Government of Philippines to shut down Boracay, the country’s top tourist attraction, due to pollution

GCRA assessed coral health, algae, and water quality all around Boracay in 1997 and 2007, and made recommendations on tertiary sewage treatment to recycle waste nutrients on land and keep them off the reef. The first report was banned by the Minister of Tourism, and both were ignored.

Read GCRA 2007 paper Boracay Environmental Restoration, Water Quality, and Sustainable Energy: Current Situation and Future Prospects

Read GCRA 1997 paper  Water Quality and Coral Reef Health In Boracay, El Nido, Isla Verde, and Balicasag, Philippines


Watch BBC News Video – Boracay: Paradise islanders fear tourist shutdown


Article published on April 5th 2018 in the BBC News site
Original article @

Philippines to temporarily close popular tourist island Boracay

5 April 2018

Boracay is popular with foreign and local tourists

The Philippine island of Boracay will be closed to tourists for six months following concerns of damage to its once pristine shores.

A spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte said the closure would begin on 26 April.

Earlier this year Mr Duterte said Boracay was turning into a “cesspool” and threatened to shut it down.

The island, known for its white-sand beaches, attracted nearly 2 million visitors last year.

The decision has prompted concern for the thousands of people employed in Boracay’s busy tourist trade.

The island is home to around 500 tourism-related businesses, which drew in annual revenue of $1.07bn (£760m) last year. The government said affected companies will receive financial aid.

It’s not clear how the shutdown will be implemented, though the department of trade and industry had earlier proposed closing the island down in phases, saying a total shutdown would be detrimental to businesses and livelihoods.

Damage fears

The move follows growing concern over the island’s environmental health.

Officials had warned businesses had been releasing wastewater into the surrounding waters.

In February, Mr Duterte condemned the island’s hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea.

A mountain of trash sits on a hillside on Boracay

“I will charge you for serious neglect of duty [for] making Boracay a fishpond or a sewer pool,” Mr Duterte said at the time.

“Either [you] clean it up or I will close it permanently. There will be a time that no more foreigners will go there.”


Panama Canal Port Dredging That Damages Coral Reefs Stopped By Legal Action

The lawsuit by Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM) against dredging that would damage coral reefs in front of the Panama Canal (based on GCRA reef surveys with the Galeta Marine Laboratory) was admitted by Panamanian Courts on 8 January 2018. This means that the construction works in the port must be suspended while the Court provides a final merits decision. Because we filed an amparo de garantías action, we argued infringement of the constitutional rights to a healthy environment, sustainable development and health. Because of these arguments, once this type of lawsuit is admitted it immediately suspends the legal effects of the resolution that approved the project’s EIA until a final decision is made by the Supreme Court.

Please read more on the news that was published on January 29 in Panama’s leading newspaper, La Prensa: 

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.

Governments can’t say they weren’t warned that coral reefs can take no further warming!

Not 2 degrees, not 1.5 degrees, not even 1 degree!
That’s why the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where I will speak tomorrow about large-scale regeneration of marine ecosystems to reverse global climate change, is a death sentence for coral reefs as it now stands, because governments have chosen to sacrifice coral reefs, despite the scientific evidence that they are the most climatically vulnerable ecosystem!
The documents below show that the UNFCCC was fatally flawed from its conception, and needs to be strengthened if it is not to prevent global warming-caused extinction of coral reefs and flood low lands where billions of people now live.

NEW YORK. MAY 7 1992


FROM: Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, President, GCRA

1. IPCC projections for future climate change are based on assumed sensitivities of temperature and sea level to carbon dioxide increase that are 1O times less, and 1250 times less respectively, than have actually taken place in the past. The last time global temperatures were 1-2 degrees C above today’s values, sea level was 5-8 meters higher, compared to the 0.1 to 0.3 meters projected by IPCC. These observed changes imply that current projections may seriously underestimate potential long-term rises in sea level and temperature.

2. Coral reefs around the world are bleaching from heat shock stress and corals are increasingly dying as episodes increase in frequency and intensity. Bleaching took place after “hot spots”, regions of ocean temperature 1 degree C above normal, hit reef areas during the hottest months. Mass bleaching was unknown before the 1980s. Reefs which have escaped hot spots by luck are certain to be damaged if they continue. Major components of tropical marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shore protection are at serious risk from global warming.

