Celebrating a Decade of Conservation and Collaboration in the Mesoamerican Reef

Heroic efforts by a suite of dedicated groups in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) – from non-profits to the dive community, governments to local fishing communities – have resulted in measurable improvements in reef health. Every two years, the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), an international alliance of over 60 organizations including CORAL, publishes a Report Card on the status and trends of reef health in the MAR using data collected* from over 300 sites across 1000 kilometers and four countries. HRI Report Cards give sites a reef health score, analyze changes over time, and propose actions to improve reef health and enable reefs to endure and thrive.   The recently released 2018 Report Card tells us that overall reef health in the MAR has improved from an initial reef health index of Poor (2.3) in 2006 to Fair (2.8) this year, using a scale that ranges from Critical (1) to Very Good (5). The positive trend is a result of … [Read more...]

Restoring an Ecosystem: Tisa Fa’amuli’s Story

  The Alega Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa is a special place. It’s a place where turtles lay their eggs on the beach, sharks swim around the bay and young corals grow everywhere. Not too long ago, however, the local coral reefs had been devastated by overharvesting and pollution. What changed to allow these reefs to recover? Tisa Fa’amuli, a native Samoan and self-described eco-warrior, decided to take it upon herself to restore the reef. She created a website to raise awareness about the Sanctuary and expressed her mission to CORAL Board Member Michael Bennett, who recently visited American Samoa and had the opportunity to document and share Tisa’s inspiring story. Tisa Fa’amuli’s story starts on the island of Tutuila where she was born and raised by her father Afenoa. Being the second of twelve children, Tisa learned many lessons from her father about working hard, providing for a large family and respecting the land. … [Read more...]

Uniting Dominicans, Saving Coral Reefs

Since 2014, CORAL has awarded the CORAL Conservation Prize to an extraordinary leader within the coral reef conservation community; we are pleased to introduce Dr. Ruben Torres as our 2017 Prize winner. “The CORAL Conservation Prize is a unique opportunity to recognize leaders in coral reef conservation who embody CORAL’s mission to unite communities to save coral reef,” said Dr. Michael Webster, Executive Director at CORAL. “This year, we will celebrate Dr. Ruben Torres, for his passion, commitment to partnerships and proven success protecting and saving coral reefs in the Dominican Republic.” Over the past 20 years, Dr. Ruben Torres has emerged as a leader in protecting coral reefs by partnering with local fishermen, hotels, students and volunteers. He has brought coral reef conservation and awareness to a new level in the Dominican Republic by managing marine protected areas, promoting sustainable seafood and contributing to … [Read more...]

Inspiration from the Next Generation of Environmentalists

Coral reefs mean different things to different individuals depending on their connection (or lack of connection) to them. For those that are landlocked or have never visited tropical waters, coral reefs probably don’t often come to their mind. However, for individuals like Justin Jesuele, a seventh grader at Viewpoint School in California, coral reefs and the ocean bring fond memories of sandy beaches, warm water and a sense of belonging. Recently, we featured a blog post about Justin’s school project when he created beat blox to raised funds for CORAL. This second post will provide more insight into this creative self-described environmentalist who wants to share his love of coral reefs with the world. Justin’s first memory of the ocean was as a very young child vacationing to Kauai, Hawai`i with his family. While there paddling on a boogie board with his good friend, he saw his first sea turtle in its natural habitat. He … [Read more...]

Creating Win-wins for Reefs and People

It’s 2011 and Jenny Myton, CORAL’s Associate Program Director for the Mesoamerican Reef, is diving in the murky waters of Tela Bay, Honduras. Her husband rolls into the water after her and hears Jenny scream. He panics: is she OK? As he swims down to her he also starts to yell but they are both yelling in excitement because—astonishingly—the bottom is covered in live coral. Coral cover has declined across the Caribbean, from near 80 percent in the 1970s to about 18 percent today. Somehow, the corals in Tela have defied that trend: live coral cover is an astounding 69 percent. Now six years later, I have a chance to see these amazing reefs for myself. My own journey to Tela starts with lunch in Miami. No, not that Miami—this is Miami, Honduras: a ragtag collection of wooden houses perched on stilts and crowded onto a narrow strip of sand between the Caribbean Sea and Laguna de Los Micos. This lagoon is an important nursery habitat … [Read more...]

