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

Thank you for protecting coral reefs in 2021, and playing a pivotal role in improving ocean conditions and giving these vital ecosystems a fighting chance against climate change. We have really appreciated your generous donations, which have kept coral reefs thriving and allowed us to respond to situations that threaten their health.

In the past year, we have tackled wastewater pollution, monitored coral bleaching events, increased fish biomass, supported coastal communities, along with many other exciting conservation initiatives and projects. None of this would not have been possible without your help! 

To share your impact, we’ve compiled our 2021 Annual Report, which demonstrates the important role you’ve played in protecting coral reef ecosystems around the world. 

After checking out our report, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to continue learning about coral reef conservation.

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Coral reefs are better off because of you. 

You gave corals clean water. You made sure coral reefs had thriving fish populations. You spearheaded science that will give corals a fighting chance against climate change.

Thank you—for everything you did last year and for everything you will do in the future. You are saving coral reefs, and we are so very grateful.

Take a look back at all your donation accomplished this past year:

You kept 29.3 million gallons of raw sewage from being discharged onto the Mesoamerican Reef

Your donation helped support our work with the Polo’s Water Board and their wastewater treatment plant in West End, Roatán. Since 2013, this project has led to a 95% reduction in fecal bacteria in nearshore waters. 

You prevented 25 tons of sediment from smothering coral reefs in West Maui. 

Your donation helped undo decades of damage from industrial agriculture and restore the ridge-to-reef connection within a critical West Maui watershed. This area is designated a priority conservation site by both the state and federal governments because West Maui’s coral reefs seed reefs across the island chain.

You protected critical fish species in Tela, Honduras 

Your donation allowed us to protect important fish nursery grounds in Tela Bay, Honduras, which has led to an 165% increase in the average biomass of the most harvested species, the lane snapper, in just five years. Our research shows fish from Tela Bay travel throughout the Honduran coastline, and likely the Mesoamerican Region, so the effects of this will benefit the entire region. 

You kept entire communities and conservation programs afloat

When critical tourism revenue disappeared, your donation enabled us to provide emergency financial support to our partners in Honduras. Because of you, our partners were able to continue responding to critical reef threats—like Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease and illegal fishing—instead of having to shut down their operations and lay off their staff. 

Thanks for giving when it was needed the most. 

To see more of your impacts, visit coral.org/lookback.

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Most of us are all too happy to flush the toilet and send our waste down the drain, where it flows far, far away and we never have to think about it again.

But this wastewater actually deserves more of our attention. All around the world, sewage is polluting the oceans and causing harm to coral reefs, coastal habitats and human health. And it’s a big problem—80 percent of the world’s wastewater is discharged into the environment without being treated.

What’s more, human waste is actually a valuable resource—worth some $10 billion per year—that can be turned into energy, fertilizer, and drinking water.

The new Ocean Sewage Alliance (OSA), which recently launched on World Oceans Day (June 8), hopes to tackle the issue of ocean wastewater pollution on a global scale while at the same time taking advantage of the waste we typically flush and forget.

But how to solve such a complicated and wide-ranging problem? From a big-picture perspective, the OSA hopes to reduce the stigma around talking about wastewater and encourage people to think creatively about the humble toilet instead. Doing so could ultimately help save coral reefs, potentially reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, provide clean drinking water for people around the world, and prevent the 1.6 million annual deaths from diarrheal disease linked to unsafe sanitation.

“The nutrients in poop and pee are this huge valuable resource that’s literally getting flushed down the toilet and then going out and harming the environment,” says Dr. Helen Fox, the Coral Reef Alliance’s (CORAL) conservation science director and a member of the OSA’s steering committee. “If we can get over the ‘ick’ factor and turn that human waste into energy or fertilizer or all sorts of things, we can basically solve two problems at once.”

The OSA is a collective of diverse organizations all working toward the same goal of reducing wastewater pollution in the world’s oceans and boosting the health and well-being of humans and nature. It includes members and partners like CORAL, The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Surfrider Foundation, World Resources Institute, and many others.

The group is taking a multidisciplinary approach to solving the problem of ocean sewage pollution, bringing together experts and facilitating connections across sectors like public health, environmental resilience, sanitation, development, social justice, and conservation.

“The Ocean Sewage Alliance perfectly follows the collaborative approach we embrace when it comes to saving coral reefs,” says Diana Sokolove, CORAL’s Conservation Programs Director and a member of several OSA working groups. “So many of us have been blowing the whistle on sewage pollution and its effects on the ocean for years–it’s great to see all of these organizations coming together to tackle this issue as an alliance. Now, we have the power in numbers that we need.”

The OSA’s bridge-building philosophy mirrors CORAL’s partnership-first approach to saving the world’s coral reefs. CORAL brings together various members of the conservation community and works directly with local communities to help reduce threats to reefs in ways that foster long-term benefits to people and wildlife.

CORAL has also long been focused on addressing the issue of ocean wastewater pollution, since untreated sewage has direct consequences on the health and well-being of coral reefs, which are among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Wastewater contains damaging nutrients, bacteria, and pathogens that can contribute to coral disease and cause harmful algal blooms that can devastate entire coral reef ecosystems. 

“We’ve always had this idea that the ocean is infinite, and anything we put into it will just disappear. But that’s not the case,” says Sokolove. “Very few countries in the world properly treat their wastewater before it enters the ocean, and we’re seeing the effects of that on coral reefs all over the world.”

CORAL worked alongside stakeholders in the Puako community on Hawai’i Island to help the County secure $1.8 million in funding for transitioning to an advanced wastewater treatment system, which will ultimately help humans and coral reefs stay safe and healthy. In Honduras, CORAL is helping local groups revitalize a once-defunct wastewater treatment plant and get homes connected to it, efforts that have greatly reduced coral disease in the region. As a result, many local beaches are once again safe for swimming and playing.

Ocean wastewater pollution occurs for many different reasons around the globe, including a lack of proper and safe sanitation, illegal dumping, aging or broken sewer systems, overwhelmed wastewater treatment plants, climate change, and novel contaminants. And it’s not just an issue in developing countries where infrastructure resources tend to be lacking. In some coastal areas of developed nations if you flush your toilet in the evening you’ll be swimming in your own waste by morning. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the world’s ocean wastewater pollution problem, but many promising efforts are already underway, such as creating wetlands, building and maintaining wastewater treatment facilities, and converting human waste into energy, potable water, and fertilizer.

The OSA is supporting those initiatives while also helping to develop new solutions, raise awareness about the problem, and foster cross-sector collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

The OSA is also encouraging members of the public to get involved, such as by talking about the issue with friends and family to help break the taboo, not flushing pharmaceuticals or personal hygiene products down the toilet, and maintaining their home’s septic systems and stormwater gutter systems.

Ultimately, both Fox and Sokolove see the OSA as perfectly aligned with CORAL’s mission to save coral reefs. 

“Wastewater is a major threat to coral reefs,” says Fox. “We know that the key to saving coral reefs is keeping them healthy, and the work of the OSA will contribute toward that. I’m really encouraged seeing this collaboration come together and knowing we’re part of a group of people and organizations dedicated to keeping sewage out of our oceans.” 

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Hello,

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,

Megan

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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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Organization Information

The Coral Reef Alliance

Location: Oakland, CA - USA
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Project Leader:
Coral Reef Alliance
Oakland, CA United States
$21,271 raised of $25,000 goal
 
448 donations
$3,729 to go
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