Coral bleaching is now starting over a large part of the Caribbean

Here in Jamaica it is in the earliest and mildest phases, with only the most sensitive colonies of the three most sensitive species showing paling. Temperatures in Jamaica were only briefly above the HotSpot levels, and have cooled since, so bleaching is not likely to be noticeable to anyone else unless the waters warm up again in the next few weeks.

There has been no noticeable change in coral bleaching thresholds for 30 years, and therefore no signs of adaptation, but we are steadily losing the most vulnerable species so there is less to bleach.

In Panama, which lies in the core of the Goreau-Hayes Coral Bleaching HotSpot (below) bleaching will be much more noticeable. Reefs in the Panamanian Caribbean bleached earlier this year when the HotSpot first developed, recovered to some degree following mild cooling in mid year, and are now bleaching yet again for a second time this year. Impacts could be severe as they bleached last year and the year before as well, though not severely enough to cause much mortality.

Curaçao, Bonaire, Belize, Honduras, Colombia, and many other parts of the Caribbean are likely to bleach in the next few weeks unless there is dramatic cooling.

As usual, there have been no reports of bleaching from the areas all across the Pacific that were most devastated by high temperatures this year.

Severe bleaching is certain to be ongoing in the Ryukyus, the Marianas, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Yap, but dive shops have simply stopped reporting bleaching…………

Or perhaps it is because NOAA declared that “the bleaching event is now over”?

coral bleaching, Caribbean, 2017, Biorock, Goreau, Hayes, HotSpot,  method coral bleaching, Caribbean, 2017, Biorock, Goreau, Hayes, HotSpot, method

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

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,

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

Old wine in new bottles, half truths, falsehoods, utter nonsense

Coral reef bleaching: More old wine in new bottles, half-truths, falsehoods, and utter nonsense
Yet another example of how old truths are ignored and distorted and outright fiction is generated and disseminated in the popular press about coral bleaching and global warming:

Coral Reefs Generate Half of Earth’s Oxygen — and They Could All Die Off by 2050
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: The second mass bleaching event in the last two years on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on Earth, is a sign of the new normal for global coral. The days of vibrant flourishing coral reefs — homes to the most diverse ecosystems on the planet — are over:

“One crucial function we do know we’re losing: While coral reefs only cover 0.0025 percent of the oceanic floor, absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels.”

1) Old wine in new bottles
Since 1989 we have been able to accurately predict mass bleaching events from Satellite Sea Surface Temperature data alone using the Goreau-Hayes HotSpot method assessing thermal anomaly intensity and duration (Goreau, 1990, Goreau & Hayes 1994, Goreau et al, 2000, 2005 a, b, c). The GBR events last year and this, and many, many more events not reported, are typical.

Peter Glynn correctly concluded the same based on the 1982-1983 bleaching in Panama and Galapagos. At first we thought there might be something exceptional about the thermal sensitivity of these unusual coral communities, but we soon found out that they were typical.

There has been no change in the bleaching thresholds for 35 years and therefore no signs of temperature adaptation or so-called “resilience”, however there are now far less corals left to bleach, especially those with the most sensitive symbiotic algae Symbiodinium species.

Nearly 30 years ago I warned the Australians that GBR corals would die when they reached these temperatures, but they deliberately chose to ignore and suppress the information (the details of this history are so complex that a book is needed to outline it).

Now suddenly all of this old knowledge is an “astonishing” “unexpected” “new” “discovery” that “nobody expected”!

All of this was known nearly 30 years ago, but ignored see:

Three decades of unnecessary accelerating coral death from bleaching has been directly caused by the deliberate and systematic denial and suppression of the scientific data on coral bleaching by the American and Australian governments, funding, and research institutions, and their efforts to confuse and obscure the causes for political reasons.

We’ve always said that the methods they use to identify coral decline were so poor that it was only when the last corals died in the GBR that they would admit the truth. Sadly, that is exactly what has happened. It could have been avoided if they had respected the science, instead of being driven by politics.

2) Half truths and falsehoods
The article ignores known solutions, especially the only method that saves corals from high temperatures when almost all around them die, Biorock electrical stimulation, which causes greatly increased coral (and all marine organism) settlement, growth, survival, resistance to temperature, pollution, and sediment stress, by directly stimulating their natural energy generating mechanisms:                         

The claim that the only thing we can do is emissions reductions is ridiculous, no amount of emissions reductions can remove the dangerous excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, only increased sinks can:

3) Outright fiction and utter nonsense
The claims that coral reefs provide half the oxygen in the atmosphere and bury one-third of fossil fuel emissions are utterly false!

