GCRA team surveys reef in lieu of controversial Panama Canal port project

Panamanian environmental groups use Global Coral Reef Alliance study of healthy coral reef in front of the Panama Canal breakwater to try to save it from destruction by port development.

La Prensa article December 28 2017 (Spanish)

CIAM announcement

2017 GCRA Activities


GCRA Wishes a

Happy New Year 2018

Please support the GCRA Year-End
Fund Raising Campaign

2017 GCRA Yearly Report

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Corals continued dying around the world in 2017 from global warming, pollution, and disease, and GCRA continued to show policymakers and the public the severity of the damage and to pioneer regenerative solutions. GCRA will accelerate its efforts in 2018.

GCRA’s Indonesia coral reef restoration projects continued to lead the world in 2017. Our Balinese partner, Yayasan Karang Lestari, recipient of the 2012 United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development, was selected for special honors at the 2017 World Ocean Day Event at the UN Oceans Conference for turning their village from the poorest in Bali to one of the most prosperous by restoring their coral reef. Last year, corals on Biorock reefs in Indonesia survived when severe bleaching killed almost all the corals around them, and Biorock reefs grew back a severely eroded Sulawesi beach in just a few months by growing corals and seagrasses in front of Pulau Gangga Dive Resort. Biorock Indonesia teams continued to manage around 300 Biorock reefs, start many new ones, and train new teams to start projects all across Indonesia. See 2017 Biorock Indonesia training workshop clips below:

Biorock coral restoration projects were maintained at several locations in the Panama Caribbean. One of the finest coral reefs left in the Caribbean, with exceptionally large ancient corals, was studied in the Guna Comarca (Indigenous Territories). Another reef with high live coral cover was found right in front of the Panama Canal breakwaters, and efforts are underway with local environmental groups to save this reef from being killed soon by dredging for a container port.

The first new Biorock reef restoration projects in Jamaica in 25 years were started near the last ones. A coral nursery growing elkhorn coral was established. This coral used to form huge forests at this site, but all vanished decades ago. The project is very small because of the tiny amount of coral now available to propagate, but will expand quickly as it grows rapidly. The best reef left in Jamaica was filmed, and efforts re-started with the local community to get it protected and managed locally.

New coral reef restoration projects were developed for early 2018 with local partners in Grenada, Mexico, Indonesia, Panama, Bahamas, and Vanuatu. These will incorporate new advances in Biorock Technology, and feature use of CCell wave energy devices to protect eroding shores and grow beaches back. See announcement

GCRA researchers published a paper in the Journal of Animal Behavior showing electrical fields around Biorock structures inhibit sharks from biting but have no effect on other fishes. Available here. The tiny electrical field confuses sharks so they don’t bite. Biorock coral reef restoration projects can help protect people and sharks from harming each other.

Biorock oyster and saltmarsh restoration projects in cold waters continued at our toxic waste sites in New York City, and a short experiment was done to test applicability in San Francisco Bay.

Research projects were started with the University of Aalborg in Denmark, and the University of the Basque Country in Spain focusing on the chemistry, physics, and engineering properties of the materials produced by the Biorock process.

Tom Goreau spoke on large-scale community-managed marine ecosystem restoration at the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York, and at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn. His paper on the factors controlling the rate of CO2 drawdown to reverse climate change was published in the Proceedings of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Conference on Soil Organic Carbon in Rome. He also participated in international conferences on agricultural regeneration in Mexico, on regenerative development to reverse climate change in London, and on re-greening of the Sinai Desert in the Netherlands.

GCRA filmed an interview by Tom Goreau with Professor Robert Kent Trench, the world’s top expert on coral symbiosis, looking at the oldest coral reef photographs from Belize and discussing the changes. Tom Goreau featured in two full-length documentary films that are now in final production stages for release in 2018. One film directed by Marcy Cravat will be on soil carbon and reversing climate change, the other by Andrew Nisker will be on environmental impacts of golf course chemicals. A new documentary was funded to start filming in 2018 on the historic GCRA Coral Reef Photograph Collection, the world’s largest from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and the long-term changes they document.

