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 activi...
Jan 20, 2017

Expanding Community-Based Coral Conservation in Fi

John Vonokula, Fiji Program Coordinator
John Vonokula, Fiji Program Coordinator

In September 2016, the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) received a grant from the U.S. Department of State to expand our work in Fiji to Cakaudrove, Ra and Lau provinces. Together with our partners, we are working with these communities to build their capacity and effectively manage their resources through training workshops such as fisheries enforcement and financial administration.

These new funds allow us to expand our team and we are thrilled to introduce our new Program Coordinator, John Vonokula. Born and raised in Fiji, John is a certified diver who is passionate about engaging, learning from and working with communities to develop effective approaches to coral conservation.

“We are thrilled that John is joining the CORAL family,” says Dr. Michael Webster, Executive Director at CORAL. “John has 17 years years of experience working with Fiji’s fisheries department, and his knowledge, passion and energy will help ensure the success of CORAL’s expansion in Fiji.”

John has trained community members in best practices for livelihood activities and developed community-based and gazetted marine protected areas (MPAs). Recently, he was instrumental in developing a pilot approach to community-based coastal and marine spatial planning in Waivunia.

For more information about our current work in Fiji, please visit

Coral Reef, Namena
Coral Reef, Namena
Nov 14, 2016

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.


Talanoa session to discuss our work

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 (no take) areas in Fiji. Through training and micro-grants, we have helped the KRMC increase its management capacity, including establishing a voluntary fee program for visitors. In 2015, the community raised more than $20,000 to support the Namena Marine Reserve, community infrastructure projects and scholarship programs that have benefitted more than 170 students.

Over the last decade, we have seen the community’s capacity and autonomy grow. This was proven in February during the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston—a category 5 storm that passed directly over Kubulau. Following the storm, KRMC had the resources they needed to start the recovery process without opening their tabu area to fishing. By not using their marine resources, the community is helping the reef recover from the storm. 

View of Waivunia coastline

CORAL continues to play an important role in Kubulau and we have been pursuing ways to share our knowledge with other communities. This work bolsters efforts by the Fijian government to include 30 percent of its ocean in marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2020.

Our work has paid off. We are thrilled to announce that thanks to a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of State we will expand our work to Cakaudrove, Ra and Lau provinces.

In fact, we’ve already begun, and during my recent visit, I met with elders and community members from these provinces. What I learned is that each community approaches conservation in a different way.


Members of the Kubulau community discussing CORAL’s work

There is a unique opportunity in Waivunia. The elders are working with the government to launch a new nearshore management zoning pilot project. The project will identify different use zones in the marine environment such as fishing, tabu, and tourism. If successful, this approach could be rolled out to other communities across the country.

Ra is situated across the Bligh Passage from Namena Marine Reserve and many of its communities were hit hard by tropical cyclone Winston. In Ra, a number of governmental and non-governmental initiatives are underway to help improve management of marine protected areas.

Oneta is 200 miles across open ocean from Fiji’s capital Suva. Part of the Lau province, this island is less than three miles long and is surrounded by an atoll of reefs. Conservation in Lau is more localized; many communities have established tabu areas through traditional agreements and with little outside support. The community on Oneata reached out to Fiji’s Provincial Conservation Officer from the iTaukei Affairs Board for help. They connected the community to CORAL.

Together with partners, we will help these communities strengthen their approaches to conservation. Through training in topics like fisheries enforcement and financial administration, we will build the capacity of local communities to effectively manage their resources. We will use what we’ve learned from our work in Kubulau as the basis for building a network of effectively managed areas in Fiji.

I look forward to my next visit to Fiji, to sitting down with community leaders to drink kava and talk about how we can save reefs. We look forward to once again sharing what we learn so that our collective successes can guide and shape conservation work across the entire region.

We can save coral reefs for the children of today and tomorrow.

Oct 20, 2016

News from the Field: A Bright Spot in Indonesia


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