Editors Note: Catherine Plourde is the Head of Communications at Coral Gardeners a purpose-driven organization that grows and plants resilient corals to restore dying reefs and bring life back to the ocean.
As part of WSL's commitment to leave every place better than it was found, WSL and Coral Gardeners first partnered in 2019 to raise awareness about the crisis facing coral reefs and take action to restore the coral reefs of French Polynesia around the Tahiti Pro surfing event.
"For us, for our culture, we are supposed to be the protectors of nature…the reef gives us everything: the surf, food, fish. Without it, the waves would break on the whole island, and we definitely wouldn't be here for much longer. It's simply the basis of life, pretty much. And now there's a way that we can bring it back to life." - Michel Bourez, pro surfer.
Coral Gardeners, with an introduction from WSL, also teamed up with the legend and reef restoration pioneer Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby, from Fiji, who helped train the Coral Gardeners to improve their methods. With his help, the Coral Gardeners learned how to identify and propagate "super corals," which are species that are more resistant to rising temperatures and have survived bleaching events. Together with the WSL they created ropes of super coral micro-fragments that they have placed in a new coral garden nursery.
This was a pivotal moment for the Coral Gardeners who decided to change their methods and transition to a more resilient approach that focuses on super corals. In 2020, the Coral Gardeners established their first gene bank nursery with more than 4,000 super coral fragments. And this is only the beginning; they are building more gene bank nurseries around their Polynesian island of Mo'orea, and are planning to do the same around the world in the next few years.
"In these dark times, we need some light to shine through, and you guys are going to provide that light, that ray of hope." - Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby, reef restoration pioneer. After almost two years of growth in the nursery, that hope become a reality and the micro-fragments have come full circle. In June 2021, the Coral Gardeners transplanted them onto degraded areas of the reef to bolster its chances of survival and help it cope with what the future holds.
From there, the super corals can keep on growing onto the reef and spread on their own. The hope is that the super corals, which have been secured onto the reef with marine cement, will spread, eventually spawn, and attract more fish and other dwelling creatures to create oases for marine life.
By planting corals, the goal is to restore entire ecosystems. Corals lay the foundation for reef ecosystems, creating a colorful, three-dimensional world that is home to nearly 25% of all marine life. Corals are integral to the health of the entire ocean ecosystem, not to mention of our world.
It was only a natural continuation for the Coral Gardeners to join and support the We Are One Ocean coalition led by WSL PURE and supported by the WSL to protect and conserve the global ocean. Conservation and restoration go hand in hand. Reef restoration accelerates the ecosystem regeneration so they can deliver benefits such as increased biodiversity and fish population, as well as a greater resilience to climate change. Conservation ensures that these ecosystems can keep developing naturally without being impacted by direct anthropogenic threats.
In 2021, even though the Outerknown Tahiti Pro Presented by Shiseido WSL event was canceled, Coral Gardeners and WSL's missions haven't been - it is in fact even more relevant than it has ever been to keep working to protect and restore our oceans, our coral reefs, our waves and beyond. We are entering the most defining decade for our planet.
The predictions might be dire - more than 90 percent of the world's reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050 unless action is taken now to reduce the threats - but positive actions are within our grasp today. Let's be inspired by what has been achieved.
Join surfers and other ocean lovers in calling on world leaders to protect and conserve 30% of the global ocean by 2030 and sign the We Are One Ocean petition: WeAreOneOcean.org
Adopt a coral to support Coral Gardeners' restoration efforts to rebuild what was lost and bring life back to our ocean: CoralGardeners.org