GCRA researchers looked at a major collection of nearly a thousand corals from the Great Barrier Reef, made 50 years ago in 1967, but packed away in a museum without ever being identified or studied, and is assisting getting the corals documented and identified, along with the major taxonomic collections of Caribbean corals.

GCRA proudly announces the GCRA Coral Classics Series, with the first volume to be posted in early 2018 being A STUDY OF THE BIOLOGY AND HISTOCHEMISTRY OF CORALS, the foundational work of coral biology and coral reef ecology. This masterpiece by Thomas F. Goreau, the world’s first diving marine scientist and founder of modern coral reef science, was his 1956 Yale University Ph.D. thesis. Although it is the essential starting point for all serious students of corals and coral reefs, it has long been unavailable. The GCRA publication includes all the original figures and photographic plates from the classic study of coral anatomy, ecology, and physiology available, newly re-edited individually for clarity.

Before and After : Biorock Electric Reefs in Curaçao

Before and After time-lapse series by Michael Duss showing spectacular coral growth on Biorock electric reefs in Curaçao.

This video shows the coral development at our BioRock project in Curacao with the status September 2017. The video was created by the Curacao Divers for the Curacao BioRock Foundation.


The role of the community in supporting coral reef restoration in Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

Biorock coral reef restoration in Pemuteran is shown in this paper to have strong support of all sectors of the community because restoration of the economic, environmental, and ecosystem services the reef provides have transformed their way of life from the poorest village in Bali to one of the most prosperous.

Coral reef restoration projects have been conducted worldwide to increase the viability of damaged coral reef ecosystems. Most failed to show significant results. A few have succeeded and gained international recognition for their great benefits to ecosystem services. This study evaluated reef restoration projects in North-west Bali from the perspective of the local community over the past 16 years. As community participation is a critical support system for coral reef restoration projects, the contributing factors which led to high community participation and positive perceptions are examined. Social surveys and statistical analysis were used to understand the correlations between community perception and participation. The findings showed a positive correlation between community perception and participation. The level of community participation also depended on how their work relates to coral reef ecosystems. They supported this project in many ways, from project planning to the religious ceremonies which they believe are fundamental to achieve a successful project. Several Balinese leaders became ‘the bridge’ between global science and local awareness. Without their leadership, this study argues that the project might not have achieved the significant local support that has restored both the environment and the tourism sector in North-West Bali.

Download PDF:
The role of the community in supporting coral reef restoration in Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia

Solomon Islands to start worlds largest Mariculture farm

Solomon Islands to start worlds largest Mariculture farm at Ontong Java Atoll
June 20 2017

The Solomon Islands government approved a new mariculture farm and hatchery project, expected to be the world’s largest, on June 1 2017.

It will be located in Ontong Java, one of the world’s largest and most remote atolls, with over 1,380 square kilometers of natural productive habitat that will be actively restocked, managed, and sustainably harvested.

The new farm has been organized by Dr. Reginald W. Aipia, medical doctor and entrepreneur of the Ontong Java Development Company Ltd., technology provider Erik Wilton Hagberg of Pacific Aquaculture Cooperatives International Inc., with guidance from Dr. Tom Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance and Biorock Technology Inc.

The project has gained full approval of the Solomon Islands Fisheries Department, having satisfied strict technical qualifications to obtain licensing. Fisheries staff will work collaboratively with the program providing further technical assistance, monitoring, and certification of all products resulting from the project.

The mariculture farm will involve the entire community, and focus on production of sea cucumbers, giant clams, and other species, using innovative reproduction methods developed by Hagberg, combined with all the known benefits of Biorock technology such as increased growth rate, survival, larval settlement, and resistance to environmental stresses like high temperature.
Sea cucumbers and giant clams are being rapidly overharvested worldwide due to their high value for food. Sea cucumbers are also a source of naturally occurring pharmaceuticals. Extracts from sea cucumbers are already included in promising treatments for cancer, arthritis, HIV, herpes, and more.

