Marine Life & Oceans

Replenishing Coral Reefs in the Pacific Ocean

Fish swimming through coral reef. Creative Commons: David Burdick, 2006.

An innovative project on the island of Tetiaroa in the South Pacific to develop reef rebuilding and replenishing systems, helping to ensure the long-term survival of coral reefs in the face of climate change and ocean acidification.

Coral reef ecosystems are among the most biologically diverse and complex marine ecosystems worldwide. Like trees on land, corals are major “ecosystem engineers” in the marine environment. While covering less than 1% of the ocean surface, coral reefs provide habitat for nearly one third of marine fish species as well as 10% of all fish captured for human consumption. Coral reefs also provide major essential benefits to people, like food production, tourism, biotechnology development, and coastal protection. Unfortunately, the World Conservation Institute estimates that 20% of coral reefs are already destroyed, another 25% are in great immediate threat, and another 25% will be threatened by 2050.

This project, a collaboration between the Tetiaroa Society, Mission Blue and the CRIOBE, will capture, nurture, and raise reef fish and crustaceans. They will be raised in aquaria at the Tetiaroa Society’s Ecostation, to avoid the 90% mortality they face in nature, and then be released back into the lagoon. The goal is to restock degraded natural populations. Longer term efforts include tagging technology that will help convince Polynesian fisherman of the benefits, as well as coral gardening to grow healthy corals and increase overall coral cover and biodiversity.  This project aims to be the basis for ensuring that coral reefs have the evolutionary potential to adapt to increasingly challenging conditions.

Marine Life & Oceans