Collaborating to save the corals

Jean-Luc Solandt By: Jean-Luc Solandt
Date posted: 14 February 2018

Today I’ve been at a meeting all about coral reefs, bizarrely nowhere near any at all. In the beautiful Fishmongers Hall on the Thames in London some of the world’s leading coral reef experts and advocates gathered to seek new partnerships and coalitions to work on all aspects of improving the resistance of coral reefs to the plethora of threats they now face.

HRH Coral Collaboration 2018

The meeting, in this the third ‘International Year of the Reef, was hosted by HRH Prince Charles’ ‘International Sustainability Unit’ (ISU). His Royal Highness is also the MCS Patron. He knows his marine and has always been a lover of coral reefs.

His Royal Highness said: “There can be no doubt that we are at a critical tipping point, where we will either ensure or fatally compromise our ability to safeguard the world’s coral reefs and the species that will support future generations of humans and countless other species.”

The recent BBC Blue Planet II series, coupled with deep regret over many declines of commonwealth countries environmental heritage have led to increased awareness of the very real potential of completely losing these vital coral ecosystems.

Coral Diver

HRH The Prince of Wales told us that we must galvanize action to save coral reefs to avoid the catastrophe of their loss: “The stakes are high and time short. We need action, not just more words.”

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, said we need a turning point for coral reefs to reverse their degradation and loss.

Prince Harry, who has an interest in the issue, according to Kensington Palace, was also at the event.

The Prince, who marries Meghan Markle in May, took his seat among marine experts, global organisations and foreign government figures to hear his father warn that a “graveyard of destroyed reefs” is not a dire problem for future generations but a catastrophe society faces now.

The last three years have seen the longest and most extensive coral die-off ever recorded and this impact from global climate change is predicted to worsen for at least the next two to three decades, threatening further destruction to reefs that are already suffering damage from overfishing and pollution.

The aim of the International Year of the Reef campaign is to draw attention to the crisis facing coral reefs and to secure the support necessary from governments, NGOs, businesses and the public. It aims to build on a new level of support for coral reef conservation and science, prompted by the recent global die-off, and help ensure 2018 becomes a turning point for coral reef conservation. It is intended to be a catalyst for action at a scale that has never been achieved before bringing together all sectors to work as a global community to find solutions to a global problem.

Coral Bleaching before and after

I hope this meeting will offer us a chance to be part of something big on coral reefs in IYOR 2018.

MCS is a significant player in the coral reef world. We currently undertake a number of major projects -

  1. To increase capacity and awareness of Maldivians to assess and protect their own reefs in collaboration with Biosphere-Expeditions, the Maldives Marine Research Centre and Reef Check. We’ve been working in the Maldives for over 12 years now, assessed the impacts of two major bleaching events and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. We established a local ReefCheck Maldives NGO, and trained up six locals to undertake their own training of Reef Check.

  2. We’ve worked in the Turks and Caicos Islands for a number of years with the local Government Environment Department and resorts to track turtles. Crucially we’ve helped introduce legislation to protect turtles from over-exploitation and we hope these measures will result in a truly sustainable fishery for these important animals.

  3. As part of the Great British Oceans coalition of NGOs, which includes other big players such as Blue Marine Foundation, Pew Foundation and ZSL, we want to see our Overseas Territories better protected. with other big players such as Blue Marine Foundation, Pew Foundation and ZSL.

  4. Our historical work on Marine Protected Areas has seen the establishment of MPAs (in Malaysia), fisheries management (Maldives) and working on codes of conduct for the aquarium industry. We’ve also undertaken international assessments in the trade in ‘curios’ both from East Africa and Asia, advising UK government departments, and trading networks on tracking sustainable suppliers.