These absolutely incredible and absurd falsehoods seem to be based on newspaper interviews with Australian scientists with no understanding of the carbon and oxygen cycles.
What is true in this article is that we are very close to the end for coral reefs, as we predicted nearly 30 years ago, a lot closer than they say, for most it is just a couple of years away, unless we have a huge high-sulfur volcanic eruption or a very big asteroid impact imminently.

Biorock electrical marine ecosystem restoration methods to restore coral reefs against global warming, shores against sea level rise, and regenerative development to reverse climate change are now our only hopes to sustain coral reef ecosystems in the future.

We remain committed to working directly with local island fishing communities in the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia to help them restore their coral reefs, and not with those whose deceptions and obfuscation about the causes generated this crisis.

Coral Arks, Climate Strategy: Saving coral reefs in the short and long term

– Tom Goreau

Coral Arks, Climate Strategy: Saving coral reefs in the short and long term


May 7 2017. The Global Coral Reef Alliance / Soil Carbon Alliance urgently seeks funding during 2017 to support leadership in Geotherapy: global ecosystem regenerative development to reverse climate change, and for the Biorock Electric Reef Coral Ark Program with Indigenous Peoples (below).


Coral reefs are the most sensitive ecosystem to global warming and will be the first to become functionally extinct due to excess atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, imminently threatening the major marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shoreline resources of over 100 countries. The threat was fully understood by 1990, but was deliberately ignored for nearly 30 years by governments unwilling to solve the global climate change problem. As the result the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a death sentence for coral reefs. Restoration of lost reefs is a life and death matter for the Small Island Developing States, and especially the atoll nations.
Massive coral mortality from heat shock took place across the globe in 2015 and 2016, record hot years, at precisely the temperatures forecast nearly 30 years ago by the Goreau-Hayes satellite sea surface temperature HotSpot method. 2017 will probably be even hotter, and many of the few Great Barrier Reef corals that survived the severe 2016 bleaching have bleached and died unusually early in 2017. Many new more regions will bleach this year as the equatorial and northern regions warm up. Since hotter years will certainly follow, we now have only a few years left to protect the last of the most critically threatened natural resource of the ocean.
Even if all fossil fuel use stops today, we will still face millions of years of high temperature, sea level, and CO2, continuing long after IPCC’s model projection time horizons of 50 or 100 years, condemning future generations to extinction of coral reefs and flooding of low lying coasts where billions of people live, unless CO2 is urgently reduced to preindustrial levels.
Biorock Coral Arks are the only way known to save corals from high temperature stress during the interim period until regenerative development strategies can reverse CO2 increase. During 2016 almost all the corals on Biorock Coral Arks in Indonesia survived the bleaching mortality of more than 95% of corals on nearby reefs, and they grew back a severely eroded beach naturally in just months. Indonesian fishing villages with Biorock reef projects have not only restored their fisheries, they have been transformed from the poorest villages on their island to some of the most prosperous, because so many tourists come from all over the world to swim over their spectacular Biorock corals and fish.

An immediate crash program is needed NOW to restore our damaged reefs using methods that 1) greatly increase coral growth rates, and 2) greatly increase coral survival from high temperature stress, and 3) work directly with coral reef communities. Biorock technology is the only method that does so, and can be powered on any scale by developing our vast but untapped clean and sustainable wave, wind, solar, and ocean current energy. Biorock methods greatly increase coral settlement, increase coral growth rates 2-6 times, prevent coral death after bleaching from heat shock, speed up coral recovery, and result in much higher survival, up to 50 times higher (5,000%) in the worst cases.
All marine organisms and ecosystems, not only corals, benefit from Biorock electric fields because they directly stimulate natural biochemical energy production. Biorock reefs greatly increase fish populations, create new sustainable mariculture opportunities, and build growing, self-repairing reefs of any size or shape that turn severely eroding low island beaches into growing ones naturally in just months, allowing them to grow despite global sea level rise. All other methods of coral reef restoration and shore protection will eventually fail catastrophically under global warming and global sea level rise.
In order to prevent catastrophic loss of fisheries, shore protection, tourism, and biodiversity in the coming years a massive program of coral reef restoration is needed in all the coral reef countries, and especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Biorock Coral Arks are our last hope to maintain coral reef ecosystem services until global warming is reversed. There is no time to waste: failure means condemning around a billion people to become climate refugees.This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to

This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to long-term restoration of their immediate environment can do so. Only local people are seriously dedicated to restoring their own fisheries, shorelines, and natural resources over the generations that will be needed until global warming can be brought under control. To be truly effective, all funding should be put directly into community- based environmental management initiatives supporting local efforts to restore and manage the resources they have lost, not to foreign or even national institutions, who will waste the money on bureaucracies, foreign consultants, and big international NGOs (BINGOs).

