SIDEBAR

It’s Not Too Late to Save Coral Reefs

coral-reefs-can-be-saved

Our strategy centers on empowering and collaborating with those on the frontlines of reef conservation. Our Reef Resilience Network, for example, connects marine resource managers around the world and provides information and training opportunities to maximize conservation and restoration efforts. Similarly, our work with fishermen in the Caribbean, the Solomon Islands and other regions is also demonstrating that a more sustainable approach to fishing sustains reef ecosystems and in turn leads to better fishing yields in the long term. Well-managed, healthy reefs are proving more resilient to the wider effects of climate change.

But we're also finding more unlikely allies in the business community. The tourism industry offers a good example. Globally, the tourism industry derives $36 billion in annual revenue from coral reefs; the Conservancy's Mapping Ocean Wealth initiative is helping to identify where and how reefs generate tourism's value and offering more incentives for conservation. And one of the most significant new partners we've developed is the insurance industry, including Swiss Re, one of the largest reinsurers in the world. Recognizing the importance of reefs for protecting coastal development, we are exploring innovative disaster risk financing mechanisms that will support long-term protection and restoration of reefs and other critical natural defenses.

This work is no panacea, of course. Coral bleaching events, driven by warming oceans, are a serious and growing threat, and ocean acidification will complicate matters still further. But science has already demonstrated that reefs have the ability to rebound from extreme damage. Even reefs that were highly degraded by multiple disturbances have shown signs of recovery, so if we can reduce the damage from local sources, reefs will have a better shot at recovering from bleaching events.

The newer and still developing piece of the puzzle, though, comes from our recognition that an awful lot of people have an awful lot to lose from coral reef extinction. We are only just beginning to realize that we can engage these people and sectors—even if they might not always be the most obvious partners—as part of the solution. The challenge is to provide them with the information and the tools they need to make better decisions about actions that will impact reefs. Can we, in fact, empower them to become advocates for reefs? And if we do, can we save coral reefs?

My answer to both questions is an unequivocal "yes." I look forward to sharing more of the Conservancy's progress in the coming months as we move to make this International Year of the Reef a year of hope and resurgence.

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Saturday, 15 December 2018

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