'This partnership marks an important step forward in our commitment to implement a marine conservation program to reverse the steep decline of coral reefs around the globe, which threatens a quarter of all marine life,' said Pierfrancesco Vago, chair of the MSC Group’s MSC Foundation Executive Committee.
Developing a model for use around the world
Going beyond just a local initiative to protect and restore the coral reefs around Ocean Cay and Florida, the program is designed to build expertise in coral resilience, 'developing a model that can be successfully replicated around the world,' he added.
Coral reefs are diverse ecosystems that serve as a food and economic resource for half a billion people and protect coastal communities from storms and erosion. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists predict that 70% to 90% of coral reefs are in danger of dying between 2030 and 2050.
Urgent need to act
'We are constantly bombarded with warnings about the demise of coral reefs around the world, and rightly so,' said David Smith, professor of marine biology at The University of Essex in the UK and chief scientific advisor on the MSC Foundation Advisory Board for the super coral program. 'It’s absolutely true they’re being obliterated. There is an urgent need to act to stop further harm being done and to accelerate our efforts to find solutions to reverse the global trend of reef loss.'
Smith called the program a 'real window of hope. Initiating large-scale collaborative projects that seek to provide real solutions now represents our best chance of securing a future for coral reefs and the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on them.'
Selecting species that are more resistant to environmental threats
The program aims to research, develop, test and refine methods to reverse the decline in coral reefs in the 64-square-mile marine reserve around Ocean Cay, pioneering the rebuilding of damaged coral reefs with species that are more resilient to environmental threats.
The goal is to help restore coral reefs in the Bahamas to a healthy state through actively selecting for climate change resistant genotypes and enhancing sexual propagation of those genotypes, explained Chris Langdon, professor of the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology at the Rosenstiel School.
And for marine biology master's degree students from Nova Southeastern University, this is an opportunity for research internships at Ocean Cay, funded by MSC Foundation. 'They will help set up a coral nursery to propagate corals, study the marine life of the marine reserve around the island and interact with guests to inform them about coral reef protection,' Joana Figueiredo of Nova Southeastern said.