The unprecedented size and productivity of Ontong Java Atoll, coupled with year-round farming activities could result in Ontong Java becoming the first place to provide sustainable sources of pharmaceutical companies with the raw materials needed to commercialize new medical treatments, with significant added value to the people of the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands Government had previously banned export of sea cucumbers due to concern over their rapid decline. Sea cucumbers play a central role in outer island economics, with some communities deriving as much as 90% of their total income from producing dried sea cucumbers. The existing pattern of open and closed seasons, usually 3 months every 3 years, has severe negative economic and human impact on the affected communities. The venture’s new comprehensive farming and management approach will normalize activities year-round, providing lucrative sustainable livelihoods for the target communities.

Solar powered Biorock shore protection structures, and a variety of Biorock mariculture enclosures will be grown to increase shore protection, grow back eroding beaches, and ensure sustainable yields of target species long into the future. The entire atoll will serve as a laboratory for developing methods to protect atolls from overfishing, global sea level rise, and economic despair using new technology and ethical business practices.

The Chief Fisheries Officer of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, John Legata, said that “We see mariculture as way of turning vanishing resources into permanent and sustainable income for residents, and hope to expand sustainable mariculture to other islands in the future”. The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, the Hon. Manasseh Sogavare, said that he would “render full support for the farming to start immediately”.


For more information please contact:
Dr. Reginald W. Aipia
Ontong Java Development Co. Ltd, Opp. NRH car park; Chinatown
P. O. Box 366, Honiara; Solomon Islands
Cell: +677-7475424
Tel: +677-22054 Fax: +677 22061
Email: Reginaldapia@gmail.com

Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change at UN


The World’s nations recognized the rapidly increasing death of ocean ecosystems and called for a slowdown of the rate at which they are deteriorating, with a special focus on recycling plastics


More importantly, they called for the first time for the regeneration of critically endangered coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, and their valuable ecological and economic services.


The World Ocean Day Celebration at the United Nations Oceans Conference, sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, the Equator Initiative, and the Governments of Germany and Norway, specially honored the Yayasan Karang Lestari (Protected Coral Foundation) from Pemuteran, Bali, Indonesia, for restoring their coral reef and fisheries with Biorock technology. By turning environmental disaster into economic opportunity, the poorest village on the island became one of the most prosperous because people come from all over the world to swim in the corals and fishes.


Tom Goreau spoke on NEW METHODS FOR LARGE SCALE RESTORATION OF MARINE ECOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SERVICES IN SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES at the Side Event on Energy Services from Organic Waste – Integrated Waste Management Solutions for Coastal, Marine and Freshwater Protection in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), organized by the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), SIDS DOCK, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Programme, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), Government of Austria, & Government of Spain.

An extended version of this presentation can be seen at:

Biorock Coral Restoration comes back to Jamaica after 25 years


The first new Biorock electrical coral reef restoration project in Jamaica for 25 years has been started.

The small project is located in front of Westender Inn, at the extreme end of the West End of Negril, facebook.com/westenderinn

Electric reef restoration technology was invented and developed 30 years ago in Jamaica by late architecture Professor Wolf Hilbertz and Dr. Tom Goreau at the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory (T. J. Goreau & W. Hilbertz, 2012, Reef restoration using seawater electrolysis in Jamaica, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press).

It is a few kilometers from the last Jamaican Biorock project, in Little Bay. Local fishermen were amazed to see corals grow right over the solar panel powered Biorock reef.

Made from layers of conch shells, it was crowded with young lobsters and fish until the Biorock reef, the solar panel, and nearby houses were demolished by Hurricane Ivan on September 11-12 2004. Local fishers are eager to see more Biorock!

