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...]

Join Our Underwater Journey

  We are excited to participate in this year’s #GivingTuesday by highlighting the importance of the world’s coral reefs. Starting tomorrow, November 22, we will curate an underwater journey for you and CORAL’s supporters to celebrate the various marine life, people and organizations that are integral to creating and maintaining healthy coral reefs. You can follow along via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. As many of you know, #GivingTuesday was created to harness our world’s global giving power, encourage philanthropy and celebrate generosity. For us here at CORAL, coral reefs are an embodiment of this giving spirit. They help protect two million marine species and five hundred million people that depend on them. We encourage all of you to #GiveToReefs given how much reefs give back to us. Here’s a sneak preview of a just a few of the ways that coral reefs give back to our planet and people: Biodiversity: Coral … [Read more...]

The Long Road to Recovery

It was early Sunday morning, in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston. No one knew the full extent of the damage it had left behind. Scattered reports were coming through the little transistor radio my mum kept for emergencies, and for the days and weeks that followed, it would prove to be an incredibly valuable device. My first instinct was to check on our partners and friends in Kubulau— they were in the direct path of the Category 5 cyclone. There was absolutely no way to reach them. The communication towers for both phone networks in Fiji were down. As reports started coming in from other communities and the devastation they faced, I began to worry. Did Kubulau make it? What had they lost? What did this mean for the Namena Marine Reserve and their pristine coral reefs? CORAL is closely tied with the people and districts within Kubulau. Since 2005, we have helped develop and create an effective and sustainable community group … [Read more...]

Protecting More Coral Reefs in Fiji

It’s a hot, humid day and I’m visiting the village of Waivunia on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. I’m sitting around a kava bowl with community elders, and we are discussing how to protect and conserve their marine resources. You see, this community depends on coral reefs, but the reefs are facing mounting threats. The elders are concerned: they want to ensure there are fish in the sea for their grandchildren and great grandchildren. I am here, in Fiji, as part of my work with the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), and at the request of communities who have asked us to help them create effective and durable approaches to coral conservation. I am here to help save coral reefs. CORAL has worked in Fiji for the past 15 years. We’ve worked closely with the resource management committee in the Kubulau district—also known as the KRMC. The Kubulau community has traditional ownership of the Namena Marine Reserve—one of the largest tabu … [Read more...]

News from the Field: A Bright Spot in Indonesia

I spent September in Indonesia working with our field staff and visiting our partner communities in Karangasem and Buleleng in northern Bali. While there, I was invited to visit some coral reefs off the West coast of Sulawesi. It was rumored that some areas had 100 percent live coral cover, so I jumped at the chance to go and see for myself. Before I tell you what I saw in the water, I need to explain just how skeptical I was of the reported health of those reefs. I have completed more than 1,000 coral surveys in the past few years with Reef Check Australia and other research groups. In my experience, when people say a reef has 100 percent live coral cover it is usually closer to 70 percent. So, it was with some skepticism that I headed off to Sulawesi take a closer look. To get to the dive site I took a 30-minute boat ride from the city of Makassar in Southwest Sulawesi to Pulau Badi. The area off Makassar is heavily fished, … [Read more...]

Making Connections Across Melanesia

My work with the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) provides me with many memorable experiences and opportunities. One of the greatest rewards is meeting and working with such diverse groups of people and building strong connections with the communities in Fiji. Following Tropical Cyclone Winston, l discovered just how passionately connected to the Kubulau community I had become. I wanted to do more to help, and in July, I had an amazing opportunity to connect on a much larger scale at the inaugural Melanesian Spearhead Group, Emerging Leaders Program. Here, I learned about new ways to help community’s recovery from devastation and hardships caused by such a catastrophic storm. During the Melanesian Youth Leaders Forum, I met people from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji. We all shared our successes and challenges and along the way, we gathered valuable and shareable lessons. Forum Snapshot: … [Read more...]

Coral Reef Close-up: Mucus Munchers

Butterflyfish are a favorite for many reef lovers, and their unique feeding habits make them coral reef obligates (they are only found on coral reefs). Did you know that some of the 129 species of butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae) are “mucus munchers?” As strange as it might sound, some butterflyfish take advantage of energy-rich coral mucus as a primary food source. Corals produce mucus as a protective layer or use its stickiness to trap food.  Butterflyfish feed on this nutrient rich layer and take advantage of this easy to consume food source. Other butterflyfish species feed on coral polyps or small invertebrates and plankton. Butterflyfish are fairly small and laterally flattened – they look like a disc with rounded fins. They are found around the world on coral reefs and are brightly colored, often with some combination of yellow, black and white. Many butterflyfish species are monogamous and territorial. You will often … [Read more...]

International Coral Reef Symposium

More than 2,500 people representing 97 nations gathered for the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Honolulu in June to talk about the science, conservation, management and governance of coral reefs. I would love to say that ICRS filled me with a sense of optimism about the state of reefs. However, the truth is that corals face a dire future unless we act now at both global and local scales. At a global scale, rising carbon dioxide levels are heating our planet. The recent El Niño, along with elevated temperatures, is causing widespread and devastating bleaching around the world. Dr. David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park Authority, shared how much of the GBR has been impacted by cyclones over the past decade. Recently, unusually warm water bathed the untouched northern part of the GBR, causing severe bleaching of over 80% of the corals and an estimated 35% mortality rate. At a … [Read more...]

Sunscreen and Corals

For many of us, coral reefs are vacation destinations; places we feel lucky to visit. We plan our trip and packing lists carefully, and bring clothes and sunscreens to protect our skin from the intensity of the equatorial sun, but as we reported in January, sunscreen is not as safe for corals as we once thought. This June, many of the world’s top coral reef scientists met at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii to discuss the challenges facing coral reefs. Sunscreen and other personal care product ingredients were hot topics. Of particular concern to scientists was oxybenzone, a chemical used in sunscreens to protect our skin from damaging UV light. Oxybenzone is bad news for corals, harming them by; Increasing a coral’s susceptibility to bleaching Damaging coral DNA which interferes with reproduction Causing deformities and growth anomalies Disrupting a coral’s hormonal processes for growth and … [Read more...]