Many of the UK Overseas Territories harbour vibrant coral reef ecosystems which support a diversity of marine life and provide a multitude of socio-economic benefits. These valuable natural assets underpin tourist industries, support nurseries of locally important fish stocks, and provide significant protection from tropical storms.
Recognising the importance of coral reef ecosystems, the Caribbean and Western Atlantic Overseas Territories met in 2019 to develop Coral Reef Action Plans. To take this work forward, the Overseas Territories have been working with JNCC since 2020 on a new project: Implementing Coral Reef Action Plans for the UK Overseas Territories Coral Reef Initiative.
By building the resilience of coral reef ecosystems, the Coral Reef Action Plans contribute to protecting the economic security, livelihoods, and cultural identity of UK Overseas Territories. This project is funded with UK aid from the UK government through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).
Coral reefs of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic Overseas Territories are vital to national economies and the social well-being of residents. Coral reef ecosystems are threatened by human activities, diseases, natural hazards, and the effects of climate change. The rapid spread of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is compounding existing pressures and having a devastating effect on coral reefs across the Caribbean region.
Responding rapidly to SCTLD is pivotal for finding effective treatment and bolstering reef resilience to prevent the widespread destruction of coral reef ecosystems. A multi-pronged management approach that addresses the range of threats facing coral reefs is needed to achieve long-term resilience and help corals to naturally fight disease and adapt to changing environmental conditions.
The Implementing Coral Reef Action Plans project is responding to this need by supporting the governments of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands to carry out priority actions for coral reef conservation, tailored to each individual territory. The project facilitates a collaborative approach to inform the adaptive management of coral reef ecosystems, based on emerging technologies and innovation.
You can find out more about this work in JNCCs Nature News articles: Working together for coral reef action in the UK Overseas Territories (page 11), and From ridge to reef Building an Environment Strategy for the Turks and Caicos Islands (page 10-11).
An overview of the project is provided in the Implementing Coral Reef Action Plans for the UK Overseas Territories Coral Reef Initiative leaflet.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Provide funding and increase technical capacity across the Overseas Territories to support innovative and novel approaches for the monitoring and management of coral reefs.
- Gather data and facilitate knowledge-sharing to respond to the immediate threat posed by SCTLD.
- Gather data to progress understanding of management options to improve the resilience of coral reefs to existing and future threats.
- Increase awareness of the importance of coral reefs, how human activities can damage coral reefs, and how local communities can get involved in protecting them.
- Develop a roadmap to inform the next phase of Action Plan implementation.
This work is part of the UK Government commitment to protect coral reefs outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan and wider international commitments.
Details of published outputs from the Implementing Coral Reef Action Plans for the UK Overseas Territories Coral Reef Initiative project will be provided when available.
This project leverages resources used in the development of the Coral Reef Action Plans, builds upon the Delivering coral reef conservation actions in Montserrat and Pitcairn project, and is supported by the Darwin Initiative funded Collaborative Coral Reef Working Group (CCRWG).
Development of the Coral Reef Action Plans
The Coral Reef Action Plans were developed in 2019 through a Defra-funded UK Overseas Territories Coral Reef Initiative workshop held in Anguilla. This event brought together government representatives of the Caribbean and Western Atlantic Overseas Territories, UK and regional stakeholders to identify priority areas of action for coral reef conservation.
Delivering coral reef conservation actions in Montserrat and Pitcairn
This project ran between 2019 and 2020 and was funded by CSSF.
In Montserrat, JNCC supported the implementation of a range of activities prioritised by the territory’s Coral Reef Action Plan. This included developing a strategy and building local capacity for coral reef monitoring, raising awareness of the threats to coral reefs, and supporting fisheries decision-making.
In the Pitcairn Islands, JNCC worked in collaboration with the Blue Belt Programme (the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and the Marine Management Organisation) and the Government of Pitcairn to undertake a seabed and coral reef survey to extend the current coral reef habitat map. This work supported the development of a Marine Management Plan for the newly adopted Marine Protected Area around the Pitcairn Islands.
Outputs delivered by the project include:
- Montserrat's coral reef monitoring strategy.
- Montserrat's fish aggregation device (FAD) report.
- Caribbean coral species identification booklet.
- The Pitcairn Islands coral reef survey report and paper: Rapid Assessment of Seabed Habitats Around Pitcairn Island in Aid of Activity Management During the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.
For more information on the activities undertaken by this project read JNCC’s Nature News article, Delivering coral reef conservation actions in Montserrat and Pitcairn and the JNCC Pitcairn Island Blog.
Establishment of the Collaborative Coral Reef Working Group (CCRWG)
The CCRWG group was piloted in late 2020 with funding from the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra). By providing a platform for sharing knowledge, skills, and resources across members from the Caribbean and Western Atlantic Overseas Territories, the CCRWG has proved instrumental in facilitating regional collaboration and supporting the delivery of this Implementing Coral Reef Action Plans project. The Darwin Initiative funded project Collaborative approach to managing coral disease in UK Overseas Territories (DPLUS147) provides funding for the CCRWG from 2021 - 2024.
Project delivery and outputs will maintain links and take account of deliverables from the JNCC-led and CSSF-funded project, Climate change adaptation and hurricane disaster resilience in the UK Overseas Territories.
Partners and Funders
This project is funded with UK aid from the UK government through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).