Daily Life Resumes Near Mount Agung, Despite Continued Volcanic Activity

Bali’s Mount Agung erupted again on February 13, 2018, just days after Indonesian authorities lowered the alert status from Hazardous (Level IV) to Standby (Level III). The eruption lasted just over two minutes and spewed ash and smoke 1.5 kilometers into the air. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) reported that there was no damage, community activities are running normally and flights to Bali continue to operate despite the eruption. The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) continues to monitor and support our community partners in the affected villages of Tulamben, Amed and Jemeluk. Mount Agung began exhibiting pre-eruption seismic activity in September, 2017, and authorities evacuated communities within a 12-kilometer radius of the volcano. When two eruptions occurred in late November nearly 140,000 people had been evacuated, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian … [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...]

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...]

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...]