Celebrating a Decade of Conservation and Collaboration in the Mesoamerican Reef

Heroic efforts by a suite of dedicated groups in the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) – from non-profits to the dive community, governments to local fishing communities – have resulted in measurable improvements in reef health. Every two years, the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), an international alliance of over 60 organizations including CORAL, publishes a Report Card on the status and trends of reef health in the MAR using data collected* from over 300 sites across 1000 kilometers and four countries. HRI Report Cards give sites a reef health score, analyze changes over time, and propose actions to improve reef health and enable reefs to endure and thrive.   The recently released 2018 Report Card tells us that overall reef health in the MAR has improved from an initial reef health index of Poor (2.3) in 2006 to Fair (2.8) this year, using a scale that ranges from Critical (1) to Very Good (5). The positive trend is a result of … [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...]

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...]

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...]

More People, More Trash

By Naneng Setiasih, Coral Triangle Regional Manager The small-fishing village of Tulamben in Bali struggled with poverty for decades, but that changed with a series of unfortunate events a few decades ago. The USS Liberty beached along its rocky shore after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. And in 1963 the eruption of Mount Agung pushed the ship into the ocean, making it quickly one of the most well-known wreck dives in the world. It wasn’t long before tourism became the main source of income for the community. Today, Tulamben is known as one of the best dive spots in Bali, and the USS Liberty wreck can see upwards of 100 people per day during the high season. But with tourism comes more people, and more people means more stress on the marine ecosystems. We started working with the Tulamben community in 2013 to help them manage their coral reefs, and the community is starting to mobilize to take action—notably … [Read more...]