They should specifically NOT be under the control of those programs funded and controlled by the rich countries, which have spent 40 years systematically denying the massive declines of reefs that were already long known in the SIDS, denying their clearly proven linkages to global warming, and actively preventing any effective action to restore coral reefs with fiction about “resilience”. These groups are now attempting to control all reef funding, and if they succeed they will waste all the money by repeating their past failures.

GCRA Community-managed Coral Ark projects will be designed and built working directly with indigenous fishing communities who have already shown they want to act to restore their marine resources, and whose trust we have won through years, decades, or generations working with them on their coral reefs. These sites will be used to train other community-based environmental management groups who want to restore their coral reefs, fisheries, and beaches in their regions. Our first priorities are:

Jamaica is where coral reef diving research first began and where the decline of coral reefs, and all their causes, were first documented and understood. Jamaica is also where Biorock electric coral reef restoration was invented by GCRA researchers Wolf Hilbertz and TG 30 years ago, but unfortunately there have been no Biorock projects in Jamaica for 25 years. We have worked closely with Jamaican fishermen documenting changes on the reefs for 65 year., TG, a native speaker of Jamaican patois, wrote the integrated whole watershed and coastal zone management plans for both ends of Jamaica. We will focus on coral reef and fisheries restoration in Westmoreland, where the fishermen still remember the amazing coral growth and fish and lobster populations attracted to solar powered Biorock reefs we built with them 25 years ago. The former reef is now a barren wasteland, and the locals want to restore their collapsed reefs and fisheries.

The Guna Indians of Panama are lobster divers who live on 50 low islands, a quarter of which they are now abandoning due to erosion caused by global sea level rise. They are already global warming refugees! Our work there focuses on restoring coral reef growth to restore the lobster and fish populations, and growing Biorock shore protection reefs to save their islands from erosion and grow new islands. The Guna are a remarkable traditional culture that never lost their independence, have preserved all their cultural and political institutions, yet greatly value education and modern knowledge. Although TG is of Ngobe Indian descent (the largest and poorest indigenous community in Panama), his family have worked closely with the Gunas for generations, and he has complete authorization by the Guna Government to do environmental restoration projects there, something no other outsider has. The local will is there, but funding is nonexistent for independent Indigenous communities.

The Comca’ac (Seri) Indians of the Sea of Cortes are the smallest and most remarkable Indigenous culture of Mexico. They survived for hundreds of years in barren desert islands by diving for seafood, in particular, several unusual endemic species now on the verge of extinction. TG dived with them to understand the growth conditions of their unique biological resources and is working with them to develop their remarkable tidal energy resources to produce electricity, fresh water, Biorock building materials that consume CO2 from the atmosphere, and much more productive Biorock mariculture of their threatened native species.

Indonesia has the world’s largest, richest, and most biodiverse coral reefs, yet around 95% have been badly damaged. Our Indonesian team has built around 300 Biorock coral reef restoration projects in many islands of Indonesia, including Bali, Lombok, Flores, Sulawesi, Sumbawa, Java, and Ambon. These have created prosperous ecotourism communities, restored fisheries, preserved coral reefs from dying from global warming, grown back severely eroded beaches in months, and won many international environmental awards, including the United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development and the Special UN Development Programme Special Award for Oceans and Coastal Management. The Biorock Indonesia team is developing plans for large Biorock mangrove restoration projects in areas destroyed for shrimp farms that will become Orang Utan habitat in Kalimantan (Borneo) as well as major mangrove peat carbon sinks, restoring areas damaged by mining in Sulawesi and Halmahera, and restoring eroded beaches in Raja Ampat, West Papua. We have trained hundreds of Indonesian students in the new restoration methods, but there is no funding for them to help the fishing communities all across this nation of 17,000 islands and 250 million people that are asking for training to also re-grow their reefs, fisheries, and shorelines as the first communities we trained have done.

In Vanuatu, TG trained a fishing community to build a dozen Biorock reefs to restore their own coral reefs, which were dynamited, dredged, turned into an airstrip by the US military in 1943, and never recovered. Fishing villages all around Vanuatu, concerned about their reefs, have tried all other methods of coral reef restoration, and found that they all failed. Now, having seen the results of the Biorock pilot projects, they all want training too to develop their own community reef fisheries mariculture projects. Their eagerness to learn methods to be more productive and less destructive is incredible, and we are delighted to help them!

