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Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is a founding partner of the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), which has provided grants, training and networking opportunities to young conservationists for the past 25 years. It has supported a variety of projects to conserve a range of sea life: from dugongs to dolphins and leatherbacks to lemon sharks.
Although they cover less than 0.25% of the seafloor, a quarter of all marine life relies on coral reef ecosystems. Approximately 20% of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost, and those that remain face threats such as coral bleaching (exacerbated by climate change), sedimentation and over-fishing.
Scientists are considering taking the radical steps of freezing some corals so that they can be reintroduced if sea temperatures stabilise in the future. A few years ago a CLP-funded team discovered eight new colonies of an extremely rare and previously undescribed species of stag-horn coral, Acropora rongelapensis, around Rongelap Atoll, the Marshall Islands, located in the North Pacific Ocean.
The team reported that some Acropora species can cross-breed, thereby increasing genetic variation. This could make them more adaptable to changing conditions, saving them from life in the freezer.
Currently less than 1% of the world’s seas is protected. Experts warn that to conserve marine diversity, 30% needs protecting through a network of marine protected areas (MPAs). CLP funded projects are playing their part in establishing MPAs – a vital but slow process that can take years to complete.
Salmon farming in the bays and fjords of south Chile threatens blue whales and two endemic dolphin species. Since 2002, CLP alumnus Francisco Viddi and his colleagues have lobbied for a multi-use MPA, which would allow commercial fishing and other economic activities if they became more sustainable. After much hard work an official MPA proposal was finally submitted to the government in May.
The Abrolhos Bank, located off the southern coast of Bahia, Brazil, is the largest and richest reef complex within the South Atlantic and hosts many threatened fish species including the critically endangered goliath grouper, Epinephelus itajara.
The CLP supported a team to research the existence of spawning aggregations and gain an understanding of pressures from commercial and local fishers. This led to the creation of a new MPA, protecting reefs and mangroves that are important fish nurseries.
“The process was hard due to industrial interests,” explains Ronaldo Filho. “There is now a chance to formulate a management plan for the area with participation of the local people”.
Sustained support from the CLP has also built the capacity and management capability of Karumbé, a Uruguayan non-governmental organisation, which is persevering to make a stretch of coastline called Cerro Verde Uruguay’s first MPA.
As well as supporting marine life, theseas also provide important services to humans – food, recreation, transport – and up to 80% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the sea.
Historically FFI tended to focus on terrestrial ecosystem conservation, but in recognition of the urgent need to conserve our marine ecosystems, FFI is expanding its marine portfolio.
The CLP will continue to support young conservationists as they strive to save marine life from the Jaws of extinction.
“Currently less than 1% of the world’s seas is protected. Experts warn that to conserve marine diversity, 30% needs protecting through a network of marine protected areas.”
CLP Programme Coordinator
The Conservation Leadership Programme is a partnership between BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International and FFI.