Coral Gardens - Living Reefs

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Coral Gardens - Living Reefs

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Reefs provide food and income for coastal communities and are a foundation of tourism, producing white sandy beaches and protecting shorelines. My idea has been to actively involve communities and the tourism industry in planting and caring for corals, with the dive industry trained to care for dive sites, and with resorts taking on trained "coral gardeners". Guests can also become involved and learn about reefs while they help plant corals and garden the reefs, giving something back to the destination and to the planet.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Coral reefs provide billions of dollars in revenue from fisheries and tourism annually. Coral reefs are declining globally due to climate change (warm water bleaching and death), siltation and pollution from the land, and due to overfishing and associated ecological imbalances (overgrowth or corals by seaweeds, over abundant coral predators killing corals, etc). In the Caribbean the two most abundant corals on reefs (staghorn and elkhorn Acropora) have declined by some 98%, reducing coral reef growth by 70-90% of only 40 years ago. These two species are also the only tree-like corals in the Caribbean, and with their demise, much of the fish habitat has dissappeared. The two species generated reef rock and sand and intercepted storm waves. No other Caribbean corals are so vitally important to food security and to tourism, however, these two species were listed as "critically endangered" by IUCN 2006. Governments of the region do not have the resources to finance the restoration of these corals, and thus the tourism industry has the right and responsibility to invest in this effort in order to protect their industry.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

While many coral reef scientists and managers firmly believe that only their peers are qualitfied to manage and care for coral reefs, I believe that science can not save the world- that people working from dedication and concern will save the world, but only if we can empower them to do so. In have also learned that the tourim industry is more than willing to invest in order to protect or improve their businesses. I began planting corals early on, in the 1980's, when I saw horrible destruction from blast fishing and saw that reefs, once pulverized into rubble, did not regain their coral populations. I discovered that fragments of corals would sometimes break off during storms and scatter into the dead zones, reseeding the dead reef, so I did likewise and with little effort replanted some reefs! Larger branches planted on lagoon sand quickly grew into patch reefs harboring fish. I went for further study on corals in 1993, moving from the Pacific Islands to Puerto Rico to obain my PhD, I focused on the staghorn corals, the corals most similar between the two oceans and the fastest growing of all corals. I developed methods for growing the corals in nurseries in many different conditions, and the growth of the corals is typically ten-fold and upwards per year. Small coral fragments are propagated into larger "mother colonies", trimmed annually to produce dozens of second generation seed corals for replanting back to the reef. I have involved resort staff, dive shops, fishermen, students, NGOs, youth and children in this work in Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Samoa. I find that the work excites and enlightens the participants as they see the corals growing, that the corals thriving become a ray of hope in this dark and gloomy time. My goal now is to firmly establish coral gardening as a certified and government recognized program at resorts, and a "coral care and reef first aid" program for the SCUBA diving industry
About You
Corals for Conservation
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Corals for Conservation

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Corals for Conservation

Organization Phone

(679) 331-3377 or (679) 938-6437

Organization Address

P.O. Box 4649 Samabula Fiji

Organization Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

In the Dominican Republic, dive operators now actively garden the reefs at Sosua and Punta Cana, removing coral predators, dusting sand kicked up by divers off the corals, weeding seaweeds from around corals, etc, as well as helping maintain coral nurseries for the endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals. In Nov 2010 I gave a presentation in DR to 37 from the tourism industry and government, and many more are eager to become involved. We are planning to conduct "Coral Gardening Destinations" through a major tour company for hopefully March, to bring in tourists specifically to restore coral reefs around the country, while raising funds for the project. In Fiji I have facilitated the creation of coral gardening at resorts as a new profession, as well as creation of a marine awareness centre, plus implementation of coral planting as a guest activity. In Fiji TPAF, the government training unit has been asked to certify coral gardening as a government approved profession for resorts, with C4C conducting the training in country. The same approach will be used in other countries, to enable trainees to be covered under government permits to work with the corals.

The Coral Gardener, a 9 minute film about me and the coral work was broadcast internationally five times in 2009-2010. The film won first place at Wildscreen in Bristol in October 2010. Now BBC wants to produce a full one hour programme, focusing on the work with communities and the tourism industry and involving tourism and fishing community stakeholders in saving the coral reefs in both the Pacifc and Caribbean.


Establishment of "Coral Gardening" as a new profession for resorts, to involve guests.
Establishment of "Coral Gardening Destinations" as a "voluntourism" program.
Establishment of "Coral Care and Reef First Aid" as a certified specialty course for the SCUBA diving industry, to enable to industry to maintain and protect thir most heavily used dive sites.
Supporting no-fishing marine protected areas with coral ehancement and restoration programs.
A Climate Change adaptation program for reefs, involving identification of thermally tolerant corals, propagation within nurseries, and replanting back to adapatation patches- to if possible become integrated in the coral gardening program at resorts.
Training and involvement of US Peace Corps in the coral work in Fijin and DR as a means of involving communities and youth in coastal areas.
Replacement of the destructive wild coral trades with a second generation farmed coral based fair trade tied to reef conservation "buy a coral-put one back".