The area offshore from the project site had been a vast forest of elkhorn coral that reached the surface, which was demolished by Hurricanes Allen, Gilbert, and Ivan. There has been little or no sign of reef recovery along most of the coastline, except in a few small areas.

We have found elkhorn colonies nearby and are rescuing loose naturally broken coral fragments that are still alive but that would otherwise die, and propagating them on the Biorock reef.

There are so few remaining living naturally broken fragments now left in the area that we are starting with only around a dozen small naturally broken coral fragments, mostly Acropora palmata, Porites astreoides, Porites divaricata, Diploria clivosa, Diploria strigosa, and Agaricia agaricites. Two of these were found completely bleached where they had been washed into crevices.

But there are young corals of half a dozen species all over on the rocks underneath the Biorock structure, and these will grow up through the Biorock reef, while new corals will settle all around.

The result is that we will grow the reef upwards by about a meter, protecting the rocky shore from erosion, and eventually allowing sand to build up. The entire seafloor of the area is now eroding severely because it is densely covered with rock-boring sea urchins, constantly chewing holes right into the dead reef rock. We will turn a collapsing reef back into an actively growing one.

The return of life-saving Biorock electric reef restoration technology back home to the island of its birth can restore the lost corals, fishes, and vanishing beaches all around Jamaica if done on a large scale. Twenty-five years of involuntary exile from Jamaica were forced on us by lack of funding and support from both Jamaican and foreign institutions.

Since then we did around 400 Biorock projects in around 40 countries all around the world, keeping reefs alive when they would die from high temperatures and pollution, growing corals back rapidly in places where there has been no recovery, and even growing back severely eroded beaches in just months.

The Global Coral Reef Alliance thanks the Westender Inn, Negril for their support for the project, in particular Dan Brewer, Keith Duhaney, Steve Drotos, the entire Westender staff, Booty, Beenie, Ken, Ceylon Clayton, and the people of Orange Hill and Little Bay, Westmoreland, Jamaica.

Let’s make Jamaica’s coral reefs, beaches, and fisheries beautiful again: bring Biorock back home where it was born!

Westender, Jamaica, Biorock, coral, restoration, reef, Goreau

Staghorn coral growing nearly a centimeter a week on a Biorock reef in Negril, Jamaica. Photograph by Wolf Hilbertz, 1992

Biorock electric reef restoration projects to start in India

Scientists to use solar energy to regenerate locally extinct corals

Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times

Biorock, Bali
Photo by: Eunjae Im

Marine scientists will use solar energy for the first time in India to regenerate corals that become extinct from the Gulf of Kutch off the Gujarat coast thousands of years ago.

Scientists across the world are trying to come up with various methods that can regenerate bleached and locally extinct corals. One such technique, popularly called biorock, has helped scientists in many countries to conserve and protect coral reefs also known as underwater gardens.

Pemuteran in Indonesia has the world’s largest coral regeneration project where biorock has been used.

India has four major coral reefs — Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch. While the reefs in Andaman are considered the richest and most diverse, the ones in Kutch area are the poorest. Only 30% of the coral in Kutch area are alive, albeit in a degraded condition.

“We have identified a site in the shallow waters near Shivrajpur in Dwarka area of Gujarat where the pilot project could be carried out. There are some challenges such as siltation and high tidal fluctuations which we have to address. Using solar power is under consideration and the technical details are being worked out,” Shyamal Tikader, chief conservator of forest in Gujarat, said.

A steel structure would be first installed on the seabed and could be of any shape ranging from a simple arch to as complex as that of a motorcycle. Photo by: Eunjae Im

Coral reefs are like underwater gardens and one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth providing food and shelter to millions of species. They are under threat because of climate change-induced ocean acidification, pollution and human activities among others.

“We will be using electricity to re-grow corals for the first time in India. These corals had become locally extinct from the Kutch region long ago but can be found in other reefs across India. Plans are going on to start the pilot project in April with the help of solar power,” Chowdula Satyanarayana, a coral scientist with the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) who is leading the project, said.

