Geneva, Switzerland – 14 October 2021 – The MSC Foundation has signed agreements with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Nova Southeastern University (Florida) finalising the terms of the graduate internship programme that will support its Super Coral Programme research and development activities in 2021 using a blended approach (virtual and on site at Ocean Cay in the Bahamas). This marks the kick-off of the implementation phase of the innovative programme that the MSC Foundation conceived together with a panel of experts as its own urgent response to the emergency of coral reefs approaching increasingly imminent extinction due to climate change and pollution.
Pierfrancesco Vago, Chair of the MSC Group’s MSC Foundation Executive Committee, commented: “This partnership marks an important step forward in our commitment to implement a marine conservation programme to reverse the steep decline of coral reefs around the globe, which threatens a quarter of all marine life. The Ocean is in our DNA, which is why the Super Coral programme is more than a local initiative to protect and restore the coral reefs around Ocean Cay and Florida. It is designed to build unique expertise in the study and practice of coral resilience, developing a model that can be successfully replicated around the world.”
Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, serve as a food and economic resource for half a billion people and protect coastal communities from storms and erosion. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists predict that 70-90% of coral reefs are in danger of dying out within the next two decades (2030-2050).
David Smith, Professor of Marine Biology at The University of Essex and Chief Scientific Advisor on the MSC Foundation Advisory Board for the Super Coral Programme, emphasised: “We are constantly bombarded with warnings about the demise of coral reefs around the world, and rightly so, it’s absolutely true they’re being obliterated. There is an urgent need to act to stop further harm being done and to accelerate our efforts to find solutions to reverse the global trend of reef loss. There are not many cases where you can say there is a real opportunity to do exactly this, so here we have a real window of hope. Initiating large scale collaborative projects that seek to provide real solutions now, represents our best chance of securing a future for coral reefs and the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on them”.
The Programme aims to research, develop, test and refine methods to reverse the decline in coral reefs in the 64-square-mile marine reserve around Ocean Cay, pioneering the rebuilding of damaged coral reefs with coral species that are more resilient to environmental threats like ocean pollution and warming. These studies are the work in which the University of Miami Rosenstiel School and Nova Southeastern University scientists will be directly involved.
“The MSC Super Coral Programme seeks to help restore coral reefs in The Bahamas' to a healthy state through actively selecting for climate change resistant genotypes and enhancing sexual propagation of those genotypes,” explained Chris Langdon, Professor of the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Overall, the first implementation phase of this Programme comprises:
- The compilation of two literature reviews on coral reef restoration, one focused on functional restoration and coral conservation methods in the Caribbean, and the other on species that are resistant and/or resilient to underwater condition and temperature changes.
- The development of awareness-raising materials for Ocean Cay guests and the general public on the emergency facing coral reefs, their importance and how to take action to protect them at individual and collective levels.
- The building of the first phase of the Super Coral Center (BioLab) at Ocean Cay, which includes the laboratory and coral nursery areas.
"MS Marine Biology students from Nova Southeastern university have an outstanding opportunity for research internships at Ocean Cay, Bahamas, funded by the MSC Foundation," observed Joana Figueiredo Ph.D. at Nova Southeastern University. “They will help set up a coral nursery to propagate corals, study the marine life of the marine reserve around the island, and interact with guests to inform them about coral reef protection.”
The goals of the Super Coral Programme are to:
- Restore the coral reefs around Ocean Cay so they become more resistant to environmental change.
- Pioneer the use of hardy Super Coral species and varieties to increase the resilience of the reefs.
- Develop and share a scalable replicable model to advance scientific understanding and promote thriving coral and marine restoration worldwide.
- Promote public awareness of and action in support of marine conservation and coral reef restoration.
- Timeframe of the programme: 2019-2024.