Mainstreaming of nature conservation into the tourism industry. Numerous resorts sponsoring no-take marine protected areas and hiring trained coral gardeners as new staff positions. This is already beginning to happen.

The SCUBA diving industry taking an active role in the protection of their dive sites.

Tourists becoming involved in a structured program of reef restoration, supporting reef conservation and endangered species restoration.

The marine aquarium industry supporting coral reef conservation through the "buy a coral put one back" program, as well as by replacement of the wild harvested corals with farmed corals. Support for communities supporting no-take MPAs, as coral farming must only take place on properly managed reefs, and the industry will help fund the coral restoration process, while serving to alleviate poverty and environmental destruction.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

More funding so that local managers can be hired and transportation cused met, etc. This may occur through the World Bank, who are involved in supporting the Belize climate change and corals work. 2011-2012

We must identlfy a tour company interested in sponsoring "Coral Gardening Destinations. We are recently approaching Thomas Cook Holidays (UK) as they have their own airline and as they fly to most of where we work in the Caribbean. By March 2011 if possible.

We must identify the companies to sell the Fiji corals to, as all other aspects have already been completed. Needed Now, but UK people are following up. 2011

Government recognition for the Coral Gardening and Reef First Aid programs, allowing trained people to work with the corals. 2011!

Effective no-take MPAs are absolutely essential for the success of the DR coral restoration work, as corals are attacked and killed when replanted, while in Belize and Fiji reef conservation is advanced and replanted corals do much better. (By Year 3)

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Nothing can prevent it- we have already made a positive impact. However, much more remains to be done. Lack of funding, lack of local capacity being build and funded (If I die or become ill that would certainly impact things neatively for now at least). We need more time and resources to develop local skilled trainees.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Corals for Conservation, the World Bank, Counterpart International, Punta Cana Ecological Foundation

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Coral work must be nested within a larger management framework, not implemented as a stand-alone initiative. When implemented as part of a bigger plan, as established through multi-stakeholder workshops (fishermen, marine park staff, NGOs, Govt, tourism industry), the work can result in positive interactions and can build local unity/support. Management is essential as what killed the corals in the first place needs to be dealt with before any long-term solution can be applied. However there are many reef areas that presently qualify as appropriate, as long as the local NGOs, government, and the industry support onging management, conservation areas, and best practices. Follow up is essential, and only where the work has been transferred to local businesses or to individuals who carry on the work on a volunteer basis and part of their routine work has if succeeded over the long term. The World Bank recently supported coral nurseries in Belize, where we are seeking out thermally tolerant corals for cultivation, to replant to thermally stressed reefs, with promising early results. The local NGOS have come on board and have supported training of local tour guides and staff.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1. We need to market our idea better throughout the Caribbean region to governments, the resort and dive tourism industries, and to local NGOs. As part of this information sharing and feedback process, we must carefully assess the potentials and choose the most promising sites where we should begin the program, financed entirely by the tourism industry if at all possible, and at sites made more successful by good local management and NGO/Govt support for reef conservation, adding the coral work to already successful conservation programs. If we succeed in one area, the program will likly spread under its own finaicial resources provided by the industry.

2. We need agreements with governments that if we train capable people through our "Coral Gardening for Resorts" and "Coral Care and Reef First Aid" curricula, and provide the required level of monitoring, reporting, and scientific support, that they will agree to issue permits to the graduate trainees, allowing them to work on the reef and with live corals withing designated limits. One trainees could also become a "rapid responce team" that would be qualified to deal with reef accidents such as boat groundings and severe storms.

3. We need to interact with the tourism industry to the point whereby they agree to take on the trained coral gardeners as new staff, establishing coral gardening as a new position within the industry. Along these lines, a "coral gardening destinations" program would be encouraged, whereby guests could come in and be immersed in coral reefs and hands-on activities such as the weeding of over-abundant algae from around corals, removing over-abundant coral predators where that is a problem, making "fish house" structures for planting second generation corals, planting farmed corals into restoration sites, etc. Increased revenue streams and positive press would then increase support for the initiative within the industry.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Both sides of my family were fishermen for generations. I grew up hearing stories of what used to be and how the resources were now depleted. When I was 11, we moved to Saipan in the middle of the Pacific. I would spend days snorkelling on the reefs and was captivated by their beauty. When I was 21, I moved to Fiji as a volunteer where I lived with the people and witnessed a plague of crown of thorns starfish killing most of the corals, and the negative impact that had on the fish population. I decided to go back home, change my major to marine biology and work on saving coral reefs as my profession. When I finished my BS degree, I revisited the Pacific to look for work. In Chuuk, I found children with severe protein deficiency due to lack of fish, and I observed first hand the effects of blast fishing on the reef, which killed and fragmented the corals into rubble. I snorkelled on reefs that according to the elders that had been killed by bombs during WWII and that still remained dead zones. When snorkelling a month or so after a major storm, I saw some coral fragments that had tumbled into a dead area and these fragments were self-attaching and growing, cementing the reef back together as they grew! I took small coral fragments from healthy colonies and scattered them about on the rubble- and within months the coral reef began to come alive, after more than 30 years. I decided that corals would become my professional life, and working with communities to replant damaged reefs was an objective. With my PhD work and moving to the Caribbean, I began to realize that tourism is an industry that depends heavily on healthy beaches and living reefs, and as such they have much to gain from coral gardening to restore and protect the coral reefs they depend on.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

