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.
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
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.