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...
Oct 18, 2013

News from the Reef--Indonesia

Fish on the way to market
Fish on the way to market

The biggest surprise for former CORAL Conservation Programs Director Rick MacPherson on his spring reef surveys off the north coast of Bali was that the nearshore reefs—which he expected to be teeming with life, “like the ‘Times Square’ of the Coral Triangle”—were instead very quiet. “Gone were the colorful reef fish grazing on algae on the coral rock, along with the usual underwater chorus of snaps and pops from their nibbling,” he recalls. The magnificent predator fish were gone too: no sharks, jack, snapper, or grouper.

Where he did find lots of fish, however, was displayed in front of the beach-long strip of restaurants in the village of Jimbaran just outside the Bali capital of Denpasar. There, hundreds of tourists were disembarking from tour buses and engaging in a feeding frenzy, selecting their favorite reef fish for dinner. Lobster and crab were on display as well. All of these fish and crustaceans play important ecological roles in keeping reefs healthy, so the fact that they were onshore, rather than on the reef, was disturbing. “The sheer volume surprised me,” says Rick. “I saw more grouper for sale on the beach than in one week of reef surveys.”

In nearby Amed, Reef Check Indonesia has worked for several years to discourage the practice of unsustainable reef fishing, while CORAL has complemented their efforts by building community support for a voluntary user fee system that would bring alternative income into the community through dive tourism. We have also been encouraging the community to take more ownership of their reef. In some other communities along the northern coast, locals have asserted their own access rights, establishing a “turf.” When poachers come in, they are chased out. In contrast to what he saw at Jimbaran, says Rick, those local “rights-based” fishery areas had visibly more abundant and intact fish communities. “It’s still obviously depleted, but you can see the recovery taking place.”

CORAL hopes that by building support from within communities like Amed, we can inspire replication of this kind of rights-based approach. At the same time, we plan to work with legislators and policymakers at the regency (local) or federal level to reinforce this type of ownership through legal decrees. Such a solution speaks to what CORAL is all about: bringing people—tourism operators, fishermen, NGO partners, government officials—together to reestablish healthy reefs.

Amed dive tag generates money for conservation
Amed dive tag generates money for conservation
Jul 31, 2013

Honduras Embraces Its Reefs

CORAL staff documenting the beautiful reefs
CORAL staff documenting the beautiful reefs

In Honduras, the groundswell of interest in conserving coral reefs continues. CORAL’s Field Manager Jenny Myton recently appeared on “Frente a Frente,” the most viewed show on national television, to talk about Cordelia Banks, CORAL’s voluntary standards for sustainable marine tourism, CORAL and partners’ responsible seafood guide, and why reefs are important to every Honduran. Since her appearance on the show, she has been inundated with calls, including from government representatives.

“The most important comments I’ve received are people telling me, ‘I now know why the reefs are so important’ or ‘I didn’t know you shouldn’t eat shark and turtle,’” says Jenny. “Now they know they have alternatives and can make better choices.”

Jenny also led a scuba and sustainable marine recreation training for Tela’s municipal and federal government officials and a local NGO, Prolansate, at the request of the Mayor of Tela, who is interested in having the coral reefs of Capiro Banks declared a Site of Wildlife Importance before the end of the year. To that end, CORAL and the Healthy Reefs Initiative recently assessed the reef using the Atlantic Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment standard protocols to verify and delineate its extent and condition—and to provide the necessary documentation and basis for designating the reef a Site of Wildlife Importance.

Jenny conducting a workshop for govt officials
Jenny conducting a workshop for govt officials
May 9, 2013

Saving Sharks to Save Reefs

A beautiful--and now protected--hammerhead shark
A beautiful--and now protected--hammerhead shark

With an estimated 97 million sharks being harvested each year, serious protection measures can’t come soon enough. In March, at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, member nations took action. They agreed to list the oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead shark (scalloped, smooth, and great), the porbeagle shark, and both species of manta rays in CITES Appendix II, an action that means increased protection but that still allows legal and “sustainable” trade. Countries supporting the listing included Brazil, Colombia, the European Union, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Mexico, Comoros, Egypt, the United States, and countries in West Africa, with opposition coming from Japan, Gambia, India, Grenada, and China. Sharks continue to be overharvested to meet Asian demand for shark fin soup and through bycatch; fishermen also catch some shark species for their meat, while others kill manta rays for their gill plates in support of the Chinese medicinal trade.

Says CORAL’s Conservation Programs Director Rick MacPherson, “The immediate outcome of the CITES listing for those species is that these seriously threatened sharks and rays can finally get some breathing room to recover. Of course CITES protections must be enforced or the designations are meaningless. But what these historic steps indicate is that short term financial interests don’t always trump long-term conservation vision.”

The Pew Charitable Trust’s Angelo Villagomez says CORAL’s and many other NGOs’ efforts undoubtedly contributed to the vote. “CITES decisions are not made by consensus, but by a vote. Fiji, Mexico, Honduras, and the United States were very supportive of the CITES shark proposals, and CORAL’s work on domestic campaigns in CITE S member countries surely played a part in that.”

Fiji

The CITES decision comes as CORAL continues to push for greater shark protections in Fiji. CORAL has been publishing an ongoing series of editorials in the Fiji Sun, urging the government to adopt stronger standards, including a possible temporary moratorium on shark fishing, in its new National Plan of Action for Sharks. In late January, CORAL assisted the Fijian government and the Fiji Times in an investigation of the deaths of 27 baby scalloped hammerhead sharks on Nukulu Island.

And with Pew, our partners in this initiative, CORAL taught a “Pacific Shark School” in January in Suva. The school brought together shark conservation leaders from different islands and included a “Shark Biology 101” section and focused on strategies for conservation and work plans for each place.

“The most valuable part of the shark school was seeing how the training encouraged and inspired participants,” says Rick MacPherson. “It takes more than just ideas to succeed in conservation. It takes passionate and skilled professionals to bring home the win. The shark school was an exciting opportunity to unite shark conservationists across the Pacific who returned to their home campaigns with new tools and energy.”

Indonesia

Greater protection for sharks and rays is also on the way in Indonesia, where the Regency Government of Raja Ampat signed the shark and manta ray sanctuary it had designated back in 2010 into law. CORAL and many other NGOs—as well as CORAL’s partner, the Misool Eco Resort—have advocated for years for better shark protections in Indonesia. The law protects sharks and rays in 46,000 square kilometers (18,000 square miles) of ocean off the coast Raja Ampat. Sharks are starting to show signs of recovery in marine protected areas there.

Andrew Miners, Managing Director of the Misool Eco Resort, says the sanctuary “sends a clear signal to the national government that the destructive fishing of sharks and rays is extremely detrimental to Indonesia’s growing marine tourism industry and the local communities that are supported by it.” Manta ray tourism in Indonesia generates more than $15 million per year vs. three percent of that amount from a manta ray fishery.

CORAL is also working to create a network of locally managed protected marine areas in the Sunda-Banda region of Indonesia, which will benefit sharks and rays.

Could we do all this without you?  Absolutely not!  So thanks so much for your continued support.

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