TG’s family has worked with local Aboriginal communities to document the health of their corals on the Great Barrier Reef for generations, and have photos of the same reefs from 1927, 1950, 1967, and 1998. We need to repeat these photos and videos again, now that most of the corals have died from global warming in 2017, exactly as we had predicted would happen. We will work directly with the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Daintree Forest, owners of Low Isle, where we stayed and photographed each time, to restore their dead coral reefs and establish their Sea Rights to all of their territory, underwater as well as above. TG is a hereditary member the Dhuwa Yolngu Aboriginals of Arnhem Land, the oldest culture in Australia, which has preserved knowledge of all the places they lived in the last 50,000 years, including those drowned by the sea after the last Ice Age.


GCRA is helping The Commonwealth Secretariat (CS), 52 countries with 2.5 billion people, a third of the Earth’s population, develop a strategy of Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change, for presentation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December. This aims to stabilize CO2 at pre-industrial levels in decades, to prevent runaway climate change impacts. Our Geotherapy book and recent FAO papers on factors controlling rates of regenerative drawdown and long-term storage of CO2 in soils provide the scientific basis of the strategy. We have also developed superior Biorock electric restoration methods for mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, whose peat soils are the most cost-effective carbon sinks on the planet.
There won’t be any operational funding for strategy development or implementation until after approval by the Commonwealth Secretariat in June, and UNFCCC in December, but the CS has asked TG to advise them on marine issues and present the scientific foundations of the strategy to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon in March 2017 in Rome, the Society for Ecological Restoration Conference in Brazil in August, and at UNFCCC.
It will also be very important to make other such strategically critical presentations where needed to help support the strategy development in the coming months, especially with the majority of the Commonwealth nations, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific, Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. GCRA has worked directly on coral reef issues in almost every single SIDS in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, and has close contacts with may SIDS environmental groups and governments, starting with Jamaica, where GCRA originated. GCRA is therefore extremely familiar with the local environmental management problems and can identify the specific locations that would most benefit from regenerative development strategies in each of these countries.


GCRA, and its partner, the Soil Carbon Alliance, seek funding to complete three documentary films, and books, of critical importance to climate strategies:
DIRT RICH by Marcelina Cravat, Passelande Films, Berkeley. Shows how soil carbon is being increased by many methods around the world, and how it can reverse global climate change. Filming is already complete, and funding is needed for final editing and production phases, including soundtrack, narrators, promotion, etc. We have previously collaborated on ANGEL AZUL, about underwater art, tourism, coral reefs, dolphins, algae, and sewage in Cancun.
CORAL GHOSTS by Andrew Nisker, Take Action Films, Toronto. The history of coral reefs, the most climatically threatened ecosystem, from life to death, and hopefully to regeneration. Funding is needed for filming at critical sites around the world, in the Great Barrier Reef, Jamaica, Bahamas, Indonesia, Micronesia, Panama, the Red Sea, and others to compare with our underwater photograph collection, the world’s largest and oldest, in order to understand the causes of the changes at each reef, and show how to reverse them. We will focus on training local Indigenous fishing communities to restore their coral reefs and fisheries, especially the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Great Barrier Reef. We have previously collaborated on GROUND WARS, in production for The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, on health and environmental impacts of golf course chemicals on coral reef and human health.

SCIENCES OF LIFE, TECHNOLOGIES OF DEATH: THE 1970 MIT STUDENT STRIKE AGAINST WEAPONS RESEARCH AND THE MOVEMENT FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN SCIENCE by Tom Goreau & Videosphere, Cambridge, MA. MIT students in 1970 went on strike specifically over the issue of weapons research on campus, at a time when all other campuses were focused on the Viet Nam War. MIT succeeded in stifling debate on the issue by expelling the student leaders, but the undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty, and administration led the formation of many organizations focused on the social responsibility of science and engineering. The moral issues raised nearly 50 years ago are just as relevant today in the era of mass bombing and global warming, but have been effectively ignored since 1970. The various points of view of the many participants from all sides are being explored by interviews with the surviving leaders of the 1970 events on all sides.

GCRA/SCA is a global non-profit network of volunteers working with essentially no funding on direct action projects with local communities to protect and manage coral reefs, and all other ecosystems, all around the globe. For more than 25 years GCRA has provided cutting edge research on community-based ecosystem restoration and management in developing countries and indigenous communities, the impacts of global climate change on ecosystems, and helped invent important new technologies to reverse them and regenerate the ecosystem services providing our planetary life support systems, founded on restoration of natural biogeochemical recycling processes.

