The vocation of the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco is clear: to promote, cherish and protect the ocean. Since its creation in 1906, it has brought together scientific, political, economic and associative players as well as the general public to achieve this objective. In 2016, it participated in the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu (Hawaii), a conference dedicated to coral reefs. The stakeholders present converged on the need to consider new solutions to save the reefs. The creation of a World Coral Conservatory is one of them.
To protect the biodiversity of coral reefs
The ambition is clear: to protect the biodiversity of coral reefs. Today, conventional methods are no longer sufficient. Most marine conservation and management programmes focus on preserving "pristine" areas in the hope that these areas will remain robust in the face of disturbances and can be used to repopulate degraded sites. However, with climate change and its direct impact on the oceans, the usefulness of these areas is called into question; they are protected from local threats but not from global stress. The risk was illustrated in 2016, with the warm equatorial El Niño current causing a rise in temperatures that resulted in bleaching a part of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Now, a bleached coral is coral on borrowed time.
With the World Coral Conservatory, the project focuses on a network of public and private aquariums to shelter a collection unique, in the world, of the majority of coral species and types known to date, in the form of living colonies. The Conservatory is designed as a centre for resources, research, scientific studies and decision‑making.
Scientific and conservation resources for essential habitats and species
At a practical level, the Conservatory will provide scientific and conservation resources for essential habitats and species. Researchers worldwide will have access to referenced and traced biological material, which can be used on site or remotely. There are many potentially interested areas of research: genetics, biology, biochemistry, ocean chemistry, climatology, pharmacy, medicine, aquaculture, etc.
Its aim is also to bring together aquariums from around the world and to create a network of scientific communication and decision‑making tools. The Conservatory is designed as a platform for exchange between the players involved in the research and conservation of coral ecosystems, and to raise awareness among as many people as possible.
The project is managed by two coordinators from the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco with the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Monaco Water Company and the Veolia Foundation.
Coral: a useful ecosystem for humans
Coral is at the same time an animal, a plant and a mineral. The animals that form the coral are similar to a jellyfish, with one big difference: they construct limestone structures and, despite their small size, have created real ecosystems. Coral reefs are home to 25% of marine biodiversity! They house many species that feed and reproduce there. It's a highly productive environment. They thus provide an essential source of protein for the local diet. In the small islands where land-based farming capacity is very limited, the only animal protein comes from the sea.