UN Ocean Decade endorses California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative

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Hope for Reefs joins a global network of partners dedicated to reversing the decline of Earth’s ocean system.

Skylar Knight, Media Contact for the California Academy of Sciences

June 8, 2022 (SAN FRANCISCO, CA) — Today, on World Oceans Day 2022, the International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) officially endorsed the California Academy of Sciences’ Hope for Reefs initiative as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (Ocean Decade). With the endorsement, the Academy will be able to participate in global forums to expand the scope and impact of Hope for Reefs as it seeks to reverse the decline of Earth’s coral reefs within the next five years.

“I am so proud that Hope for Reefs has been endorsed for the Ocean Decade,” says Steinhart Aquarium Director and Co-director of Hope for Reefs Bart Shepherd. “It’s an important recognition of the impact of our work to better understand and protect coral ecosystems, as well as of the tremendous science and education programs that we run here at the Academy.”

Established in 2017 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Ocean Decade, which runs from 2021 to 2030, aims to catalyze scientific research to safeguard Earth’s ocean system while supporting the sustainable development of coastal communities.

To achieve this, the IOC has provided a framework for scientists, coastal communities, and ocean advocates—of which the Academy is now a part—to collaborate on accelerating ocean science and implementing science-based solutions to the most pressing issues threatening ocean health.

“Coral reefs—and ocean ecosystems in general—are facing many threats, from overfishing and pollution to climate change,” says Academy Curator of Ichthyology and Co-director of Hope for Reefs Luiz Rocha, PhD. “But there is hope. By combining cutting-edge science with deep community engagement and targeted advocacy, programs like Hope for Reefs and the Ocean Decade are turning knowledge into action.”

With the world’s largest and most active mesophotic—or ‘twilight zone’—diving team, one of only a handful of labs capable of spawning and raising corals in an aquarium, and a long history of partnerships with coastal communities, the Academy is already a pioneer in coral reef research and conservation. Now, as an endorsed Ocean Decade project, Hope for Reefs is looking forward to waves through new collaborations, knowledge-sharing opportunities, and conservation solutions with other participating teams.

“Regenerating Earth’s coral reefs is a monumental task that can only be achieved through collective action by a diverse group of collaborators,” Shepherd says. “We’re excited for the coming years, and for the partnerships that this endorsement will facilitate.”