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5 inspiring coral reef restoration projects

SuuntoDive — 7 July 2019

Plucky divers, scientists and ocean conservationists are doing all they can to save coral reefs from the effects of the climate crisis, overfishing and pollution. Here are five inspiring restoration projects to give you hope.

Diving rich, rainbow colored coral reefs is every diver’s dream. We travel the planet to experience them, leaving us in awe of how staggeringly beautiful they are. Imagining our oceans without them is simply heartbreaking.

Yet, mass coral bleaching events – due to a rise in global surface temperature – could cause all 29 reef containing World Heritage sites to cease to exist by the end of the century. The stakes have never been higher.

To stop this from happening, divers, scientists and ocean conservationists are teaming up to find solutions. We look at five inspiring initiatives to save the coral, and also what you can do to help.

Reef Rescuers, Cousin Island, Seychelles

In a way, every diver should identify as a reef rescuer, and do what he or she can, even if only make donations, to support one of these initiatives. Starting in 2010, this huge and impressive restoration project has raised 40,000 corals in underwater nurseries, with 24,000 of these being successfully transplanted onto reefs, covering an area of a football field. The project utilised the coral gardening technique of retrieving fragments of healthy coral, growing it in protected nurseries and then transplanting it onto degraded reef to help rejuvenate it. Based on its learning, the project created a Coral Reef Restoration Toolkit for other initiatives to benefit from.

Secore Coral, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Starting in 2015, this pilot project researched and tested new techniques to use coral grown in land-based or ocean nurseries for restoration, waiting until they are old enough to plant out on reefs where they are then monitored. This inspiring documentary below shows what’s possible.

Pur Coral, Indonesia

Coral reefs across the world need all the help they can get, including financial support from the corporate sector for restoration projects. French ​dermo-cosmetic​s brand EAU THERMALE AVÈNE partnered with Pur Projet to create Pur Coral, a project to preserve and regenerate marine ecosystems in Pejarakan, Bali. The corals had been destroyed mostly by cyanide and dynamite fishing, which are now banned there. Since its start in 2016, the project immersed 24 artificial reef structures underwater, then planted 1855 corals, from more than 15 species, on them. ​

For several years Avène has engaged in an eco-responsible initiative called "Skin Protect Ocean Respect" to raise awareness about the impact of sun protection on the environment, and particularly on the marine life and corals. Av​ène has also been a leader in redesigning its sunscreen product range, minimizing the impact on the environment without compromising on optimal UVB-UVA protection for the skin.

RangerBot, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Like a Swiss army knife, a state-of-the-art robo reef protector developed by researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia – RangerBot – has a number of functions, all designed to protect one of the wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef. It’s first function is to search and destroy; its incredible cameras identify invasive Crown-of-Thorns Starfish and injects them with a lethal dose of poison. It also monitors the health of the coral and water quality. It can also map vast areas underwater at scales not previously possible.

World’s largest 3D printed reef, MARS, Summer Island, Maldives

The Modular Artificial Reef Structure (MARS) is an ongoing project developed by industrial designer Alex Goad. It utilises 3D printing to provide a rigid skeleton on which corals can be implanted and grown. In August 2018, they submerged the first reef off the coast of Summer Island, in an area where there has never been a coral reef, and where locals have been growing corals. Alex says the ease, affordability, flexibility of 3D printing can play an amazing role in preserving coral around the world.

6 ways you can make a small difference

Conscious travel

Air and vehicle travel are major contributors to the rising greenhouse emissions driving the climate crisis. Consider trying to reduce both. For example, use public transport or ride a bicycle whenever you can. And when you do fly, offset the carbon emissions from your flight by using a carbon calculator, and compensating a green cause of your choice.

Hands off

When you’re out diving, don’t touch coral or any marine animals. Keep a respectful distance. Don’t pursue animals to get that trophy photo. And don’t collect shells and so forth as souvenirs – remember that hundreds of people dive the same site, and if every diver took a souvenir it would create a big problem.

Use eco-friendly sunscreen

Use sunscreens based on eco-designed, biodegradable formulas. Avoid products that have the following ingredients in them: Octocrylène, Benzophenone, Methoxycinnamate. Take a look at Avène’s sunscreen range – they are brand of choice for divers at Suunto head office.

Be a tidy diver

Single use plastics really are an abomination. Divers should lead the way and quit using them. Be sure to clean up any plastic trash after your dive when you’re back on land.

Start “strawkling”

Strawkling is a new recreation that combines snorkeling and collecting litter. Take a net-cloth bag on your next dive, and collect any plastic litter you find. Imagine if we all did this!

Change your business practices

If you own, manage or work for an organisation in the global dive community, join Suunto in getting onboard with Mission 2020 and changing your business practices so they help protect and preserve our oceans for the future.