Coral reefs are facing unprecedented threats from a combination of climate change and local pressures. People can make a difference to reef health by reducing threats and improving coral reefs using methods such as reef restoration and coral gardening.
A passionate group of individuals from both temperate and tropical locations around the world gathered together in Koh Tao to collaborate, share ideas and learn about reef restoration, resilience and ways to improve the outlook for coral reefs at local scales.
13 reef managers, consultants and youth from the USA, UK, Palau, Philippines, France, Tunisia and Australia joined local marine conservation experts recently participating in Reef Ecologic’s first Reef Restoration Masterclass on Koh Tao Island in the Gulf of Thailand. “From all around the world we came together for a better cause: restoration in a new place with new faces to restore the reefs in all our nations,” said Max Scott from Palau
Coordinated in partnership with Eco Koh Tao and New Heaven Reef Conservation Program, the program was hosted by Crystal Dive Resort. The masterclass aimed to share contemporary scientific knowledge and practical experience on reef restoration and devise a strategic framework for future projects in participants’ home countries .
“Reef restoration is something that is attainable and inclusive. It became clear that one does not need a PhD nor perfect tropical reef conditions to achieve effective work in developing artificial reefs” said Dakota Peebler, a 13 year old youth from California, USA.
“Learning in the field provided us with a relaxing environment and time to get our “blue mind” on, thus allowing us to have a more open mind and for the content to be taken in more effectively” commented Charley Peebler.
The students came to Koh Tao for different reasons. Chloe McKenna from the US said “I came to the workshop to learn about coral restoration and have been inspired to start multiple projects at my school to not only raise awareness about problems corals face but also to start a dive restoration program with my fellow students”.
The masterclass was an excellent blend of classroom presentations and field observations that highlighted a variety of methods and techniques that can be implemented on local scales. April Peebler, mother of two participants and coordinator for ocean conservation groups Heirs to Our Oceans was impressed by the course. “It was rich and comprehensive where multiple experiences, methodologies and considerations were presented and best practices and challenges were highlighted”.
Hosted by Crystal Dive Resort, it was positive to have the participation of the general manager, Matt Bolton, to learn about the role and responsibilities of businesses in protecting these natural assets. ‘This was a great opportunity to bring together participants from all over the world to share knowledge of reef resilience and restoration & provide immersive experience in current & future techniques and learn more about challenges other (areas) are facing in managing/maintaining the health of their reef’ Matt
The program was also designed to instil a sense of hope in the youth and future generations reminding them they have an integral role to play in protecting and preserving the future of reefs worldwide. Nawras Abbas from Tunisia is hopeful she can raise awareness surrounding the plight of her reefs back home “I mostly enjoyed the idea of contributing to caring about our natural heritage and conserving our marine life” Nawras said.
Carlos Manuel from the Philippines also highlighted that the “course has taught me a lot, it showed that you don’t have to be old enough or have a degree to make change. Every challenge that we take can make different changes. We will all rise up for the betterment of the planet. We are all connected and we must act now”.
These sentiments were echoed by fellow youth from Palau. Adora Ililau commented “the most memorable take-home message was hope. No matter the state of our waters and corals, they still have a chance at survival. Thanks to what I have learnt in Koh Tao, what I have learned here left an impact in me. With this knowledge and hope, I look forward to educating kids, teenagers and adults of the reasons we must preserve coral reefs”.