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Applying Good Science in the Protection of Coral Reefs

Press Release No:119 ESSD
> Broadcast Quality Video
> Interview: Warren Evans
(Director, Environment)
> Indonesia Coral Reef
> Coral Reefs and Fisheries a New Front...
> Bank Backs Push to Save Coral Reefs

Media Contacts:
World Bank – Sergio Jellinek 
Kristyn Ebro

GEF – Hutton Archer 

WASHINGTON, October 14, 2004—The Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank announced a 5-year initiative to help protect coral reefs in critical areas of developing countries.  Coral reefs are the largest – and some of the most beautiful – living structures on earth, and play a key role in the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of coastal dwelling poor people – yet they are in decline in most parts of the world.

The $11 million GEF grant, to be implemented by the World Bank, along with an equivalent amount in matching funds, will support an initial $22.3 million project – the Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building for Management Project. This project represents the first phase of a 15-year Targeted Research Program to bring the best science to bear from around the world on issues related to coral reef  vulnerability and resilience. Through the project, scientists will translate this knowledge into tools and policies for decision-makers.

“Today, over one-half of the world’s population – more than 3.6 billion people – live within 100 kilometers of the world’s coastlines,” said Warren Evans, World Bank Director of Environment.  “Two out of three of the world’s cities of over 2.5 million inhabitants are located in coastal regions.  The pressures and transformations on these lands and seascapes are unprecedented in history.”

According to Evans the project is aligned with two main priorities of  the World Bank’s Environment Strategy: improving the quality of life and protecting the global commons. 

The Targeted Research Project will focus on those areas of the world that have significant coral reef resources – establishing “Centers of Excellence” in Mexico, Tanzania, and the Philippines, and  twinning these with existing centers of excellence in Australia.  These Centers will serve as regional hubs for training scientists in cutting edge techniques and for applying the findings in practical ways to improve the management of these beautiful, economically vital – and threatened – treasures.

Coral reefs are not only global assets of exceptional biodiversity value, they are significant drivers of economic growth.  Of the 184 member countries within the World Bank, over 100 possess coral reefs within their national boundaries, and rely on them as natural assets. 

The deterioration of coral reefs is a serious threat to the environmental and economic security of many coastal nations.  Already, 93 of the 109 countries around the world with significant coral reef communities have suffered damage to them.

Coral reefs occupy only 0.1 percent of the ocean’s surface, yet they are the world’s richest repository of marine biodiversity.  Many coral reefs have reached such a state of decline that they can no longer be considered living coral reefs, while others are under increasing threat from local human disturbances – such as over-fishing and destructive fishing practices, pollution, coastal construction, and the shipping and cruise line industries.  In addition, there is the impact of climate change, including increases in sea surface temperature which can cause coral bleaching and mortality; sea-level rise and increased storm frequency and severity; and changes in ocean chemistry which weaken the structure of coral reefs. 

Most of the 30 million small scale fishermen in the developing world are dependent in some form on coral reefs for their livelihoods.  And more than half the protein and essential nutrients in the diets of 400 million poor living in tropical coastal areas is supplied by fish, much of which is dependent on healthy reefs.  And tourism based on diving and snorkeling in coral reefs is important to many island nations.

 “Over the past ten years, an increasing awareness of the importance of coral reefs has been evident, especially in light of their rapid decline in many regions, and their significance to developing countries,” states Marea Hatziolos, World Bank Project Task Manager.  “However, at a time when management interventions are becoming increasingly important, what remains fundamentally unknown about these ecosystems is alarming.  Significant gaps remain in our understanding some of the basic forcing functions affecting coral reefs.”

To coordinate research efforts and address the key outstanding questions about the health of coral reefs, the Project will:

  1. support targeted research on these ecosystems by scientists in both developed and developing countries, to fill critical gaps in the understanding of how coral reefs respond to various forms of stress – from human induced stress to climate change – and their effects on the sustainability of coral reefs;
  2. build the capacity of marine scientists and natural resource managers to implement science-based management in developing countries, where most coral reefs are found; and
  3. finance the tools and the means to link up the research findings with natural resource  management on the ground, and ensure that the results are translated into improved policies, from local to global, that affect the health of coral reefs and those who depend on them.

The Program partners are the GEF, the World Bank; the University of Queensland, Australia; the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission; the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and research facilities in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. 

For more information, please see the websites:


GEF is a mechanism for providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures to achieve agreed global environmental benefits in the six focal areas - Climate change; Biological diversity; International waters; Ozone layer depletion, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants.

The World Bank Group is one of  GEF’s implementing agencies and supports countries in preparing GEF co-financed projects and supervises their implementation.  It plays the primary role in ensuring the development and management of investment projects. The Bank draws upon its investment experience in eligible countries to promote investment opportunities and to mobilize private sector, bilateral, multilateral, and other government and non-government sector resources that are consistent with GEF objectives and national sustainable development strategies.  Since 1991, the World Bank Group has committed $1.972 billion in GEF resources and $3.037 billion in Bank group co-financing for GEF projects in 80 countries. In addition to GEF and Bank resources, it has mobilized additional co-financing of $6.952 billion from other donors.


For further information on Bank’s GEF program, visit . 
For further information on GEF, visit


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