3. Halting global warming requires stabilization of C02 concentrations in the atmosphere, not just stabilizing emissions. This requires both reduced supply of C02 to the atmosphere from fossil fuels and increased removal of C02 by protecting remaining forests and reforesting currently degraded areas. Simultaneous supply and demand-side measures are needed. Rapid global increase in biomass is essential because this is the only practical measure which can significantly reduce C02 concentrations within decades. Even drastic emissions reductions require over a century to have major impacts on C02 levels. Reforestation and increased energy efficiency together can affordably stabilize C02, providing an interim measure until non C02-producing energy sources replace fossil fuels.

4. Forest protection is not a sectoral issue. Boreal forests are the most efficient carbon sinks because they hold on to carbon for the longest in wood and soil. Tropical forests are inefficient, they hold on to carbon for a short time before returning it to the atmosphere. However, increased tropical forest cover is also critical because it is the most important ecosystem for reducing the atmospheric lifetime of C02 and the total heat each additional molecule adds to the atmosphere. Global warming will make all forests less efficient carbon sinks. Oceans are an extremely inefficient sink, unless they are dangerously polluted.

5. The Convention at present Is Inadequate to protect coral reefs from climate change. It requires stronger commitments to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Global, long-term, wholistic thinking Is needed on all sides now before it is too late to save and restore reefs and forests.


Happy Winter Solstice! 2016 GCRA Activities

Happy Winter Solstice!
Summary of 2016 GCRA Activities
2016 GCRA accomplishments in 13 countries are briefly summarized below by country in roughly chronological order:

Filming sustainable and regenerative tropical agriculture methods for full length documentary film by Marcy Cravat about the role of soil fertility restoration in reversing climate change. The film, entitled Dirt Rich, will be released in 2017.

Filming impacts of mangrove destruction for Dirt Rich. Monitoring and maintenance of Panamanian Biorock coral reef, sea grass, and mangrove restoration projects. Work with the Guna Indian communities and Government on developing Biorock shore protection projects to save their islands from global sea level rise (the Guna are now being forced to evacuate nearly a quarter of their villages on low lying islands because of increased flooding and erosion). Developing projects in soil fertility restoration to try to save the Guna sacred plants, which have nearly vanished due to a fungal disease.

Workshop on regenerative development with Fula cattle herders in Younoufere, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, focusing on methods to reverse desertification by improving soil fertility, soil water holding capacity, and sustainable production of new forage, fuel, and food crops.

Filming for full length documentary by Andrew Nisker on coral disease and algae smothering impacts caused by golf course chemical pollution on Bahamaian coral reefs, to be released in 2017. Sampling for long term study of chemical changes in algae that are pollution monitors and their relationship to golf course fertilizers, and of the sudden expansion of coral diseases and algae overgrowth that immediately followed golf course construction, the first place in the world these impacts have been documented.

Assessment of coral reef health in Grenada and Carriacou Marine Protected Areas with the Grenada Fisheries Department, and development of coral reef restoration strategies to reverse reef deterioration and improve coastal fisheries.

Training workshop in coral reef and fisheries restoration for artisanal fishing communities in Vanuatu, sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (the first funding GCRA has ever had from any international funding agency or government for reef restoration in 30 years). Biorock reefs were built in a village whose coral reef was dredged and destroyed in 1943 by the US military for an airport, and never recovered. Many other Vanuatu fishing villages are requesting similar training. They have tried all the conventional coral reef restoration methods, and found none of them worked. Lectures on local coral reef problems to the Vanuatu Environment Society and to the University of the South Pacific.

Keynote talk at Conference on Alternatives to Sea Walls, sponsored by the Negril Beach Committee and the Negril Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of local people attended due to concern at beach erosion and massive public opposition to a plan to build a seawall the length of the beach. The Government subsequently cancelled the proposal, and the community is requesting a Biorock coral reef and beach restoration project, because they remember the record growth rates of corals on Biorock projects in Negril 20 years ago. Continued assessment of long term changes in Negril coral reefs since before any development nearly 60 years ago.