GCRA activities in 2016 are briefly summarized in:

GCRA planned programs for 2017 are briefly outlined in:

GCRA projects with Indigenous Peoples are summarized in:

For more information contact Thomas J. Goreau, PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance, at

Dolphin Enclosures and Algae Distributions at Chankanaab, Cozumel: Observations and Recommendations

Dolphin Enclosures and Algae Distributions at Chankanaab, Cozumel: Observations and Recommendations

Thomas J. Goreau, Ph.D. President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Reposted from: June 6 2003

NOTE: Videos showing the conditions around the site at the time of this study, and at other similar locations, can be seen in the accompanying video:

Tourism, Water Quality, and Coral Reefs


Even though Cozumel has been a major diving destination since the late 1960s, there have been few long-term studies of change in Cozumel reefs, as regular monitoring by the Cozumel Marine Park only began in recent years. Algae overgrowth that kills corals has been an increasingly severe problem around the Caribbean for several decades, but has not been reported to be a major problem in Cozumel until recently.
In 1968, soon after the first dive shop, Aqua Safari, opened in Cozumel, a set of underwater photographs of Cozumel reefs were taken by the late Robert Harper. In 1999, his widow, Katherine Harper donated them to the Global Coral Reef Alliance. Soon afterwards, Harper’s photographs of these sites, primarily from Paraiso and Palancar Reefs, were shown to groups of the oldest divers on the island, including those shown in the original photographs. They were able to identify all the sites precisely and to recognize many of the individual sponges, gorgonians, and corals shown in the photos as still surviving. These sites were recorded in digital video film by Thomas J. Goreau, in cooperation with Aqua Safari and the Cozumel Marine Park, along with sites at Colombia Reef and Micro Atolones, to develop a permanent record of long term change. Later, Dr. Goreau examined even older underwater photographs from Cozumel taken by the late Ramon Bravo, with the help of Maria Bravo.
Comparison of the 2000 videos with the 1968 and older photographs indicated that although the reefs of Cozumel had changed less than any other sites known in the Caribbean, clear changes were nevertheless obvious. The most dramatic change was a clear increase in the abundance of sponges and a decline in corals. While most of the corals appeared to be very healthy, and showed low signs of disease overall, many were being over-grown, under-grown, or bored by sponges. This change is likely to be due to relative changes in the food supply of sponges with regard to corals. While corals rely on capturing zooplankton for their food, and on the photosynthesis of their symbiotic algae, sponges are extremely specialized filter feeders that eat bacteria, as shown by the work of Henry Reiswig in Jamaica around 1970. The dramatic increase of sponges in Cozumel, which has also been noted by the author in Jamaica, is therefore most likely due to increased concentrations of bacteria in the water. While in Jamaica the kinds of sponges on the reef have dramatically changed, in Cozumel the main change appears to be in increased abundance rather than different kinds of sponges. In Jamaica, ocean currents are slow and land runoff is high, so the source of bacteria feeding sponges is probably related to increasing coastal pollution. In contrast, Cozumel sponges and corals grow in very rapidly flowing open Caribbean waters with little surface runoff. The increase of sponges therefore suggests that large-scale, long-term changes in open water food chains has taken place in open Caribbean waters, leading to increases in bacterial food supplies for sponges. This hypothesis needs to be checked by direct studies of the bacteria, zooplankton, and nutrient availability in the waters flowing past Cozumel.
Although algae cover in 2000 was still very low in comparison with other sites in Quintana Roo (Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, Puerto Morelos, and Banco Chinchorro) and other areas of the western Caribbean (such as Jamaica, Belize, Cuba, Florida, and Panama) fleshy algae had distinctly increased since the late 1960s. Very high levels of fleshy algae, that had overgrown and killed large amounts of large corals in shallow water, were found at only two sites, Colombia and Micro Atolones. The high algae levels at Colombia appeared to be localized in areas near the entrance to the Colombia Lagoon, and are thought to be due to elevated nutrient outflows from the lagoon probably caused by septic tank drainage into the lagoon from increasing development around it. In contrast, large dead corals overgrown by fleshy algae at Micro Atolones could not be ascribed to local nutrient sources. This area faces the open Caribbean, has no local population along the shore or water inputs from lagoons, and is subject to minor fishing effort due to its high wave exposure.
This unusual pattern was also found at Banco Chinchorro, where the reefs along the protected and heavily fished western side, which faces populated mainland coasts, were coral dominated, while the eastern side of the atoll was almost completely dominated by fleshy algae. This suggests a remote nutrient source from the open Caribbean water. It was proposed that the most likely source was the massive erosion of soil and nutrients from Honduras following Hurricane Mitch, which caused catastrophic flooding and severe erosion of deforested mountain soils. Runoff from Honduras heads east in coastal currents, but then turns westward at Cabo Gracias a Dios when it encounters the main Caribbean currents, and heads directly towards Quintana Roo. If this hypothesis is correct, long distance sources of nutrients, not local ones, may have caused the algae overgrowth of corals in eastern Cozumel and Banco Chinchorro, as well as the outer reefs of Belize, which have also become algae dominated in recent years (McClanahan, personal communication). Nutrient measurements in these water masses are needed to confirm this hypothesis.
In 2002, new problems were noticed in Cozumel by local divers and by the Marine Park staff. These included a dramatic increase in algae near Chancanaab, apparently after the new dolphin and sea lion enclosures had been established as tourist attractions, and the apparent “bleaching” and mortality of around 90% of the hard corals at reefs near Colombia Lagoon.
On May 14 2003 the author worked with Jose Juan Dominguez Calderon to view the Cozumel Marine Park’s photographic archive of “bleached” corals and algae, and a rapid survey was made of areas where algae problems were reported.


