Investing in the Future of Communities and Reefs

Yesterday, we started talking about management. If we’re going to help communities protect their coral reefs, then we need to help them build effective management programs. But management costs money. According to preliminary results from Dr. David Gill, many marine protected areas (MPAs) have inadequate staffing and financial resources for management activities and this could be affecting their ecological performance. Thankfully, at this year’s International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), we learned about various creative conservation financing mechanisms being developed and implemented around the world. Our favorite example is from Roatan Marine Park (RMP) in Honduras (note: we may be a bit biased!). Jenny Myton, our Associate Programs Director for the Mesoamerican region, presented on their model this afternoon. In 2009 we helped RMP develop a business plan. From that plan, they’ve become 100% self-sustaining financially. … [Read more...]

Let’s Not Forget About the Local Communities

Last year, over 190 countries came together in France for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21). They negotiated the Paris Agreement—a global agreement on limiting global warming. It was a great example of setting ambitious policy to protect our natural resources. COP 21 has been a popular topic at this year’s International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), the theme of which is bridging science with policy. It’s an important topic—how can we build a stronger partnership between scientists and policy makers to protect coral reefs? For example, the parties at COP 21 vowed to pursue efforts to limit global warming to under 2.0oC; however, according to Dr. Janice Lough in this morning’s plenary session, a 1.5oC increase in temperatures would have drastic effects on coral reefs. Using data from a variety of sources, Dr. Lough showed that our Earth has already warmed by 1.0oC since the early 1800s. Given that we’ve … [Read more...]

It’s Not Enough to Address Overfishing

Overfishing is a widespread problem across our oceans. As our global human population quickly approaches eight billion, pressures on these ocean resources will only increase. That means bad news for coral reef fish. They are even more vulnerable to overfishing than pelagic (open ocean) fish because of their biology, said Dr. Charles Birkeland in his Tuesday morning plenary session at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS). Coral reef fish are slow growing and long-lived, and there’s ample evidence that older, bigger fish are more fertile and produce young that are better equipped to survive the larval phase. Coral reef fish play a vital role in the coral reef network of life. For example, herbivores, or grazing fish, eat algae and seaweeds and can prevent them from overgrowing corals on a reef. In this morning’s plenary address, Dr. Pete Mumby explained that coral larvae, or baby corals, are less likely to settle on a … [Read more...]

Poor Water Quality is Hurting Coral Reefs

For many years, few people paid attention to the impacts that poor water quality has on coral reefs. But this is changing. At the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), many sessions focused on discussing this important issue. Never has the CORAL team been so excited to hear so many talks on sewage, sedimentation, and runoff! Poor water quality impacts most of the reefs around the world. When polluted water enters the ocean, it carries both sediment and nutrients. Sediment can smother a reef, blocking out the sunlight that corals need in order to grow. Nutrients fuel the growth of algae and seaweeds which compete with corals for space. According to a talk by Stephanie Wear of The Nature Conservancy, high levels of nutrients can also lead to higher incidences of coral disease and bleaching. This is particularly relevant today when we’re in the middle of the third global bleaching event. But as Wear pointed out, our efforts … [Read more...]

Corals Can Adapt to Our Changing Environment

Coral reefs around the world are being hit hard by many stressors. At the local level, they’re dealing with issues like overfishing and poor water quality. At the global level, they’re facing warming temperatures, more acidic oceans, and stronger storms. With effective management, we can mitigate many local threats. But the global ones are a bit harder. It’s clear that if corals are going to survive global climate change, they are going to have to adapt. The good news is that we know that corals can adapt. They have evolved numerous ways to deal with environmental conditions – for example, some corals thrive in murky river mouths while others flourish in warm-water lagoons. But the pace of climate change is rapid, leaving corals with a small window in which to adjust to rapidly changing conditions. So what can we do to help corals adapt? This was the topic of one of Monday’s sessions at the International Coral Reef Symposium … [Read more...]

