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...]

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...]

Meet Antonella: Biologist, Diver and Fantasy-Geek

Recently, we welcomed Dr. Antonella Rivera to the Coral Reef Alliance family. Antonella is a Honduran biologist born in the city of Tegucigalpa and will work with local communities on fisheries reform and management efforts along the North Coast and Tela. Antonella first became aware of the profound benefits coral reefs have on the sustainability of coastal communities while diving off the coast of Honduras in the Bay Islands. This new appreciation for reefs motivated her to earn a Ph.D. in marine socio-ecological systems from the University of Oviedo. Her multidisciplinary research background ranges from analyzing the management implications of larval dispersal to the use of perception research to assess the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. Through her studies and work experience with fishing communities in Europe and Latin America, she has become a firm believer in the need for bottom-up, holistic and adaptive conservation … [Read more...]

Expanding Community-Based Coral Conservation in Fiji

In September 2016, the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) received a grant from the U.S. Department of State to expand our work in Fiji to Cakaudrove, Ra and Lau provinces. Together with our partners, we are working with these communities to build their capacity and effectively manage their resources through training workshops such as fisheries enforcement and financial administration. These new funds allow us to expand our team and we are thrilled to introduce our new Program Coordinator, John Vonokula. Born and raised in Fiji, John is a certified diver who is passionate about engaging, learning from and working with communities to develop effective approaches to coral conservation. "We are thrilled that John is joining the CORAL family,” says Dr. Michael Webster, Executive Director at CORAL. “John has 17 years years of experience working with Fiji's fisheries department, and his knowledge, passion and energy will help ensure the … [Read more...]

Blacktips and 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...]