A member of the Baha'i community, I believe that the planet is one highly integrated unit, and that the human element must find balance in order for us all to survive in a bountiful and relatively intact state. If people are the problem then people are the solution. I have spent over half of my life in the Pacific and Caribbean. I am a dual US-Fiji citizen. I have worked with coastal communities and the tourism industry for the past decade+ on natural resource management and coral reef conservation, using corals as a focal point for hands-on awareness raising and meaningful action. I facilitate workshops whereby people of diverse backgrounds come together to work on restoring the reef. My work in the Caribbean focuses on the critically endangered Acropora corals, and I have developed methods for growing the corals rapidly in reef nurseries, establishing nursery and restoration sites in Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. In recent years, I have begun to select corals for their thermal tolerance, establishing the first program to actively adapting reefs to climate change. Since 2008 I have worked as an independent consultant. In 2009 I helped establish a new non-profit, Corals for Conservation. In addition to the corals and tourism aspects of the work, we are also working to replace the destructive coral trades with sustainably farmed corals, as well as a "buy a coral put one back" program for the industry. I own a 32 acre farm and am developing it into the "Sustainable Rural Livelihoods Centre" a model agricultural and land management/reforestation center, as muddy runoff, pollution, and rural poverty are behind the death of many reefs globally.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

I am an independent consultant on a 200K grant directly relating to the ideas I write of in my application. I am the author of the project concept, implemented in DR, by Counterpart International. The same applieds to work funded through the World Bank, the Caribbean Community Climate Chnage Centre, Healthy Reefs, and WWF-CA in Belize. Budgets pending.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below


What problem-area does your project address?

Access to knowledge and training, Access to markets, Access to financing.

How will your project address this problem?

The concept involves training people of capacity as "coral gardeners", for employment by resorts (in partnership with NGOS and government), to care for and increase the health of reefs used by resort guests. Specialty training also takes place in the SCUBA diving industry- imparting knowledge on how to care for and maintain heavily used dive sites to keep them from degrading over time. The critically endangered Acropora corals will receive special atention at appropriate sites, with nurseries created to genrate second generation coras for restoration of reef patches. Thermaly tolerant corals will also be selected and propagated as an ongoing climate change adaptation aspect of the program.

Once trained staff are on site at a resort, a "coral gardening destinations" program can be applied to cater for new clinets wishing do do environmental service combined with learning on their vacations.

Because those trained are employed by the tourism industry and they are involved in reef conservation and endangered coral restoration, a sustainable and new financing mechanism for coral reef conservation will haev bern established. The long-term goal is to connect each resort to the larger coral reef management plans of the nation, and as appropriate, to be delegated a specific reef area to care for and to maintain as a no-take marine reserve, to create breeding grounds for fish and other reef species, while increasing the tourism and biodiversity value of each site, withfish nspilling over to open fishing grounds: in other words private financing for an important publc sevice.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Everyone in the Caribbean will benefit either directly or indirectly by this concept, if it can be established widely. Coral reefs of the Caribbean are currently declining nearly everywhere and the first IUCN red listed corals as critically endangered are Caribbean species. They continue to decline... With the program: more corals, more fish, happier tourists, more jobs, employment of university leavers, youth involvement, voluntourism, etc. Without the program, will we be able to find the additional resources to turn to tide and to resetablish the health of coral reefs in the region, reefs that are better able to withstand climate change? Even with a full program, it will be an uphill battle, but at least the tourism industry will have a powerful tool to use!

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

Providing a hands-on tool in the form of trained and skilled resort and dive industry staff will help secure the future of Caribbean tourism, which is threatened by environmental degradation. Restoring the environment where coral reefs have already declined will restore a sense of hope in communities and governments, and will help encourage repeat guests, who already complain that the reefs are not what they once were. It will be press worthy, it will have high visibility. A certified "Coral Gardener" will potentially be employable all over the region or world, and the profession opening up could also result in the formation of new small businesses, whereby the graduate forms a business based on providing a service to smaller resorts, which employ them on a part time basis. The coral gardeners can also serve as eco-tour guides, and involve guests and clients in reef conservation.

A. Total Budget (100%)


B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)


C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)


D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)