The Coral Reef Alliance

Healthy coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on the planet. Nearly a billion people live near coral reefs, with many relying on reefs for food, coastal protection from storms and erosion, and income from fishing, recreation, and tourism*. At a global scale, coral reefs have enormous intrinsic value as the ocean's richest biodiversity hotspot. In addition, coral reef biodiversity is increasingly becoming a primary source for the biological compounds used to develop new medicines. Yet coral reefs also represent one of the most imperiled biomes on the planet. An estimated 60 percent of the world's reefs are under immediate and direct threat from local activities suc...
Sep 25, 2014

Building Cohorts of Coral Advocates

Utila Conservation Fund in Action by Lucie Brown
Utila Conservation Fund in Action by Lucie Brown

The threats facing coral reefs are too significant to be combatted by one person, one organization, or even one strategy. That's why the cornerstone of CORAL's work is building partnerships. Over the last couple fo months, we've shared a few new examples of how we're helping to grow and provide tools for a growing network of coral advocates and thought you might be interested in hearing about them!

Since 2012, CORAL has been working on the Honduran island of Utila to bring together conservation groups, local government officials, fisherman, and other community members to collectively address conservation priorities. One of our first tasks was creating a shared bank account; we then provided the initial funding for what is now called the Utila Conservation Fund.

We are happy to share that the first Utila Conservation Fund project was launched in June. The team created informative reef etiquette posters that have been distributed to local businesses. The graphics aim to educate tourists about the beautiful underwater world that Utila boasts and inspire ownership and pride among local residents. If you’re traveling to Utila for your next dive adventure, be sure to check them out!

Also, as part of our 2011 Building Reef Resilience to Climate Change workshops, CORAL issued a series of microgrants to participants so they could implement local scale projects that would put what they learned into practice. Thailand participants Srisakul Piromvaragorn and James True started a small campaign with the Reef Guardian group in the province of Satun to encourage people to stop hunting parrotfish on Lipe Island.

Now, they have joined with other partners and scaled up their successful efforts to stop the selling of parrotfish in the cities. In July, several large supermarkets pledged to ban the selling of parrotfish in their stores!

We congratulate Srisakul, James, and all of our partners in Utila on their great work. We're so proud to have helped start and bolster these fantastic programs and so grateful to you for making them possible with your support.

Jun 23, 2014

"Snorkel Tours" Help Inform Local Leaders

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa and Liz Foote
Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa and Liz Foote

Sometimes building a network of coral reef advocates means getting wet—and on Maui recently, this meant that even the mayor dove in. This spring, field managers Liz Foote and Wesley Crile, along with partners from the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative and the Division of Aquatic Resources, are holding a series of “snorkel tours” for local decision makers and other stakeholders. The first one was held at—and in—the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area. Before taking to the water, Liz spoke to the group about CORAL’s work with resorts to promote water conservation and support the county’s efforts to expand wastewater reuse infrastructure. A greater network of recycled wastewater pipes will ultimately improve local reef health and conserve potable water supplies.

On the tour, participants saw reef conditions ranging from dead zones to healthy coral with a school of grazing surgeonfishes, a hopeful sign of recovery. Says Liz, “The mayor, who arrived barefoot with his mask and fins in a bucket, and who is an avid waterman, was eagerly engaged and interested in exploring solutions together. He is supportive of holistic watershed-based conservation strategies in line with the Hawaiian concept of ahupua‘a management.” Ahupua’a refers to the traditional Hawaiian concept of managing land and other natural resources from the mountains to the sea.

CORAL’s Hawai‘i staff is also working with the 15-year old founder of ReefQuest, Dylan Vecchione, to build a “network” of coral reef images by taking overlapping photos of Maui reefs that will be used in ReefQuest’s online educational tool, the “Virtual Reef.” The Virtual Reef uses Microsoft’s Photosynth technology to create a three-dimensional rendering of the reef that can be used to monitor reef health over time (monitoring will take place on a biennial basis). Liz says she will use it in workshops and lesson plans for teachers as well as for speaking to decision makers. “It’s a great way for people who cannot or do not want to get in the water to see a reef,” she says.

Mar 24, 2014

Preparing the Pacific for CITES Shark Protections

CITES workshop participants (Angelo Villagomez)
CITES workshop participants (Angelo Villagomez)

On February 11 and 12, 2014, in Nadi, Fiji, The Pew Charitable Trusts, CORAL, and the Fiji Government hosted the Oceania Follow-up Regional Workshop on the Implementation of CITES Appendix II Shark Listings. With representatives from 11 countries in the Pacific and over 60 participants and observers, significant progress was made toward ensuring these newly listed species–oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, the porbeagle shark, and two species of manta rays–achieve the protection they desperately need.

The workshop kicked off in traditional Fijian fashion with an opening welcome from Mr. Samuela Namosimaluaa, Permanent Secretary for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment, as well as with a video message from the CITES Secretary General Mr. John Scanlon. The panel included Imogen Zethoven, Director of Global Shark Conservation for The Pew Charitable Trusts acting as Chair of the meeting; Mr. Aisake Batibasaga, Principal Fisheries Officer for Fiji; Colin Simfendorfer Director of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group; Shaneen Coulson, CITES Scientific Authority of Australia; and Hugh Robertson, CITES Scientific Authority of New Zealand. Speakers also included Stan Shea—an expert in the shark fin trade in Hong Kong, Ian Freeman from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), and Lindsay Chapman from Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

All of these speakers assisted in familiarizing participants with the context of these new listings and on the details of how to ensure they are implemented properly. But one presentation stole the show (and the fresh air from the room). Dr. Demian Chapman, aka the ‘”fin Doctor,” as he was aptly nicknamed after his demonstration, ensured that all attendees were familiar with how to identify the fins of these species. His hands-on approach involved displaying dried fins on all of the tables around the room, providing a very fragrant and visual reference.

Overall, the two-day workshop was filled with thoughtful questions and productive strategic planning. But most importantly, this meeting gave all of the CITES parties in the region the opportunity to convene and discuss what needs to be done regionally in order for the new listings to be effective. Some key conclusions that spanned the region were:

  • Additional data to determine Non-Detrimental Findings (NDFs) for hammerhead sharks in the region is needed.
  • Regional collaboration to assess the hammerhead stocks is desired.
  • Due to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) ban on oceanic white tip and the Convention on Migratory Species Appendix I listing of the manta ray, it is unlikely that a NDF could be determined for those species.
  • Sufficient funds to implement, enforce, and monitor CITES listed sharks and rays are needed. Australia and New Zealand will apply for funding to the CITES Secretariat on behalf of all eight Oceania Parties. The EU gave the secretariat more than $1 million euros.

These conclusions will ideally translate into action on the ground, including a plan to address gaps in data, as well as a strategy for enforcement to be put in place prior to the September 14, 2014 implementation date.

CORAL looks forward to working with our partners in Fiji to ensure that the government is equipped and prepared to make the most of these landmark listings—which have the potential to significantly reduce shark mortality not only in the Pacific but around the world.

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