Coral reefs are often called ‘rainforests of the sea’ because of the remarkable diversity of life they support. As one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, coral reefs are home to over 4,000 different species of fish, 700 species of coral, and thousands of other plants and animals. Preserving the complexities of the coral reef ecosystem involves managing all the components that influence it, from mountain tops, to oceans. It is also important to recognise the importance of coral reefs to people and the roles reef resources play, not only in day-to-day lives, but also in their traditional and cultural values.
Coral reef managers must consider sound science alongside the values and opinions of reef stakeholders, and the needs and livelihoods of communities dependent on the reef resources. Actions to build awareness of the importance of coral reefs in order to change people’s behaviour and generate political will for the conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs is critical. Through the inclusion of a wide range of stakeholders in the early planning and implementation stages, management strategies can be effective and sustainable.
One widely recognised management tool used in the conservation and protection of coral reefs is the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). About six per cent of the world’s land is managed through terrestrial parks, but at sea, less than one percent has any kind of protection. A recent effort to quantify the area of coral reefs covered by protected areas showed that 98,650 km2 (18.7%), lie within within 980 MPAs worldwide.1
The sharing of knowledge, lessons learned, and effective action among managers is key to the better and improved management of coral reefs, encouraging the replication of effective actions across the globe. ICRAN facilitates information and knowledge exchanges between managers through manager exchange visits, workshops and the development and dissemination of better management practices.
1 Mora, C., et al. 2006. Coral Reefs and the Global Network of Marine Protected Areas, Science Vol 312