The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss have brought into stark relief the need for greater collaboration and action at the international level to conserve, manage, and restore coral reefs.
It is in this context that the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Secretariat is launching its Plan of Action for 2021-2024, Turning the Tide for Coral Reefs, from its newest Chair, the United States of America. Over the course of the next three years, the ICRI Secretariat proposes to maintain progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) and Goal 14 (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources).
This Plan of Action will guide and encourage actions taken by the Secretariat and its members. The plan is organised into themes, each consisting of a desired outcome and achievable actions.
Theme 1: Preparing for the Future: Promoting Resilient Coral Reefs
The Secretariat and ICRI members seek to push for effective action to understand and promote the resilience of coral reefs and related ecosystems through policies and conservation practices that encourage resilience-based management and recovery of coral reefs worldwide. This will be achieved through strengthening policies, promoting capacity building for applying Resilience-based Management and building capacity for the restoration of resilient reefs.
Theme 2: Coral Reef Science and Oceanography: Advancing and Utilising the Latest Science and Technology
The second theme aims to utilise, promote, and convene new technologies and rigorous scientific data to report on the status of coral reefs worldwide, guiding science-based management and policies. To achieve this, under Theme 2, ICRI will build capabilities for the monitoring of coral reefs, alongside the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), an operational network of ICRI, to build more consistency into data acquisition from coral reefs.
Theme 3: Local Threat Reduction: Integrating Response Planning Frameworks
For more than a decade, a common strategy for coral managers has been to develop response plans for the various threats plaguing corals. With the increase in coral reef impacts, many managers have developed response plans to tackle such threats. Therefore, coral reef response plans will be consolidated and integrated into a common response framework to simplify and facilitate response for local coral managers.
Theme 4: Diversity and Inclusion: Expanding the Coral Reef Community
The fourth and final theme seeks to broaden the coral reef community to include underrepresented voices, including the Indigenous, local, and youth communities. ICRI will also seek to incorporate indigenous and local knowledge into policies and management plans by collaborating with indigenous people.
The ICRI Plan of Action for 2021-2024 gives context to the challenges associated with coral reef conservation; suggests concrete actions to overcome these challenges; and gives guidance to the coral reef community to help turn the tide for coral reefs. ICRI will take every opportunity to raise the plight of coral reefs with the broader international community and the actions that can be taken at local, regional, and global levels to secure their protection and recovery.