The Conservancy is joining forces with Mote Marine Laboratory to put into motion an initiative that will enable coral restoration at unprecedented scales throughout the Caribbean and Florida Keys. Mote is a nonprofit marine research and education institution that has developed innovative technologies to grow staghorn, brain, boulder and star coral fragments and pioneered new methods to restore reef-building corals at accelerated rates.
WHY IS THIS INITIATIVE VITAL?
Coral reef systems are critical to healthy oceans and the people that depend on them. They also provide shoreline resiliency to protect coastal communities from the disastrous effects of climate change including severe storm surges and flooding. Because 70 percent of the Caribbean population lives along coastlines, the protection afforded by coral reefs is imperative. In just the last three decades, ocean acidification and increased temperatures, overfishing and unplanned coastal development have caused coral cover in the Caribbean and Florida to decline by 50 to 80 percent in some areas.
WHAT WILL WE ACHIEVE?
The goal of this partnership is to put into action a 15-year plan to restore more than one million corals and share science-based coral restoration and conservation practices among U.S. and Caribbean partners. This joint initiative includes the establishment of coral gene banks and research facilities to preserve genetically diverse coral tissue and help identify strains with potential resilience against climate change and other threats. As a first step, the Conservancy and Mote have signed an agreement that officially launches one year of groundwork towards reaching our shared, long-term coral restoration goals. One of the goals within year one is to grow 50,000 coral fragments of various species, with a focus on selecting strains resilient to increasing water temperatures, ocean acidification and disease.
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM BENEFITS OF THIS INITIATIVE?
In addition to preserving marine biodiversity and the beauty of our coral reefs, this initiative will protect livelihoods, educate people about the importance of coral conservation and help spread critical knowledge about restoration practices.
With tourism as the leading industry in the islands, the economies of the Caribbean and Florida Keys are inextricably linked to healthy oceans and coasts. By restoring coral, we are safeguarding the integrity of the marine habitats and natural resources that support so many livelihoods.
Both organizations have ongoing community engagement programs centered around coral restoration. Working together now, we can expand these programs to educate more students, fishers and other community members about restoration activities and the role they can play in our efforts.
The Conservancy and Mote plan to forge international partnerships for upcoming coral restoration in priority locations including Cuba and the Bahamas. By 2025, we aim to build and jointly operate a permanent coral restoration facility in St. Croix. These advances, in addition to training personnel working in U.S. and international coral restoration areas, will disseminate state-of-the-art coral science and restoration practices where needed most.
By joining forces as two of the world’s foremost marine research and conservation organizations, we can leverage our resources and knowledge to restore coral reefs in never-before-seen numbers, delivering ecological and economic benefits for generations to come.
Key partners are building a community to advance coral restoration science throughout the Caribbean.