Carynne McIver: September 2010 Archives

Saving the Muri Reef

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Seacology recently celebrated the completion of our project in Muri in the Cook Islands, where we are protecting the region's fragile coral reef and surrounding lagoon. 

Scattered across central Polynesia, the Cook Islands contain hundreds of miles of coral atolls and tropical lagoons. Inhabited by Polynesians since the 6th century, the islands were not discovered by Europeans for several more centuries, and were named after the 18th century explorer Captain James Cook. Formerly under the jurisdiction of New Zealand, the Cook Islands are now independently governed. 

The largest of the fifteen islands, Rarotonga is encircled by shallow lagoons and coral reefs. Home to numerous fish, seabirds, invertebrates, and other species, coral reefs like those on Rarotonga are marine metropolises. The corals themselves are small animals whose deposits of calcium carbonate make up the foundation of the reef ecosystem. It is on these layers of hardened coral that other species build their lives (see picture below). A rich variety of fish inhabit coral reefs, feeding off the many smaller fish, invertebrates, and plants that thrive in reefs, using the structures for habitat and protection. Some, such as the clownfish and parrotfish, are known for their vibrant colors and patterns. Numerous invertebrates, such as sea urchins and sponges, as well as seagrasses and algae, also populate reefs. With such abundant life, larger animals, including seabirds, marine turtles, dolphins, barracuda and sharks, live in or frequently visit coral reefs, depending on them for sustenance.

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Worldwide, coral reefs are among the most threatened of all ecosystems. High in biodiversity, they cover less than 1% of the world's oceans but contain about 25% of all identified marine species. Corals are highly susceptible to many environmental hazards, such as pollution, destructive fishing practices, and the harmful effects of climate change, particularly ocean acidification. With reefs disappearing so rapidly, it is imperative that intact reefs, such as those in Muri Lagoon, receive as much protection as possible. 

Close to the reef is Muri Beach, a popular tourist destination that features beautiful beaches and lagoons as well as coral reefs (see photo, below). Muri's corals were recently threatened by preparations for the 2009 Pacific Mini Games--plans included clearing a large portion of the lagoon for boating events. With the local community adamant about conserving their lagoon and natural resources, this development was soon halted, and the village sought to establish permanent conservation restrictions for the area. 

Muri Beach, Rarotonga 300 dpi.jpg

Seacology is pleased to invite all our San Francisco Bay Area supporters to our 2010 Seacology Prize Ceremony. The Seacology Prize is an international award given each year to an indigenous islander for exceptional achievement in preserving the environments and cultures of the world's 100,000-plus islands. The 2010 Seacology Prize recipient is Mr. Rabary Desiré of Madagascar, who has spent several decades protecting the unique biodiversity of northeastern Madagascar.

On an island of immense poverty and rapidly diminishing natural resources, Mr. Desiré is a leader in conservation. A highly sought-after research and ecotourism guide in northeastern Madagascar, Mr. Desiré has dedicated his life to preserving Madagascar's natural resources. He established his own private conservation area, the Antanetiambo Nature Reserve. Located on a former coffee plantation, Antanetiambo Reserve is an inspiring example of successful reforestation, and today provides critical habitat for many of the island's endemic species. Mr. Desiré is a self-taught ecologist who has become an expert on Malagasy flora and fauna, especially the critically endangered Silky Sifaka lemur. He has also been active in investigations and condemnation of the illegal rosewood logging threatening the region's forests. For his lifelong dedication to conserving Madagascar's biodiversity, Mr. Rabary Desiré is awarded the 2010 Seacology Prize.

Join Seacology Board Members and supporters on Thursday, October 7 at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California to honor Mr. Desiré and hear his remarkable story. For more information on the event, click here. 

A full press release describing Mr. Desiré's achievements can be found here

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Carynne McIver in September 2010.

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