Help Protect Our Planet's Coral Reefs

by The Coral Reef Alliance
Vetted
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

Links:

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
Fiji's beautiful Namena Marine Reserve

Links:

The small-fishing village of Tulamben in Bali struggled with poverty for decades, but that changed with a series of unfortunate events a few decades ago. The USS Liberty beached along its rocky shore after being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in 1942. And in 1963 the eruption of Mount Agung pushed the ship into the ocean, making it quickly one of the most well-known wreck dives in the world. It wasn’t long before tourism became the main source of income for the community. Today, Tulamben is known as one of the best dive spots in Bali, and the USS Liberty wreck can see upwards of 100 people per day during the high season.

But with tourism comes more people, and more people means more stress on the marine ecosystems. We started working with the Tulamben community in 2013 to help them manage their coral reefs, and the community is starting to mobilize to take action—notably in the area of waste management.

As it is in many other places in Bali, waste management is a challenge in Tulamben, especially during the rainy season. Tulamben, located at the base of Mount Agung in the North East of Bali, is one of the driest places on the island. Rain is a luxury there, but when it comes, it washes the volcanic sediment and trash that has accumulated in the dry river beds straight into the ocean, burying the nearshore coral reefs.

The village planned and held a community-wide beach cleanup on February 25, 2015, to help remove some of the debris and bring attention to this issue within the broader community. More than 80 people attended the event, including Nyoman Ardika, the head of Tulamben village, and Komang Agus Sukasena, the head of the environmental agency.

“We need both healthy coral reefs and clean beaches for tourists to keep coming to Tulamben,” shared Veronika Niken, one of my coworkers here in Indonesia. “We were excited to see such a great turn-out at the event and to see the community really come together to protect their coral reefs.”

As a next step, community leaders have begun collaborating with their local government to rehabilitate some of their coral reefs. To further quote Veronica, “We look forward to continuing to support this village. We’re excited to see what the future holds for their reefs and and to keep partnering with them in their important efforts.”

Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji
Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji

Every day, those of us at CORAL give thanks to reefs for all they provide: beauty, food, storm protection, livelihoods, and more. And we give back by working tirelessly—with your support—to protect them.

For example, today, thanks to your partnership with CORAL, there are:

  • More sharks in the Namena Marine Reserve . . .
  • Recovering fish populations in Roatan’s Sandy Bay-West End Marine Reserve and Maui’s Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area . . .
  • Significant new protections for some of the Mesoamerican Reef’s most spectacular coral habitats and for sharks and rays in parts of the Coral Triangle . . .
  • Commitments from many groups in Hawai‘i, including government officials and hotel staff, to address head-on the problems caused for reefs by wastewater . . .
  • Programs in Honduras, Fiji, and Indonesia where dive tourism directly funds conservation and community initiatives, providing compelling incentives for locals to protect their reefs . . .
  • People who have changed their behaviors—whether while diving on a reef, decorating their homes, or planning for their new fish tank—to reduce their impact on coral reefs . . .

As our second decade comes to a close, we know that we have many reasons to be thankful for reefs and what we have accomplished for them . . . and even more reasons to be committed to doing even more in the year—and years—to come.

Thank you for your support.  And best “fishes” for a wonderful 2015!

The CORAL Team

Fishers in Bali
Fishers in Bali
Partners in Honduras
Partners in Honduras
Floating Workshop in Maui (photo by Amanda Stone)
Floating Workshop in Maui (photo by Amanda Stone)

Links:

Utila Conservation Fund in Action by Lucie Brown
Utila Conservation Fund in Action by Lucie Brown

The threats facing coral reefs are too significant to be combatted by one person, one organization, or even one strategy. That's why the cornerstone of CORAL's work is building partnerships. Over the last couple fo months, we've shared a few new examples of how we're helping to grow and provide tools for a growing network of coral advocates and thought you might be interested in hearing about them!

Since 2012, CORAL has been working on the Honduran island of Utila to bring together conservation groups, local government officials, fisherman, and other community members to collectively address conservation priorities. One of our first tasks was creating a shared bank account; we then provided the initial funding for what is now called the Utila Conservation Fund.

We are happy to share that the first Utila Conservation Fund project was launched in June. The team created informative reef etiquette posters that have been distributed to local businesses. The graphics aim to educate tourists about the beautiful underwater world that Utila boasts and inspire ownership and pride among local residents. If you’re traveling to Utila for your next dive adventure, be sure to check them out!

Also, as part of our 2011 Building Reef Resilience to Climate Change workshops, CORAL issued a series of microgrants to participants so they could implement local scale projects that would put what they learned into practice. Thailand participants Srisakul Piromvaragorn and James True started a small campaign with the Reef Guardian group in the province of Satun to encourage people to stop hunting parrotfish on Lipe Island.

Now, they have joined with other partners and scaled up their successful efforts to stop the selling of parrotfish in the cities. In July, several large supermarkets pledged to ban the selling of parrotfish in their stores!

We congratulate Srisakul, James, and all of our partners in Utila on their great work. We're so proud to have helped start and bolster these fantastic programs and so grateful to you for making them possible with your support.

 

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Organization Information

The Coral Reef Alliance

Location: Oakland, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.coral.org
Project Leader:
Sarah Freiermuth
Marketing & Communications Director
San Francisco, CA United States
$11,739 raised of $25,000 goal
 
 
214 donations
$13,261 to go
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