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Saving the World's Coral Reefs

by The Coral Reef Alliance
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Saving the World's Coral Reefs


Thanks to supporters like you, 2020 was a great year for coral reef! You helped us achieve one of our strongest fundraising years ever, bringing fiscal year 2020 to a close at nearly $2.5 million in individual and corporate donations. With an additional $1.5 million from foundation and government grants, that adds up to over $4 million raised to advance our mission of saving the world’s coral reefs.

And you can be confident that your donation went where it was needed most—nearly three-quarters of our total expenses went directly toward our conservation programs that are saving the world’s coral reefs. Some highlights from our work include:

  • In Maui, our Watershed Restoration project stopped over 20 tons of sediment—the equivalent weight of 10 cars—from reaching reefs thanks to support from over 100 volunteers.
  • In Roatán, Honduras, we installed 62 solar panels to West End’s Wastewater Treatment Plan, reducing their daytime energy consumption by 80% and their operation expenses by 70% in the summer peak.
  • In México, Belize, and Honduras, we trained nearly 130 tourism operators—fostering a culture of stewardship as participants share their new coral reef knowledge with their communities and tourists alike.
  • We launched a collaboration with the Allen Coral Atlas to facilitate a global network to assess coral bleaching events and water quality threat alerts.

So, thank you. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to coral reefs. I hope you enjoy reading how your support made a difference.

Yours in conservation,



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Despite the chaos of 2020, we have continued our vital work saving the world’s coral reefs. This year has challenged all of us—corals and humans—to adjust to a new normal. Here are a few stories about how we’ve adapted, which we couldn’t have done without your support. Thank you!

  • On Maui, we enabled 10-year-old Abby Rogers to grow 900 native plants in her backyard to help us prevent sediment from entering the ocean and smothering coral reefs.
  • Our three community scientists in Honduras brought improved fishing practices to the Mesoamerican Reef by building important relationships with fishers.
  • New results from our pioneering research show that protecting reefs that thrive in warmer waters may be key to helping evolution rescue reefs from the effects of climate change.
  • When COVID-19 hit, the Roatán Marine Park lost 85% of its revenue. But through CORAL’s partnership, they were able to prioritize patrols and continue protecting their coral reefs.
  • We created a network of partners on Hawai‘i Island to launch a robust, volunteer-based water quality testing program and began monitoring sites around the island.
  • Together with our partners, we trained nearly 130 tourism operators on best practices for coral reef conservation throughout México, Belize and Honduras this year.
  • We helped the Polo’s Water Association secure funding to install solar panels on their wastewater treatment plant, reducing their daytime energy consumption by about 80%.


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The cover of the Tourism Revitalization Plan

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unprecedented economic crisis across the globe—particularly in countries and regions that are highly dependent upon tourism revenue.

In Honduras, for example, eight percent of the GDP comes from tourism. Spring break is one of their most popular travel periods when tourists from around the world flock to the Bay Islands on the Honduran Caribbean coast. The Bay Islands are a launching point to the world’s second-largest reef system—the Mesoamerican Reef—and the beautiful white sand beaches attract vacationers from around the globe. But this year, Easter week alone saw a loss of $283.4 million USD and nearly 30,000 jobs. The local communities who depend on that revenue and income felt the effects acutely.

CORAL has partnered with local Bay Island communities since 2005 to build programs that reduce the impact of tourism on the reef and to ensure proceeds from tourism benefit communities and the environment. But perhaps even more importantly, we’ve helped the communities build programs that allow them to become resilient to setbacks, including COVID-19.

When tourism suddenly came to an abrupt halt, CORAL and its local partners immediately got to work. We united with Go Blue Bay Islands and various tourism industry and government representatives to create a local committee that could help the region safely reopen its tourism economy. The popular committee soon expanded into a national committee and began addressing tourism safety across the country. Together the team created The Tourism Revitalization Plan*, which outlines biosecurity guidelines and best practices that provide a framework for restarting tourism responsibly and safely.

“One of the greatest values of these guidelines is that they come from a joint approach that promotes inclusivity and applicability,” says Ms. Syntia Solomon, President of the Bay Islands Tourism Bureau and one of the founders of Go Blue Bay Islands. “Our destination and businesses must reopen, and we must restart domestic and international tourism responsibly and safely. To achieve this, all cross-sector businesses, regardless of size, must put in clear, sustainable and practical protocols.”

Safety Protocols in the Tourism Revitalization Plan

The document has outlined protocols for businesses across sectors, like hotels, restaurants, tour operators, dive centers, rental car companies, beaches, gift shops and more. Some of the protocols are fairly familiar—like ensuring ease of access to hand-washing stations, requiring face masks, and encouraging social distancing. Others focus on ensuring employees and tourism operators are trained to recognize and address risks. And some outline clear response procedures for when an employee or community member tests positive.

Just like coral reefs, when human communities are able to shift and adapt in times of crisis, they can stand strong—and even thrive—when faced with shocks and stresses. By listening to our local partners and acting based on their feedback, and by ensuring local communities have a united voice and the resources they need to weather periods of uncertainty, we can help the Bay Islands bounce back and reopen safely.

“One of the most incredible things about the Bay Islands is our proximity the Mesoamerican Reef,” says Tanya Amaya, CORAL’s Program Manager in the Bay Islands. “Our economy is built around people coming from across the globe to experience its magic and enjoy our beautiful beaches. We’re hopeful that with these new protocols, we’ll be able to reopen the economy safely and begin welcoming visitors again.”

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Coral reefs provide an important source of food and income for coastal and island communities around the world, but more than 55 percent of reefs are threatened by overfishing globally. Coral reefs depend on fish like parrotfish and surgeonfish to consume seaweeds (also called macroalgae) and prevent them from overgrowing and smothering coral reefs.

