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...
Nov 2, 2015

El Nino: Will It Hurt Coral Reefs?

Coral Reefs in Maui
Coral Reefs in Maui

You’ve probably heard about it in the news. You may even remember living through it in the early 80s and 90s. El Niño is here. It’s already impacting the Pacific Ocean and this August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) saw variances in sea surface temperatures near or greater than 2.0 degrees Celsius.

El Niño refers to warming waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Those warmer waters spread to the east, bringing with them a drastic change in weather patterns. Scientists predict that this year’s El Niño is extreme and may last through the spring of 2016.

That means trouble for coral reefs. In fact, NOAA recently announced that “bleaching due to heat stress is expected to impact approximately 38 percent of the world’s coral reefs—and almost 95% of those in U.S. waters.”

When water temperatures grow too warm, corals become stressed and oust the tiny algae that live in their tissues, called zooxanthellae. Corals and zooxanthellae have a mutually beneficial relationship that can be disrupted by changing temperatures. Without zooxanthellae, corals lose an important food source which significantly limits their ability to grow. Zooxanthellae are also responsible for giving corals their brilliant and vibrant colors—without them, when they are banished, corals bleach and turn a skeletal white color.

Coral bleaching isn’t necessarily the same thing as corals dying. Corals can survive bleaching events, but their survival is contingent on the how warm the water gets and how long the warm period lasts. They will, however, have a harder time recovering if they are already struggling or unhealthy. If there’s a back-to-back series of warm water events, and if corals are already stressed from overfishing and pollution, mortality rates can skyrocket. Given the local threats reefs face in many places, we can expect high coral mortality especially if this year’s El Niño is as strong as scientists predict. We’re disappointed to report that we’ve already seen coral bleaching in Hawai‘i and elsewhere in the Pacific.

The warm waters of an El Niño are also associated with an increase in the number of tropical cyclones. These weather events can cause a lot of physical destruction to a reef. If corals bleach, they have a hard time recovering—their growth is curtailed without their partner, zooxanthellae. The combination of increased water temperatures and storm activity can be a “double whammy” for coral reefs.

El Niño is a natural phenomenon and we can’t stop it. When you add an El Niño to an already stressed system its effects are more severe. So what can you do about it? You can reduce your emissions and advocate on behalf of clean energy. When you’re out diving you can report bleached corals to local reef managers or to ReefBase. You can also help the Coral Reef Alliance do what it  does best—unite communities to reduce local threats. If reefs are healthy, with clean water and an abundant amount of fish life, we can expect the corals to come back later. If we combine our efforts across the globe we can help give corals a fighting chance at surviving these environmental changes.

Sep 3, 2015

Putting the LID on Stormwater Runoff

Algae and sediment pollution near reef beach, Maui
Algae and sediment pollution near reef beach, Maui

From a conservation point of view, we don’t often think of coral reefs going hand in hand with construction and development. But they do—coral reefs attract tourists, and with tourism comes infrastructure. Coral reefs also provide benefits to communities, and people tend to concentrate in areas where they can reap those benefits.

Over the years coral reefs along Maui’s West coast have fallen victim to this cycle. As more houses, hotels, roads, and other infrastructure projects are created, more and more rainwater runs off into the ocean, bringing with it nutrients and sediment that are harmful to the reefs.

Earlier this summer we partnered with the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) to hold a six-week course for West Maui’s landscapers, landowners, and accommodations industry professionals to address this issue. The course taught them about various low impact design (LID) principles they could implement in landscape and construction projects to help reduce the amount of polluted water running off into the ocean during storms.

LID uses the principles of nature to design landscape and development plans that preserve the natural function of a watershed. For example:

  • Build parking lots with pervious pavement. This allows water to seep deep into the soil where nutrients and sediment are filtered out.
  • Design rain gardens and install them near beach park showers to help absorb water runoff.
  • Catch rainwater and use it to irrigate landscapes, thereby reducing the amount of water running off of roofs after rain falls, and to prevent the need to use valuable potable water to irrigate.
  • Seven hotel and condo properties were represented at our Reef-Friendly Shoreline Innovations course

If we work to restore the watershed to its natural state, we can divert stormwater from entering the ocean and help improve the water quality for coral reefs.

Individuals from seven different properties attended and represented more than 100 acres of coastline. One participant came all the way from Lanai in order to learn more and bring LID principles back to his hotel, The Four Seasons, Lanai. In fact, we are proud to report that participants are taking action and each one developed a sustainability project that they are implementing on their property.

