Through a combination of conservation, education, and outreach efforts, the Global Coral Restoration Project will work to restore reefs on a large scale, starting with those in the waters off Mexico, Curaçao, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, followed by an expansion of the initiative into the Pacific. In addition to learning how some of the least-known coral reefs in the world currently function, scientists will focus on predicting how reefs can be expected to fare in the future. Part of the academy's recently launched Hope for Reefs initiative — for which more than $13 million has been raised to date — the restoration project involves "seeding" reefs with sexually reproduced coral offspring to help maintain genetic diversity and maximize their adaptability to future conditions.
Funded by the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, the Dalio Ocean Initiative, Eva and Bill Price, and Jennifer Caldwell and John H. N. Fisher, the project also will provide training to partners from island nations and territories, including organizations capable of translating their efforts into local management plans that support large-scale reef restoration.
According to the academy, nearly 75 percent of the world's coral reefs — the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet — are threatened by the combined impacts of overfishing, habitat destruction, water pollution, climate change, and ocean acidification.
"The threats facing coral reefs are so gigantic that we need a monumental, coordinated effort to fight reef decline like never before," said Bart Shepherd, director of the academy's Steinhart Aquarium and co-leader of Hope for Reefs. "SECORE's new scientific and stakeholder-training approaches to restoring reefs will help break through the time and labor constraints that have slowed past conservation efforts. We're aiming to seed one million global corals by 2021."