Entrepreneurial projects, like creating handicrafts to sell to tourists or raising egg-laying chickens, offer new ways for fishers and their families to earn money. When communities have the skills and resources to generate income in new ways, the result is a win-win solution, in which people are no longer as reliant on a single resource for their livelihood, while depleted fish stocks and coral reef ecosystems get the chance to recover and thrive.

As part of our Healthy Fisheries for Reefs initiative, CORAL collaborates with communities to develop tailored, locally appropriate ways to diversify their sources of income beyond fishing. Some examples include our egg-laying chicken project in coastal Honduras and our beekeeping project in Waivunia, Fiji, which you can read about here.

In these uncertain times, ecotourism—a major source of income for many coral reef destinations—has been severely affected. With tourism revenue temporarily gone, many coral reef communities around the world are turning to overfishing to feed their families.

But in the communities where CORAL works, our work to build the resilience of local communities is paying off. Thanks to our work on income diversification, as well as governance and capacity building, these communities are stronger and better able to withstand the unknown.

Artisan workshop

One example of this is our work in the Bay Islands of Honduras, where we have been working with local communities to diversify their skillsets and sources of income. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, CORAL and partners hosted a series of workshops to build the capacity of the Association of Artisans of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja. The artisan women that comprise the Association are already skilled in many handicrafts, such as knitting, sewing, painting and jewelry making. Through the workshops, they added to their repertoire by learning bookbinding—a skill which will allow them to create new products to appeal to tourists and visitors. In addition to diversifying the handicrafts available for sale in Roatán, this workshop also promotes best practices like creating crafts using sustainable materials that do not harm protected species or undermine their cultural heritage.

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused an unexpected halt to tourism operations, the women of the association continue to practice their craft and develop their skills under shelter-in-place. The bookbinding workshop was led by Arleth Rivera, a Honduran graduate of the National School of Fine Arts who specializes in book restoration and bookbinding. Ms. Rivera is now offering an online course via Facebook Live and Instagram, which will enable the women to continue their learning and training from the safety of their homes. We are also exploring the potential of marketing and selling the women’s products online.

Just like coral reefs, human communities who have the ability to shift and adapt in times of crisis will stand strong—and even thrive—when faced with shocks and stresses. The steps we take today to build community and reef resilience will ensure their survival in the future. We at CORAL are proud of the work we do to help our mutually dependent human and ecological systems become resilient to the complex challenges of our time.

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On April 22, 1970, concerned environmentalists came together to create Earth Day to focus on the environment and bring attention to the effects that humans were having on our planet’s ecosystems. The first Earth Day brought 20 million people together to rally for the protection of the environment, and later that year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were passed.

Since then, Earth Day has grown to a global event, with people around the world coming together to protect our environment. Almost 50 years later, our planet and its inhabitants are suffering as climate change causes severe ocean heat waves and increases the likelihood of wildfires. We’ve also seen the rapid decline of coral reefs over the past 30 years. These devastating consequences of climate change are becoming the new normal for our time. However, if we come together and raise our voices for solutions in the same way that we did when Earth Day was founded, there’s still hope for the state of our world and its inhabitants.

At CORAL, we’re developing and promoting solutions that help coral reefs adapt to the effects of climate change so that corals and the ecosystems they support can be celebrated 50 years from now. Our signature initiatives address local threats to reefs, including water pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction. Our Science of Adaptation research shows that when these local threats are reduced, corals are more able to adapt to rising ocean temperatures. By creating networks of healthy reefs, we can ensure the survival of coral reefs for generations to come.

We know that the best way to reduce local stressors is in partnership with the people that interact with and depend on coral reefs. For example, in Honduras, our partnerships with residents, business owners, and the government have improved water quality to meet international safe swimming standards in West End, Roatán. We also partnered with local non-profits to make sure that the marine protected areas (MPAs) that we helped establish are effectively managed and well-patrolled, resulting in increased fish biomass. Efforts like these are creating the local conditions that allow corals to thrive, and because this work is part of a network, these reefs contribute to adaptation and repopulation across the entire Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) system. In addition to this work in the MAR, we are creating the conditions that will help corals adapt to the effects of climate change in Hawai’i and with partners in the Caribbean and around the world.

But we need your help! Here are some ways you can take action to help coral reefs:

  1. Join our volunteer program in Maui, which is reforesting the slopes of West Maui to reduce the amount of sediment flowing from land onto coral reefs. So far, the team has planted approximately 8,000 seedlings that are holding tons of soil in place and providing the clean water that corals need to survive.
  2. You can help slow the pace of climate change by taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint, and encouraging friends and family to do the same. CoolClimate Network has a carbon calculator that estimates your carbon output based on your travel habits, diet, shopping, and the type and amount of energy that you use to heat your home. After you view the results, they also provide ways that you can reduce your impact through options like telecommuting, switching to CFLs or LEDs, line drying your clothing, improving your refrigerator’s efficiency, and more.
  3. Help us spread the word about why it’s not too late to save coral reefs! Taking actions individually is a great step, but we also need to mobilize the conservation community and the world around adaptation and encourage everyone to take action. That’s why climate scientists like Dr. Katherine Hayhoe say that the most important thing you can do to fight climate change, is to talk about it and to share that there is hope because there are solutions.

If we rally together the same way we did 50 years ago, our collective efforts can encourage our leaders, industries, and the world to take action to save coral reefs and our planet’s other vital ecosystems. We’ll be sharing more about how we can save coral reefs together during our Earth Day webinar on April 22nd. I hope to see you there!

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Organization Information

The Coral Reef Alliance

Location: Oakland, CA - USA
Project Leader:
Coral Reef Alliance
Oakland, CA United States
$17,797 raised of $25,000 goal
406 donations
$7,203 to go
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