Bali: Assessment of more than 100 Biorock coral reef restoration projects at Pemuteran with our local partners, Yayasan Karang Lestari and Biorock Indonesia, and new Biorock projects at Pejarakan, with the local village community, immediately after devastating bleaching caused by high temperature, attacks by coral-eating starfish, and exceptional wave damage. At Pejarakan the outer reefs, which had nearly 100% live coral cover in 2015, had suffered 95-99% mortality in 2016, due to heat stroke caused by global warming. Corals on the Biorock projects were exceptionally healthy. Survival of Pemuteran corals on Biorock were much higher than the surrounding reefs, but still most of the Biorock corals were lost because power was maintained only for about a third of the day instead of full time, so they were inadequately protected from record high temperatures, which lasted 24 hours a day for months. GCRA assisted the Pemuteran Biorock team in massive propagation of surviving corals, which will now be maintained under 24-hour power when bleaching hits again, as is expected in 2017. Due to incredible efforts by the local Biorock Centre team, the project has been largely restored. Preparation of a socioeconomic study that shows that the Biorock projects have restored the collapsed fisheries and turned Pemuteran from the poorest village in Bali to one of the most prosperous, due to the large number of people who come from all over the world to see the spectacular Biorock reefs. Assessment of algae and water quality problems, and of the soil erosion, water loss in floods, and pollution in Pemuteran that is impoverishing both the land and the sea, and proposals for whole watershed and coastal zone management to reverse them, based on those GCRA developed in Jamaica 20 years ago.

Sulawesi: Assessment of the results of Biorock beach restoration project at Pulau Gangga. A severely eroded beach was restored in just months during 2016 by natural sand growth caused by Biorock reefs, the beach grew in height by about 1.5 meters and in width by about 10 meters. Design and construction of equipment to measure beach profile changes rapidly and accurately. The Biorock reefs not only grew the beach back at record rates, they stimulated prolific growth of hard and soft corals, sea grass, barnacles, sea urchins, fish, and oyster populations.

Lombok: Assessment of more than 100 Biorock coral reef restoration projects at Gili Trawangan with the Gili Eco Trust. Coral mortality from high temperatures during 2016 on local coral reefs were around 95% or more. Similar mortality was seen on Biorock reefs that had not been maintained under power. Biorock projects under 24-hour power had complete coral survival and prolific growth with no visible mortality, comparing monitoring films and photographs of the same projects in early 2016 before bleaching, and in late 2016 afterwards. Biorock projects that had only partial or sporadic power had partial mortality, but not nearly as severe as Biorock reefs with no power at all. This shows, as found in the Maldives in 1998, and Thailand in 2005, that Biorock is the only method that protects corals from dying from heat stroke.

West Papua: Assessment of beach profiles before a Biorock beach restoration project planned for 2017 at Papua Paradise Resort, Raja Ampat, to restore the physically damaged reef whose loss has caused beach erosion. Assessment of physical, chemical, and oceanographic factors affecting Raja Ampat corals, an area widely regarded as the richest in marine biodiversity in the world.

Indonesia has around three quarters of all the Biorock structures in the world, and has developed a large community of Indonesians committed to restoring their coral reefs, who keep doing new projects wherever they can. Hundreds of Biorock structures have been made not only in Bali and Lombok, but at many locations in Sulawesi, Flores, Java, Sumbawa, and Ambon. New projects are being developed in Halmahera and Kalimantan. The last will focus on Biorock mangrove restoration of areas that were clear cut and destroyed. The Indonesian Biorock community is unique in the world for being so large and committed to regenerative development, and is very effectively organized by Prawita Tasya Karissa.

Quintana Roo. Keynote talk on impacts of pollution from captive dolphin wastes causing algae smothering of coral reefs at the Conference on Captive Dolphins in Mexico and the Caribbean. Filming and sampling of algae for chemical pollution analysis up-current, along, and down-current from four captive dolphin operations in Mexico, at sites affected by deep groundwater sewage pumping, and control sites. Maintenance and improvement of Biorock coral restoration project in Cozumel, and development of Biorock projects for restoring eroded beaches and stimulating growth of oysters at the only pearl farm in the Caribbean. A new Biorock project was installed in Cozumel.