Roatan Marine Park—On Its Way to Autonomy

We love seeing communities come together to protect their coral reefs. The Roatan Marine Park (RMP) in Honduras is an inspiring example of how conservation efforts lead to great things. The success and growth they’ve shown are tremendous. Last year, CORAL invested in the sustainability of RMP with a $12,000 grant to hire a sustainable finance coordinator. The new position was designed to help them diversify income streams and build relationships within the private sector. The goal was to increase their capacity so they can expand to new areas of the island and continue to protect Roatan’s unique natural beauty. With the new coordinator, the RMP has grown its membership base by 40 percent—they’ve built stronger relationships with donors, businesses, and community members. They also helped create a U.S. 501(c)3, which allows them to fundraise in the United States. “A lot of visitors come here and want to make a tax-deductible … [Read more...]

A Thriving Lagoon

On the northern coast of Honduras, just a few miles west of Tela through lush tropical forests, sits Laguna de los Micos. The Laguna is a treasure trove of biodiversity, surrounded by mangroves and separated from the Caribbean Sea by only a few feet of sand. It’s one of the area’s most important coral reef habitats, and serves as a respite, home and nursery for hundreds of coral reef fish. The Laguna has always been an important area for local communities, providing subsistence and livelihoods. But in recent years, the fishermen weren’t catching as much. Fish populations seemed to be disappearing. Laguna de los Micos is part of the Parque Nacional Jeannette Kawas. The area is protected and has a management plan that includes fishing regulations. For example, boats cannot carry more than 600 meters of net, and the mesh size must be at least three inches. In some waterways you can only fish with hook and line, and spear guns or … [Read more...]

Maui Students Learn to Protect Their Watershed

Going back to school is always hard. Back to homework, waking up early and sitting in a classroom all day. But imagine going back to school and learning about real local issues, and then learning real life skills and using them to solve actual problems in your community. That’s what students in Mr. Ryan Duffy’s class went back to this year. Mr. Duffy teaches sixth through eighth grade math and science at ROOTS school in Haiku on Maui, Hawaiʻi. Last October he came to CORAL’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) workshop and learned how to teach his students about the importance of watersheds in a way that's fun and exciting. He's applying those skills, and his students are completely engaged! Soon after the workshop, Mr. Duffy’s students started designing a system to capture rain water off their school’s rooftop. They collected data to determine the average rainfall for their region, and measured the surface area of the … [Read more...]

A True Traditional Voyage

The CORAL family came together last week in a unique way. A few months ago, the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) reached out to Jaya Ratha, our program coordinator in Bali, to help organize the arrival of the Hōkūleʻa in Indonesia. The Hōkūleʻa is a double-hulled standing canoe traveling around the world using traditional navigation methods. Their voyage, called Mālama Honua, or to care for the Earth, is an effort to bring together global partners to protect our Earth and our oceans. “One of the things that was interesting to me was that Hawaiʻi and Bali have a lot of similarities in terms of culture,” said Ratha. Bali and Hawaiʻi were designated as sister states back in 2014, as they are both hugely popular tourism destinations and they share similar histories. This amazing around-the-world voyage brought the Hawaiian culture and heritage to Indonesia—making these two diverse islands feel incredibly connected. As a complete … [Read more...]

Putting the LID on stormwater runoff

From a conservation point of view, we don’t often think of coral reefs going hand in hand with construction and development. But they do—coral reefs attract tourists, and with tourism comes infrastructure. Coral reefs also provide benefits to communities, and people tend to concentrate in areas where they can reap those benefits. Over the years coral reefs along Maui’s West coast have fallen victim to this cycle. As more houses, hotels, roads, and other infrastructure projects are created, more and more rainwater runs off into the ocean, bringing with it nutrients and sediment that are harmful to the reefs. Earlier this summer we partnered with the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) to hold a six-week course for West Maui’s landscapers, landowners, and accommodations industry professionals to address this issue. The course taught them about various low impact design (LID) principles they could implement in landscape and … [Read more...]