Algal species abundances were examined in the lagoon at Chancanaab, along the coast both north and south of the dolphin enclosures, and all around the enclosures.
The lagoon (cenote) had clear water with low turbidity and phytoplankton, and while most of the bottom was clearly visible, there were large mats of algae visible in some shallow well-illuminated areas. These algae were of marine species, largely composed of Chaetomorpha linum and Hypnea sp. (probably H. valentiae). The first species is an indicator of high phosphorus, and the second of high nitrogen. However, both species were senescent and dying back at the time they were observed based on their color and form. When they are growing fast in response to high nutrients the former is dark green and the latter is dark red. But when observed the first was pale yellowish green and the latter pale reddish brown. At the time they were observed it was late in the dry season. It is likely that these algae had grown rapidly in response to nutrients in the freshwater layer during the previous rainy season, and were dying back, but they could grow very rapidly again if nutrients are added in fresh water during the next rainy season. While there did not appear to be significant nutrient inputs to the cenote or the adjacent seawater from the overlying freshwater lens of the island at the time of these observations, this is likely to have a strong seasonal variation.
The area south of the dolphin cages showed high abundance of algae indicative of high nutrients. These increased steadily from the southern edge of the park towards the dolphin cages. By far the most abundant algae were large gelatinous clumps of the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) Lyngbya penicilliformis. These were especially common covering the rock ledges as deep as 7-8 meters, perhaps because they are likely to be washed away by wave action in shallower water. Corals were being overgrown by Lyngbya, and there were large numbers of dead gorgonians overgrown by Lyngbya. High densities of cyanobacteria are indicative of excessive pollution, in particular of phosphorus, and are common near sewage inputs. Macro-algae that were common included species indicative of moderate or high nutrients like Hypnea musciformis, Enteromorpha flexuosa, Bryothamnion triquetrum, and Ulva fasciata. On deeper sand areas the algae were more typical of lower nutrients, primarily Halimeda, Udotea, and Penicillus species.
The area to the north of the dolphin cages had a dramatically different algae population. Lyngbya was rare, and most corals and gorgonians had little algae overgrowth. The dominant macroalgae were species indicative of moderate or low nutrients, primarily Dictyota pinnatifida, Laurencia poiteaui, Halimeda sp., Udotea sp,. and Penicillus sp.
The fencing material that made up the outer and inner parts of the dolphin cages were completely covered with thick mats of Lyngbya on the southern side, and along the western side except for the very northern end, where it was notably less thick. The northern side of the cages had much lower abundance of Lyngbya. Lyngbya mats were dislodged to see which way they were transported by the currents. On the northern side of the dolphin cages they moved slowly into the cages, from north to south. On the southern edge they moved in the same direction, that is away from the cages. On the western side they moved parallel to the cages. This shows that although there is a very strong south to north current offshore, the inshore areas have a weak countercurrent moving in the opposite direction, from north to south. This is supported by observations of water turbidity. Water turbidity south of the cages steadily increased from south to north and was highest next to the cages. In contrast the water to the north of the cages was much clearer. Large schools of fish were observed congregating around the southern side of the cages, but not on the north, presumably reflecting available food supplies being carried by the currents out of the dolphin cages.


