We are thrilled to announce the launch of the “Coral is Calling” campaign, a pioneering nation-wide initiative aimed at bolstering coral reef restoration and sustainable tourism in The Bahamas. With the expansion of our coral restoration partner, the Reef Rescue Network (RRN), and the introduction of novel conservation experiences throughout the islands of The Bahamas, we at the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation are helping to lead the charge to protect the underwater wonders that are crucial to the economy and the vibrancy of marine life.
On December 5th, 2023, Atlantis Paradise Island proudly hosted the “Coral is Calling” campaign launch, a joint initiative sponsored by the Perry Institute for Marine Science, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Compete Caribbean, the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, as well as Atlantis. Journalists, scientists, government officials, and key stakeholders came together to experience the culmination of our joint efforts to promote marine conservation and sustainable tourism in The Bahamas.
Michelle Liu-Williamso, Senior Vice President of Marine and Water Park Operations, said: “In the last 25 years, Atlantis has really established itself as a leader in sustainable tourism with our ongoing work of protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the marine environment. And every marine program that a guest participates in, a portion of those funds help to fund the Blue Project Foundation.” The Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, established in 2005 and a key player in the Coral Is Calling campaign, is dedicated to preserving marine life and habitats in The Bahamas and surrounding Caribbean through research, conservation, and education
The Backbone of Bahamian Tourism and Biodiversity
Coral reefs form the bedrock of The Bahamas’ tourism, contributing significantly to the nation’s $2.6 billion annual tourism revenue. With over two million tourists engaging in snorkeling activities annually, the coral reefs serve not only as a magnet for visitors but as a sanctuary for diverse marine life, supporting over 25% of ocean species. The vitality of these ecosystems is also underscored by the lucrative shark diving sector, which generates $113.8 million each year.
Hayley-Jo Carr, Director of the Reef Rescue Network, emphasized the role of coral reefs in tourism and biodiversity. “In the face of the stark realities confronting our coral reefs, the ‘Coral is Calling’ campaign comes at a time when action is not just needed, but essential. Our reefs are more than just tourist destinations; they are the lifeblood of our islands, supporting both marine life and human livelihoods.”
A Rallying Cry from Coral Experts
Highlighting the dire need for conservation efforts, PIMS research assistant Meghyn Fountain shared a concerning observation. “Due to current threats in the reef ecosystem, corals are dying at an alarming rate. There are coral scientists who have been in this ﬁeld for 20+ years like, Dr. Valeria Pizarro, saying they haven’t seen anything like this ever, which is scary. That’s why we need action more than ever, because without corals not only will the beauty of our islands be lost but also the livelihoods of our people.”
Coral reefs are confronting an onslaught of threats that jeopardize their survival. Among the most alarming is the phenomenon of mass bleaching events, such as the one experienced in The Bahamas this past summer, where elevated water temperatures caused by climate change induced stress on corals, leading to the expulsion of symbiotic algae and resulting in their stark whitening. This not only weakens the corals but also disrupts the marine biodiversity that depends on them. Adding to this peril is the outbreak of the deadly Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in The Bahamas, a rapidly spreading afﬂiction that ravages coral tissues, decimates coral populations, and undermines the structural integrity of the reef itself. These threats underscore the critical need for immediate and concerted conservation efforts to protect these vital marine habitats.
Collaborative Conservation and Education Efforts
The RRN, facilitated by PIMS, is a collaborative endeavor involving 50 coral nursery locations across The Bahamas, Aruba, and St. Lucia. These nurseries are not just conservation sites but also serve as educational platforms offering a suite of Reef Rescue Experiences. These include the PADI Reef Rescue Diver Specialty, Reef Rescue Dive Experience, Reef Rescue Snorkel, and the PADI AWARE Shark Conservation and Sea Turtle Awareness Specialties. These experiences are crafted to engage and educate visitors on the critical role coral reefs play in the marine ecosystem.
The Reef Rescue Network’s development and outputs for 2023 including the “Coral is Calling “ campaign has been made possible with thanks to the support of The Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility (CCPF) which is a private sector development programme that delivers innovative and practical solutions that stimulate economic growth, increase productivity, and foster innovation and competitiveness. The CCPF works across 13 countries and is a partnership between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and the Government of Canada. Further support has been provided by Disney Conservation Fund, Moore Bahamas Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the Global Funds for Coral Reefs (GFCR), the latter of which is a blended finance instrument to mobilise action and resources to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems.
Ambitious Goals for Coral Conservation
The “Coral is Calling” campaign is not just a call to action but a blueprint for measurable impact with ambitious conservation goals. As 2023 draws to a close, the campaign has made laudable strides, achieving key objectives such as the establishment of 50 coral nurseries across The Bahamas, the creation of 15 artiﬁcial reefs in accessible shallow waters, the successful planting of 10,000 nursery-reared corals onto ailing reefs, and the notable expansion of a dedicated network of skilled conservationists and marine eco-entrepreneurs.
Joining Forces for Coral Reefs
Ultimately, the new campaign seeks to elevate The Bahamas as a leader in eco-tourism and to mobilize divers and snorkelers from the US and Canada to participate in reef restoration.
Members of the media are invited to partake in this groundbreaking endeavor. Please direct inquiries to Hayley-Jo Carr, Meghyn Fountain, or Hugh Hough at the provided email addresses. Further information can be found on the Perry Institute’s website and the Reef Rescue Network’s online platform.
Embark on a journey where conservation meets adventure. The coral is calling – how will you answer?
Hayley-Jo Carr, Director, Reef Rescue Network: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meghyn Fountain, Research Assistant, PIMS: email@example.com
Hugh Hough, President and Founder, Green Team Global: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Lily Haines, MSc | PIMS | WhatsApp +1 (613) 791-6045 | email@example.com