“Through this course we invested in human resources and knowledge, and that goes really far,” says Wes Crile, CORAL’s Hawaii-based program manager and coordinator of the course. “It’s one thing to build a rain garden for someone, it’s another thing to educate them on how to build it. We’re building a collaborative group of LID advocates who will now spread the word.”

Coral reefs are a vital habitat for marine life, supporting nearly a quarter of all marine animals. By protecting them, we’re also protecting one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. But keeping coral reefs healthy isn’t just beneficial for the environment, it’s also beneficial for communities. Coral reefs are an important source of protein for more than one billion people worldwide—and they provide vital livelihoods for families. They also help protect the coastline from large storm waves. Hotels are also finding it’s in their best interest to protect them. In Hawaii alone, reefs bring in more than $10 million in tourism revenue annually. Sustainable practices are no longer a trend, they are here to stay. More and more travelers seek to support businesses that help protect the environment.

When hotels invest and take the time to educate their staff they help build a vital skill set and knowledge that gives employees an opportunity to talk about sustainability initiatives to their guests.

Take the Kahana Sunset Condominiums—longtime resident and site manager, Jackie Scheibel, attended the course and she is helping to pave the way with a new public walkway that will provide easy beach access. She is actively using her new LID skills and will use big planters to filter stormwater as it comes off the road and place native plants along the hillside to help stabilize sediment. In addition, she will use pervious pavement so water will sink into the ground instead of running into the ocean.

Just imagine what would happen if these LID practices were implemented across large coastal properties—we could potentially divert millions of gallons of stormwater from entering West Maui’s marine environment each year.

Help CORAL and hotels such as The Four Seasons and Kahana Sunset continue this great work! Show your support and help provide a more secure future for the communities and industries that rely on coral reefs by ensuring reefs have the clear, nutrient-free water they need to survive.

Reef-Friendly Shoreline Innovations Course
Reef-Friendly Shoreline Innovations Course


Jun 9, 2015

Namena Is a Source of Life

Sereima, a beneficiary of reef funds
Sereima, a beneficiary of reef funds

One of my favorite things about working for CORAL is hearing about the direct impacts we have on local communities and people’s lives. It’s not every day that you hear about conservation efforts that have enhanced people’s lives, and it’s such a powerful thing to know that communities can really thrive and benefit from protecting their natural resources. So when I hear about how our work translates into benefits for local communities, it warms me from the inside out.

I had one of those moments recently when speaking with Juliane Diamond, one of our program managers. She was in Fiji last month, and attended a stakeholders meeting for the Namena Marine Reserve. The meeting was held by the Kubulau Resource Management Committee (KRMC), a local NGO we’re working with to protect the Reserve. Juliane was there along with about twenty other people—a mix of community members, dive operators, KRMC members, local authority figures, and more. They joined together to talk about the year’s progress, and the future of the reserve.

When we met to talk about her trip, Juliane reminded me that the Namena Marine Reserve sold over 1,600 dive tags last year—more than ever before. They sold so many that they ran out halfway through the year and had to order more. The dive tags generate much needed revenue for the reserve and not only help fund management efforts, but are also used to directly benefit the neighboring Kubulau community. So these extra funds mean that the local community can install shelters and make repairs at bus stops, so community members don’t have to wait for buses in the rain.

The funds are also used to provide scholarships for children of the Kubulau community to go to school. Juliane had a chance to catch up with Sereima, a scholarship recipient from 2007. She received a scholarship to help her complete her bachelor’s in Applied Science, and is now working for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. “I felt relieved that there was something there that could help me finish my degree and get to graduate,” said Sereima. “If [the scholarship] hadn’t existed, I don’t know if I would have been able to afford it.”

According to Aborosio, a KRMC member, “Namena is a source of life for Kubulau.” And it really is. Surrounding the tiny island of Namenalala, the approximately 70 square kilometer Namena Marine Reserve was established in 1997, when community members successfully banned commercial fishing within the region. We’ve been working with the community to help them address illegal poaching in the Reserve, and to help enhance the dive tag system and generate more revenue for the Reserve and the community. While the reserve helps preserve such an incredible underwater treasure and popular dive spot, it is also so much more. No one could have said it better than Fiji resident and KRMC member Tevita: “CORAL and Namena carry the hopes and future generations of Kubulau.”

Thank you for helping to ensure the success of such an important project!

Fiji's beautiful Namena Marine Reserve



donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of The Coral Reef Alliance

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about The Coral Reef Alliance on
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.