of my work with the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), and at the request of communities who have asked us to help them create effective and durable approaches to coral conservation. I am here to help save coral reefs. CORAL has worked in Fiji for the past 15 years. We’ve worked closely with the resource management committee in the Kubulau district—also known as the KRMC. The Kubulau community has traditional ownership of the Namena Marine Reserve—one of the largest tabu … [Read more...]

News from the Field: A Bright Spot in Indonesia

I spent September in Indonesia working with our field staff and visiting our partner communities in Karangasem and Buleleng in northern Bali. While there, I was invited to visit some coral reefs off the West coast of Sulawesi. It was rumored that some areas had 100 percent live coral cover, so I jumped at the chance to go and see for myself. Before I tell you what I saw in the water, I need to explain just how skeptical I was of the reported health of those reefs. I have completed more than 1,000 coral surveys in the past few years with Reef Check Australia and other research groups. In my experience, when people say a reef has 100 percent live coral cover it is usually closer to 70 percent. So, it was with some skepticism that I headed off to Sulawesi take a closer look. To get to the dive site I took a 30-minute boat ride from the city of Makassar in Southwest Sulawesi to Pulau Badi. The area off Makassar is heavily fished, … [Read more...]