Find out how active local community involvement is shaping our coral reef restoration program globally and why it is vital to our success.
Our coral reef restoration program has gone global - we are now active at thirty reef sites across seven countries, operating across major ecoregions. It’s not just our reef sites that are diverse, but also our partners, ranging from scientists, conservationists, government bodies, members of the private sector and NGOs. Among the diversity of reefs restored and partnerships formed, there is one important constant which is central to the program’s success: the active involvement of local communities in restoring their own reefs on which they rely for income, food, and protection. Take a look below to see examples of how local community involvement is shaping our restoration program globally.
Our longest standing program and a location where the local community have offered fundamental support throughout the restoration program is Pulau Bontosua, an island off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The local Bontosuan community showed great trust, hospitality, and leadership by inviting Mars to help them restore their reefs. For thirty years their reefs were silent, destroyed by blast fishing to become lifeless, coral rubble beds. Since the initiation of the restoration project, the local Bontosuan community has been actively involved including the production and preparation of Reef Stars, tying on the corals and being guardians of the restored reef areas.
This was just the start. After identifying key skill gaps in diving capabilities, in 2022, three local members of the Bontosua community completed their Open Water dive course as part of their training to form the Bontosua Community Restoration Team (BCRT). To further develop the BCRT, across 2023, the three current members, alongside three new community members, will receive their MARRS (Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System) competency training, supporting restoration builds to equip the team with the restoration knowledge and skillset to restore their own local reefs.
Beyond this team and as part of a larger and more widespread initiative, we invested in a glass bottom boat alongside snorkeling and swimming lessons for the community, so that anyone – children, women, and men, could experience the magic of a restored reef for themselves. Seeing really is believing!
Coral reefs are critically endangered systems that are at the frontline of the battle with climate change, destructive fishing, unsustainable coastal development, and pollution. Children born today may be the last generation to see coral reefs. By enabling local communities to protect and restore their own coral reefs, a long-term and mutually beneficial stewardship of these critical ecosystems can be secured. In the world we want tomorrow, the planet is healthy, and our vital coral reefs are restored, alongside thriving and resilient coastal and island communities who depend on them for survival.