December 2018, Key Largo, Florida. 500 hundred attendees from over 40 countries: scientists, academics, policy makers, practitioners, NGOs, charities, artists, stakeholders and students. The Reef Futures Conference was a defiant stand for the emerging consensus that surveying the death of corals is no longer enough, and that direct intervention is needed. The gathering was the first of it’s kind, bringing together some of the greatest minds and forces behind the movement to share latest developments in the field of reef restoration, build collaborations and strengthen links between the science and the hands-on strategy for restoring the world’s reefs. The event was buzzing with excitement at the reality of so many working together for reef restoration, to explore the techniques for direct intervention in the decline of our reefs
Collaboration is the key behind the longevity of the project, with stakeholders such as the local hotel and dive center providing logistical support for researchers and volunteer dive professionals to carry out the nursery work. Involving the local community in reef restoration has supported the integrity of the program, focusing on sustainable rejuvenation of the coral populations, rather than commercial targets. This also facilitates continuation of the restoration project by the Dive Center volunteers, reducing the reliance on small grants and funding. Additionally, the training we provide for dive instructors and snorkel guides benefits each individual’s professional development and has successfully integrated capacity building with community action, increasing ecosystem ownership and raising awareness. Our research direction for this year is incorporate micro-fragmentation using the nursery-reared corals and to increase the survival of juvenile corals generated from assisted fertilisation to diversify the genetics of our restored population. We continue to work with the local community and are planning to formalise training with certification for next year’s volunteers.