The types of algae found and their spatial distributions, in conjunction with the turbidity and the movement of the water, suggest that there are excessive nutrients, especially phosphorus, that are coming directly from the dolphin cages. These are likely to be due to a mixture of dolphin excrement and the rotting of uneaten food (frozen fish). Excess nutrients carried by the currents from the dolphin cages appears to be causing serious coral reef overgrowth by weedy algae (eutrophication), especially by cyanobacteria, in the reefs to the south of the Chancanaab dolphin cages. Although this decreased southward, it extended as far as observations were carried out (the point at the edge of the park), and the southern limit of its effects were not determined.
During the dry season there appeared to be little nutrient input to the coastal zone from the freshwater lens of the aquifer. But such inputs could be significant during the rainy season, especially wherever the aquifer is polluted from septic tank overflows.
The “bleached” corals in Cozumel in 2002 were in fact not bleached but killed by White Plague disease. This bacterial disease is rapidly spreading across the Caribbean, and is of great concern because it kills more species of corals, at a much faster rate, than any other coral disease. Outbreaks tend to be localized and most intense in the warmest times of year. The fact that this outbreak was limited to a small area that had unusually high water temperatures, according to the surveys made by the Cozumel Marine Park, fits this pattern. The epidemic appears to have ended, but killed about 90% of the corals in the affected area, according to Jose Juan Dominguez Calderon. Continued monitoring of diseases and water quality is needed to understand the impact of such diseases, but few management recommendations can be made at this time.


The dolphin cages appear to be a point source of nutrients that are damaging the coral reefs to the south, based on the species of algae, their abundances and distributions, the turbidity of the water, the water movement patterns, and the fish distributions. This should be confirmed by direct measurements of nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate) in the cages, and in north-south transects north of the cages and south of them. Chlorophyll measurements would indicate if phytoplankton growth is being stimulated, as well as bottom-living algae. Oxygen measurements would indicate if decomposition is depleting oxygen in the water. The patterns of nutrients from land offshore should also be measured, especially during the rainy season, to determine if land-based sources of nutrients are also contributing. Nutrients should also be measured on the eastern side of Cozumel to determine if the algae overgrowing corals at Micro Atolones result from transport from long distance nutrient sources. The distribution of algae in west Cozumel reefs indicates that nutrient sources are limited to the vicinity of local point sources. Systematic water quality studies should be carried out at different seasons of the year to identify all point sources of nutrients, and the backgrounds of nutrients from groundwater and from ocean currents should be determined. These data should be used to devise management strategies to reduce nutrient inputs to the reef and prevent the sort of severe eutrophication that now is typical of most western Caribbean coral reefs. Such steps are important to maintain Cozumel’s reputation as a superior quality diving destination.
The most cost-effective way of making such measurements would be to use portable, real-time, continuous monitoring devices (see appendix). One instrument is needed to measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity, and possibly hydrocarbons. A second instrument is needed to make instantaneous measurements of ammonium, nitrate, and phosphorus nutrients on extremely small samples. These instruments, which would cost approximately around $20,000, would allow each source of nutrients to be determined all along the coastline, using small boats. Nutrient pollution could be tracked directly to the sources (such as sewage pipes, lagoons, and cruise ship dumping) and the instruments could be used to determine if management measures to reduce sources are having the desired effects. Such instruments could be used to rapidly measure all major water quality parameters along the entire western coast of Cozumel in a few hours. They would be very cost effective if they were shared between the Cozumel Marine Park, the Isla Mujeres Cancun Marine Park, the Contoy Marine Park, the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and the Puerto Morelos Marine Park on a rotating basis. Such instruments would allow the Parks to rapidly monitor the water quality along the entire coast and determine the effectiveness of control strategies for the first time, revolutionizing the practice of coastal zone management.
These observations indicate that dolphin enclosures, which are increasingly common in tropical tourist areas, are a significant local source of nutrient pollution and ecological damage to coral reefs. There appear to be only two ways of reducing their impact. The first is to close them down. The second is to enclose them with solid walls to prevent nutrients escaping into the coastal zone. Fresh seawater could be pumped into them, but the effluents should not be permitted to flow back into the sea until they have been treated to remove the nutrients. This could be accomplished by pumping the effluent into large shallow tanks or flow-through raceways, exposed to full sunlight, in which marine algae are grown at high densities to take up the nutrients. To prevent the nutrients entering the coastal zone these algae could be used on land. Composted algae make an excellent source of nutrient rich fertilizer for agriculture or ornamental plants once the sea salts have been leached out by rainfall on concrete platforms. Recycling the nutrients on land would have many environmental benefits, including preventing pollution and damage to coral reefs, eliminating the need to import costly fertilizers, and greatly improving the organic material, nutrients, and water holding capacity in poor soils such as those found on Cozumel.
The cenote should be monitored for increases in algae (and nutrients) during the rainy season. This would indicate if there are significant inputs of nutrients to the sea from freshwater flow from the Cozumel aquifer. This would be highest in areas where septic tanks leach into the aquifer.