Sonora. Plans continued for development of sustainable tidal current energy production in the Sea of Cortes with the Comca’ac (Seri) Indians in order to provide electricity, water, and Biorock mariculture of rare but valuable endemic species, and production of cements from the sea that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Commonwealth Secretariat Meeting on Regenerative Development to Reverse Global Warming, to develop a sustainable ecosystem and soil restoration strategy to reverse global warming and sea level rise, for 52 countries with 2.5 billion people (a third of the Earth’s population) to be announced in June 2017, to be followed by new initiatives at the 23d Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations to be held in Fiji in late 2017 . Lecture on saving coral reefs from global warming at the Oxford University Environmental Change Institute.

Talks on Sustainable Development for Small Island Developing States: the Challenge of Climate Change in the Sea, and on Innovative Energy Technologies and Environmental Restoration for Sustainable Development for Reversing Global Warming at the International Conference on Energy and Innovation for Sustainable Development. Meetings with Cuban researchers on solving local coral reef, beach erosion, and soil fertility problems.

Three new Biorock coral reef and fisheries restoration projects put under power. Many more will be started when the weather is better. The Saint Barthelemy projects will soon be the largest in the Caribbean, with a special focus on restoring rare endangered coral species. These projects, done with a local dive shop owner, Turenne Laplace, use very innovative designs aimed to increase fish populations as well as corals, and recycle conch shells that would otherwise be thrown away by fishermen. Assessment of a Biorock coral nursery built in 2015 with Dr. Nathalie Ledee and Eric Chaumont that now has prolific growth of the most important and endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals, and two kinds of natural hybrids between the two species, in a high wave energy location where the reef is dead, smothered with algae, and rapidly eroding. Development of plans to expand the project to restore the major tourism beach on the island, where millions have been spent pumping sand that washed away.

Florida: The only Biorock coral reef restoration project in the USA was terminated for political reasons by the Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea with no consultation as soon as the three-year State-mandated monitoring period ended. They literally pulled the plug on the project by cutting the cables and removing the solar power buoys GCRA and our local partners Vone Research, had designed and built at our own expense. It took 5 years to get permission to restore corals in Florida, two more years after they were installed before the State would allow naturally broken corals to be rescued, and then permission was refused for the most important coral staghorn and elkhorn corals, unusually abundant in the area, which we were not allowed to rescue even though Biorock produces record growth rates of these species, so we were forced to watch them steadily die from pollution and disease after being broken by storms due to bureaucratic incompetence. The 3-year monitoring of the project showed rapid coral growth and high fish populations, an oasis in a desert of dying corals. As soon as they removed our solar power buoys the corals began to die like the surrounding reef.

New York: 9 years of Biorock oyster and salt marsh restoration projects at Superfund Toxic Waste site in New York City, conducted without funding, continued to show prolific growth of salt marsh and oysters in a severely polluted area, the most successful example of restoration of either known. New York City now proposes to destroy our restoration projects with a huge storm drain to flush polluted water right onto them. The local community is fighting to save them.

California: Oyster, salt marsh, and sea grass restoration projects were started with the Romberg Research Center of San Francisco State University, sponsored by Save our Seas, Save Our Oceans. The goal is to restore these severely damaged ecosystems and the fisheries that depend on them, and to reverse the severe erosion of salt marshes now underway around San Francisco Bay.

Massachusetts: Soil fertility research projects using rock powders and biochar were conducted with Remineralize The Earth, a non-profit group promoting the use of natural materials as slow-release fertilizers that last for many decades. Talks on the oceans, global warming, and the carbon cycle, and on large scale marine ecosystem restoration, were presented at the Conference on Restoring Oceans, Restoring Climate at the Harvard University Museum of Natural History, sponsored by Biodiversity for a Livable Climate. A talk on restoring soils to reverse global warming in time to prevent runaway climate change was presented at the World Soil Day Event in Harvard Square sponsored by Soil4Climate, Green Cambridge, and the Soil Carbon Alliance.


GCRA continued to advise many more individuals and groups all over the world regarding solution of their local problems, and to make important advances in Biorock technology and new applications. Only projects that resulted in direct action during 2016 are listed above.