Cover Up for Coral Reefs

Coral reefs have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons: island construction projects that are burying reefs, El Niño causing coral bleaching, and the risk to corals from carbon pollution. So it was unwelcomed news when we learned in October about a new study, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, that shows a common ingredient in sunscreen, oxybenzone, is bad for corals. Even at very low concentrations, the growth rate of baby corals exposed to oxybenzone slowed down and they became deformed. When the concentration was increased, baby corals bleached, which caused them to release their food-generating symbiotic algae. Scientists are just starting to understand how chemicals like sunscreens can harm corals. The current study is an important step forward, but we expect to learn more about the effects of oxybenzone on corals in the years to come. We will also learn about how a myriad of chemicals are … [Read more...]

From Inspiration on the Caymans to momentum at the Paris Climate Talks

My father and I share a love of the ocean and diving. These days, we live 3,000 miles apart, he’s on the East Coast and I’m on the West. But we take the time to visit our respective hometowns and occasionally, to dive together where tropical corals grow. For me, dive travel is a much-needed escape from the challenges and speed of everyday life. It is also an opportunity to visit the array of coral species that I dedicated four years of my life to learning about during graduate school. In early November, my father and I visited one of my favorite Caribbean dive spots, Little Cayman Island and the awe-inspiring mosaic of the Bloody Bay Marine Park. As I stepped off the boat with a giant stride on our first dive, I saw a sudden explosion of color and movement on the reef below. Mixed feeding groups of parrotfish flowed over the reef in a seemingly coordinated ballet of interweaving movement. The crunch of their beak-like fused teeth … [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...]

A Hopeful Future for Bali’s Reefs

Coral reefs are a hot topic these days. They’re all over the news—coral bleaching, constructing islands on top of reefs, and sunscreen pollution. Even the Washington Post has been running a series of articles on coral reefs. I’ve worked with corals for more than 10 years and I can’t remember a time when they’ve ever been so mainstream and popular. But here’s the problem: it’s all doom and gloom. All of the news that’s coming out is bad news. Where’s the optimism? Where’s the hope? Where are the success stories? That’s one of the things I love about CORAL. We know we CAN save coral reefs, and with the right amount of support, we WILL. And that’s why I enjoyed my most recent trip to Bali, Indonesia. I strategically aligned my trip so I could attend the first-ever Buleleng Bali Dive Festival, which was held in Pemuteran. Some of you may remember hearing about it at our 2014 Gala, when the Indonesian Minister of Fisheries and … [Read more...]

El Niño: Will It Hurt Coral Reefs?

You’ve probably heard about it in the news. You may even remember living through it in the early 80s and 90s. El Niño is here. It's already impacting the Pacific Ocean and this August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saw variances in sea surface temperatures near or greater than 2.0 degrees Celsius. El Niño refers to warming waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Those warmer waters spread to the east, bringing with them a drastic change in weather patterns. Scientists predict that this year's El Niño is extreme and may last through the spring of 2016. That means trouble for coral reefs. In fact, NOAA recently announced that "bleaching due to heat stress is expected to impact approximately 38 percent of the world’s coral reefs—and almost 95% of those in U.S. waters." When water temperatures grow too warm, corals become stressed and oust the tiny algae that live in their tissues, called zooxanthellae. … [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...]

A New Bike Path for Maui?

Aloha, I’m CORAL’s newest addition based in Hawaiʻi. As a native Hawaiian, my passion for protecting our natural environment is a deep part of who I am. I was born and raised on Oahu, and growing up spent my summers surfing with my dad, paddling canoe with my sister, and working in the Lo’i (taro patch) with my aunty. We have an important value of mālama ‘aina in my culture, which means caring for the land. This responsibility is a big part of our identity and is the basis for a lot of our traditional beliefs. So I can’t help but get really excited when I see our island come together on sustainability initiatives. That’s how I felt a couple of weeks ago when we partnered with the Maui Bicycling League (MBL) to take Alan Arakawa, the mayor of Maui, on a bike ride along our island’s west coast. A couple of month’s ago, I was talking with CORAL’s Program Manager from Hawaiʻi, Wes Crile, about how much we’d love to build a coastal … [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...]

Photos Informing Conservation

More than a quarter of coral reefs around the world are in a protected area—yet, according to Reefs at Risk Revisited, most of those protected areas aren’t being effectively managed. Much of our work is focused on helping communities develop successful management programs so they can create and enforce local regulations that will really benefit their coral reefs. And the first step is often to design a management plan. We’ve known for a long time that for a management plan to be successful, it has to be built around local resources, traditions, and customs. So naturally, our first step in working with a community is always to learn as much as we can about the area and really understand the dynamics and relationships. Next we help them gather and compile information about their environments, cultures, and lifestyles. This is what we’ve been doing in Bali, where communities have created seven marine protected areas on the north … [Read more...]

Namena is a Source of Life, and Not Just Marine Life

One of my favorite things about working for CORAL is hearing about the direct impacts we have on local communities and people’s lives. It’s not every day that you hear about conservation efforts that have enhanced people’s lives, and it’s such a powerful thing to know that communities can really thrive and benefit from protecting their natural resources. So when I hear about how our work translates into benefits for local communities, it warms me from the inside out. I had one of those moments recently when speaking with Juliane Diamond, one of our program managers. She was in Fiji last month, and attended a stakeholders meeting for the Namena Marine Reserve. The meeting was held by the Kubulau Resource Management Committee (KRMC), a local NGO we’re working with to protect the Reserve. Juliane was there along with about twenty other people—a mix of community members, dive operators, KRMC members, local authority figures, and … [Read more...]