The Corals for Conservation program was first initiated in 1999 in Fiji, as ”The Coral Gardens Initiative”. The program focuses at restoring degraded coral reef ecosystems by working in partnership with marine resource owners to develop community-based marine management plans and to implement strategies to rectify problems such as over-fishing and coral reef decline.
A unique aspect of the program is that we use hands-on methods of gardening corals as a way of helping individuals and communities better understand and connect with corals and coral reefs, as well as developing a means for sustainable livelihoods through enhanced tourism and sustainable handicraft production.
Dr. Austin Bowden- Kerby developed the low-cost methods used to grow the corals. He explains his work in a TedX Talk in Suva. He says that “Coral farming is not done in isolation, but is incorporated as part of our bigger conservation program, with communities being inspired to discontinue destructive fishing practices and to set aside large reef areas as Tabu zones (no-take Marine Protected Areas). Coral Farming and coral gardening have helped raise awareness about the coral reef and this work is done with great respect and care.”
As part of the coral program, we trim bits and pieces off of rare, and where possible temperature tolerant corals, and then grow them to several hundred times the original fragment size to create “mother corals”. Two-year-old mother corals are then trimmed to produce coral seed fragments that the communities grow in the coral farms and restoration sites. All of the coral farms thus produce only second and third generation corals, completely avoiding the negative impact of wild harvesting of corals. Our first corals went on sale on June 4th 2007 on a trial basis, creating a new industry directly derived from a community environment initiative and addressing poverty-driven coral reef decline.
The coral farming initiative aims to provide an alternative to harvesting wild corals, giving an alternative source of income for local communities, and rewarding good environmental practice.