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...
Feb 7, 2013

Invasive Lionfish, Repurposed

Preparing lionfish for eating
Preparing lionfish for eating

Red lionfish—attractively striped but heavily armed with poisonous quills—were the focus of a fishing derby and cook-off sponsored by the Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA), Utila Chapter, in Honduras in late November. Native to the West Pacific and Indian Oceans, and Red Sea, red lionfish (Pterois volitans) were introduced into Caribbean waters about twenty years ago and have flourished there, outcompeting—and eating—native species.

CORAL helped plan and publicize the derby, in which twenty-two teams of divers participated. Over 350 lionfish were caught, says CORAL Field Representative Pamela Ortega, who helped fillet the fish for the cook-off on November 30. A few days later, CORAL and BICA staffed a booth at the Utila Food Festival, handing out responsible seafood guides and selling lionfish dishes. Says Pamela, “They have white flesh and a delicate flavor. They’re especially delicious in ceviche!"

This effort is part of a larger strategy employed within all of our Caribbean project sites to reduce these invasive predators by establishing a market demand for them. Last summer, our team presented a poster at the International Coral Reef Symposium on our work.

Lionfish - beautiful and delicious!
Lionfish - beautiful and delicious!
Nov 7, 2012

Taking a Political Dive for Conservation

Staghorn coral in Cordelia
Staghorn coral in Cordelia

Officially speaking, the legislation that declared Cordelia Banks a “Site of Wildlife Importance” was signed in the landlocked Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. But the legislators actually made their decision far removed from their offices.

Last year, Jenny Myton, CORAL’s Honduras Field Manager, invited key government officials to visit Roatan. CORAL and our partners were seeking protections for Cordelia Banks and its healthy populations of endangered staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), and she believed that the site would sell itself to these critical decision-makers—if only they could see it for themselves.

A delegation headed by Josè Antonio Galdames, the Vice-Minister for the National Institute of Forest Conservation and Development, Protected Areas, agreed to travel to Jenny and learn more about this unique spot off of Roatan’s coast.

Before they could boat out to Cordelia and jump in the water, however, the group—with varying levels of swimming skills—took two weeks to learn how to snorkel and scuba dive. Eventually, all obtained their open water and advanced diver certifications.

Sure enough, when the Vice-Minister and his six colleagues descended into Cordelia’s shallow waters, they became some of its biggest advocates.

“You could see that they really got it,” Jenny said of the group’s eye-opening dive. “That experience did more for Cordelia than a hundred committee meetings in Tegucigalpa would have.”

The legislation, signed in May, is a critical first step toward managing and safeguarding one of the most spectacular natural resources on the Mesoamerican Reef. CORAL and our partners in Honduras are now seeking similar protections for the reefs off the mainland city of Tela.

“Despite having lived for many years in Roatan, I never had the opportunity to see Cordelia Banks,” Vice-Minister Galdames said. “It was through the perseverance of Jenny and Ian Drysdale [Jenny’s husband and fellow reef expert] that I was finally . . . able to see how beautiful it was and, at the same time, recognize the serious problems affecting our oceans.”

Political dives have a whole new meaning now!

Roatan youth celebrating Cordelia
Roatan youth celebrating Cordelia's designatation
The Vice Minister with an Invasive Lionfish
The Vice Minister with an Invasive Lionfish
Aug 16, 2012

Sharks Can't Use a Pencil, But . . .

Sharks for the Future Notebooks
Sharks for the Future Notebooks

Notebooks developed as part of our Sharks for the Future campaign are helping to write a more promising future for Indonesia’s sharks--and it's reefs. Lined writing paper is sandwiched between smaller versions of the eye-catching posters developed to promote the campaign; these notebooks both help get the message out about the importance of sharks and give the students of Raja Ampat a much needed educational tool.

As is the case in many remote or impoverished regions, school supplies can be difficult to come by in Raja Ampat. So, when developing our shark conservation plan, I made a point to include educational resources for the kids. All students who participated in the art and writing contests we recently held will receive these notebooks and a bookmark, both featuring images and messages about the need for shark conservation. Additional notebooks will be distributed over the next month to even more students.

Sharks and their reef homes will benefit from the heightened awareness, and the students will benefit from our conservation strategy. It’s a definite win-win!

Promoting the Art Contest
Promoting the Art Contest

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