The author thanks Maria Bravo of Isla Mujeres for first bringing this problem to his attention; Jose Juan Dominguez Calderon, Subdirector of the Cozumel National Park, for showing photographs and discussing field observations; Robert Cudney Bueno, Director of the Cozumel National Park, and Elvira Carvajal, previous Director of the Cozumel National Park for detailed discussions and encouragement; Ignacio Cureno Munoz, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Hernandez, and the staff of the Fundacion de Parques y Museos de Cozumel for discussions and help viewing the site and other locations on Cozumel; Bill Horn and the entire staff of Aqua Safari for discussions and help diving around Cozumel to examine long term reef change; Jens Ambsdorf of the Lighthouse Foundation of Hamburg Germany, and Rudolf Bittorf, Honorary Consul of Germany in Cancun, for assistance getting to Cozumel and suggestions. I also thank Prof. Robert K. Trench who first encouraged me to look at environmental problems in Cozumel, Roberto Iglesias Prieto of UNAM in Puerto Morelos for discussions, and Katherine Harper for donating the old photographs of Cozumel reefs taken by her late husband Robert Harper. I also thank Gerardo Garcia for the invitation to work in Quintana Roo, and the entire staffs of the Cozumel Marine Park, Parque Marino Isla Mujeres Cancun, Banco Chinchorro Marine Biosphere Reserve, the Contoy MarinePark, and the Universidad Nacional Autonomo de Mexico Marine Lab at Puerto Morelos for assistance in the field. This project would not have been possible without all their help.


The appendix below regarding instrumentation for a portable water quality monitoring facility was written more than three years ago. It needs updating regarding the latest instruments and costs.

May 14 2000 (updated June 4 2003)

To: Franciso Ursua, Parque Nacional Isla Mujeres-Cancun
Tomas Camarena, Parque Nacional Banco Chinchorro
Elvira Carvajal, Parque Nacional Cozumel
Parque Nacional Contoy
Reserva Biologico Sian Ka’an

From: Thomas Joaquin Goreau Arango, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

A real-time portable system for analyzing nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate) along with chlorophyll, oxygen, temperature, and salinity is proposed for regular monitoring of changes of all land and ocean based nutrients to the coastal zone of the Mexican Marine Parks and related waters. This system will consist of two instruments packaged into a portable waterproof case, which can be deployed from a small boat. With addition of a GPS system, the results can be used to map, in real time, water quality and pollution sources on GIS maps. This equipment would allow continuous recording T, S. O, and Chl, and nutrients to be analyzed within a few minutes at any chosen site. It could be used in a small boat to produce complete records along 10s of kilometers in a day all along the coastline, identifying every source of nutrients, whenever needed.
The instruments recommended for this are:
a) A YSI-MA Model 6600 Multi-parameter water quality monitor, measuring temperature, salinity, oxygen, and chlorophyll simultaneously. Uses C batteries or 12V DC. With 12-hour data collecting and logging capability downloadable to a laptop computer, this will cost around $9,000.
NOTE: Newer versions of this instrument now also allow simultaneous turbidity and hydrocarbon analysis, and the cost has come down.
b) A portable nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate analyzer using a pumped through 12 v DC system to analyze these nutrients in-situ in near real time, using flow injection analysis with fiber optics spectrophotometer with computer data-logging capability, from Constellation instruments, around $30,000. This system would fit in a weatherproof suitcase and be powered by 12 Volt batteries, and would contain the housing for the other instrument as well. The sensitivity to nutrient levels would be to oceanographic levels, i.e. less than 0.1 micromoles per liter. The nitrate analysis would use an enzymatic reduction method, eliminating the costly and failure prone copper-coated cadmium columns, which generated toxic wastes and were a major cost and lab problem to maintain in top condition. These instruments, which use miniature fibre-optics spectrophotometers use very small samples, but give the full analytical sensitivity needed, using amounts of chemical reagents that are hundreds to thousands of times smaller than used in conventional labs, while eliminating all sample storage and handing errors. They are therefore far more economical and accurate.
NOTE: There are now many more manufacturers of this sort of equipment, and the costs for a basic field instrument (without telemetry features needed only for long term remote deployment) have come down considerably since the above was written. I can look into current prices and capabilities if there is real interest.