A steel structure would be first installed on the seabed and could be of any shape ranging from a simple arch to as complex as that of a motorcycle. Cables would connect the structure to a power source such as solar panels, which would float on the surface of the sea.

Very low doses of electricity – less than 12 volts – would then be run through the structure via the cables. The electricity would trigger a chemical reaction in the sea water, similar to that of electrolysis. Minerals, mostly calcium carbonate (limestone), would get deposited on the steel structure.

“Divers would attach fragments and twigs of corals brought from other reefs like Gulf of Mannar to the steel structure. The structure, which now will have a layer of limestone on it, can act as a base for the corals to grow again,” Satyanarayana added.

Scientists have selected five species of branching corals for the project which grow very fast and once used to dominate the Kutch reef. The zooxanthellae – tiny plant-like organisms that make live corals colourful – return automatically helping the corals to thrive.

The coral polyps, which are animals, and zooxanthellae share a mutual relation. The corals provide shelter to the zooxanthellae and compounds these tiny algae need for photosynthesis. The algae in return produce oxygen and help the corals to remove wastes.

They also supply them with glucose and amino acids which the corals use to make fats, proteins and carbohydrates and even calcium carbonate. Most importantly, the zooxanthellae give colours to the otherwise white corals.

Scientists have selected five species of branching corals for the project which grow very fast and once used to dominate the Kutch reef. Photo by: EunJae Im

Under stressful conditions such as pollution, high temperature and ocean acidification among others, the coral polyps expel the zooxanthellae. Without the colour, the corals turn white a process which is popularly called coral bleaching.

With a base of limestone and low doses of current supplied at regularly, the corals could grow nearly 20 times faster and have better chances of survival, experts claimed.

“It is just like giving oxygen to an athlete while he is running. With oxygen, he would be able to run faster and for a longer period. Similarly, it has been seen that providing small doses of electricity helps the corals to recuperate faster and survive longer,” Satyanarayana said.

The ZSI is trying to rope in Thomas Goreau, a US-based coral expert who along with Wolf Hilbert developed and patented the biorock method.

“We have helped many countries in setting up biorocks. Next, I would be providing special materials and help Satyanarayana. Biorock doesn’t just help corals but have helped to restore the fish population, which often takes shelter in these structures,” Goreau told Hindustan Times over email.

Original article: Hindustan Times

Biorock project Curacao

Artificial reefs help to preserve valuable ecosystems

Curacao’s intact coral reefs belong to the most popular attraction for divers and snorkelers. Globally however, corals are endangered by human influences. Such as pollution and overfishing of the oceans for example and already have been severely damaged in various places over the world.

Especially, thru climate change and weather phenomena such as El Niño, rising water temperatures can destroy entire reef systems. In many places artificial reefs are built to preserve or rebuild these valuable ecosystems.

A very special Biorock® reef grows currently at Curaçao Divers. Large metal constructions were placed in shallow, sandy area at the house reef in front of the Sun Reef Village on Sea. These metal constructions get a slight, gentle current of electricity. Naturally broken Coral pieces get collected and saved by being attached to the structure. The electrical current generates electrolysis, through which, minerals from the sea water like calcium carbonate settles on the metal structure.

This limestone provides a perfect underground for coral growth. The small electrical current sets in the coral polyp’s true super powers free:
In this electric field, corals grow up to 5 times faster than under natural conditions and are up to 50 times more resistant towards harmful environmental influences.

Fishes and other marine life appreciate the artificial reefs as a source of food and shelter. Within a short period of time, Biorocks® transform into an underwater oasis full of life and is an attraction for divers and snorkelers.

This is why the Curacao BioRock Foundation was founded at the end of December 2016 in order to maintain this and future projects.

Additional information:

Original article posted on: www.tauschr.net