Adaptive Reefscapes: A Blueprint for Coral Conservation

Studies have been done, published scientific articles have been peer-reviewed, and 97 percent of publishing climate scientists agree that human activity over the past century is causing global climate change. Currently, coral reefs are suffering great losses due to local threats, such as overfishing and unsustainable tourism, and global threats, such as rising ocean temperatures. As the executive director of a coral conservation nonprofit, I must ask myself how we can save coral reefs. Fortunately, we have an answer found with the corals themselves. Today there is a growing scientific evidence that corals can adapt to environmental changes. In fact, corals have been adapting for hundreds of millions of years. We can see evidence of coral adaptation everywhere on coral reefs. For example, scientists are discovering corals that are thriving in harsh conditions, like the unusually warm waters in lagoons in American Samoa. These special … [Read more...]

Beat Blox to Save Coral Reefs

Beautiful, delicate and amazing are some of the words that the sixth grader Justin Jesuele uses to describe his experiences with coral reefs. Each year, students at Justin’s elementary school complete a year-long community service project with the goal of educating their peers on issues important to them and fundraising for an organization that aligns with their chosen cause. For his project, Justin chose to raise funds for the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and awareness about the current state of coral reefs. At an annual Innovation Fair in the early spring, students present products they design, test and mass produce to raise funds for their chosen organization. Justin designed and manufactured a beat blox, an “elegant, cordless iPhone speaker that doesn’t need to be charged.” At the end of the fair, Justin sold all 29 speakers and raised a record-breaking $580. Thanks to passionate donors like Justin, CORAL can work with … [Read more...]

Why Do Large Reefscapes Matter?

Coral reefs face many natural and human-caused threats. In March 2017, a British-owned cruise ship ran aground at Raj Ampat causing significant damage to roughly 1,600 square meters of coral reefs. Recent studies in West Maui have shown that land-based pollution is reducing water quality and covering corals in sediment. Extensive coverage about bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef reminds us that these delicate ecosystems are in crisis. Fortunately, we have a solution that will help corals grow, reproduce and continue to build reefs. We can create Adaptive Reefscapes, which are networks of healthy reefs that is Diverse, Connected and Large. But what’s the right size for an Adaptive Reefscape? It turns out that there may be a Goldilocks solution that’s not too big and not too small. Adaptive Reefscapes should be as big as possible to reduce problems caused by large disturbances; a small Reefscape might be at risk from one major … [Read more...]

Protecting a Lagoon and its People

Imagine sitting in a small boat on the Laguna de Los Micos on the northern coast of Honduras, just a few miles west of Tela. You’re enjoying a sunny day in the lagoon surrounded by green mangroves, birds singing to one another and monkeys playing among the branches. In the distance, you see local fishermen making their livelihoods, casting lines and nets from offshore hoping for a catch. Unfortunately, the lagoon is under constant threat from overfishing by outside communities who are not complying with the local fishing regulations. In turn, overfishing causes a decline in populations of the reef fish that depend on lagoons as nurseries for their young. Fortunately, the recently passed Ministerial Decree 108-2017 is designed to protect this vital water source that provides food and income for the surrounding 13 communities. Since 2011, CORAL’s Honduras field team and our partners have worked collaboratively in Tela to encourage … [Read more...]

Why Does Connectivity Matter?

It’s a clear fall night in the Caribbean. High in the sky is a full moon and the water is perfectly warm. Once a year, the conclusion of a full moon and warmer water temperatures sets the mood for an incredible event – coral spawning. On this night, coral polyps release bundles of eggs and sperm into the water forming billions of free-floating larvae. These baby corals are starting unique journeys, following ocean currents for a few days or weeks before settling down on new reefs. Some corals stay close to home, while others travel for many kilometers to distant reefs. If they are lucky, they’ll find a safe place to call home, and will flourish and produce offspring of their own. This connection of reefs at the local scale is an important attribute in an Adaptive Reefscape, which are diverse, connected and large networks of healthy reefs designed to help corals adapt to climate change. Baby corals are looking for a reef that … [Read more...]