The world’s coral reef ecosystems occupy less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment, yet they are home to more than 25% of all known marine life. As well as fish, hundreds of species depend on the coral reef for survival, and it provides nursery and feeding areas for sponges, molluscs, sea turtles, eels and crustaceans. It is also a source of income for those who make their living on the coast.

However, climate change, pollution and overfishing have all taken their toll on coral reefs and scientists predict that we could lose most of our remaining reefs by 2050. As slow-growing organisms, corals can take years, decades or even centuries to recover from a disturbance, further intensifying the effects of environmental or human-induced impacts.

Some of the most breathtaking and rare coral reefs in the world are found around Mauritius, the small volcanic island in the Indian Ocean. As well as a bleaching event in 2009, the reefs have also suffered from heavy fishing and pollution.

The good news, however, is that the country is taking steps to stem the decline and the long-term prospects for the reefs around Mauritius are good. The Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) and the Marine Conservation Department of the Ministry of Fisheries are actively involved in coral farming projects. Land-based coral farming can be used to create sanctuaries for maintaining biodiversity and genetic resources and for propagating threatened species to prevent local extinction.

The coral farming project, which started in 2011, builds on results obtained during the pilot phase and is focusing on: the culture of coral species that are in high demand for the aquarium market; the propagation of threatened species to prevent local extinction; mass culture of corals, including bleaching-resistant species and strains for rehabilitating degraded sites; the creation of a coral sanctuary/bank for preserving biodiversity and genetic resources; and collaboration with the private sector to create land-based coral farms and coral gardens for hotel resorts.

Nawshin Mahadooa is a Global Shaper from the Port Louis Hub in Mauritius. She works as an investment adviser in Mauritius’ marine industry.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons