Coral reefs need all our help: This is what we’re doing

Coral reefs need all our help: This is what we’re doing

Date: 30/11/2022

Urgent efforts are under way to save the world’s coral reefs before it’s too late. From the Great Barrier Reef off Australia to the Red Sea Coral Reef, these irreplaceable ecosystems face threats from rising sea temperatures linked to climate change.

One restoration programme is taking place off the coast of Turkey at a coral reef you may never have heard of. The Yellow Coral Conservation Project is working to reverse the damage to a vital coral bridge between the Mediterranean and Marmara seas.

It involves planting corals in safe waters, clearing marine mucilage – jelly-like organic matter known as “sea snot” that can envelop and suffocate corals – and installing a monitoring system to track sea temperature changes.

The coral population in this area has diminished because of a combination of rising sea temperatures and damage from human activities. Heavy mucilage also contributed to coral death last year.

Partners in protection

Our port in Yarimca, one of the largest state-of-the-art container terminals in Turkey, launched the conservation project last year in collaboration with Istanbul University and the Turkish Marine Life Conservation Society. We’re aiming to complete the coral bridge’s restoration by 2024.

The programme was started after Tavşan Island – one of nine islands off the coast of Istanbul – was designated a protected area by the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye. The restoration work involves transferring corals from Ayvalik on the Aegean Sea on Turkey’s northwestern coast and replanting them in the waters around Tavşan Island, where they can now thrive with less threat of human intervention. 

The team is also monitoring the development of coral colonies in the region. They initially chose 50 for close study, and are collecting data on coral height, health and other indicators. Eight underwater thermometers they’ve put in place at Ayvalik will help provide data on the effects of global warming in the region. 

The Yellow Coral Conservation Project is part of our company-wide Our World, Our Future sustainability initiative, whose goals include minimising impacts on the environment by better managing natural resources and emissions. We aim to use the data we gather to help us plant corals throughout the Marmara Sea and extend their population. 

Educating the next generation

Another crucial part of the project takes place not underwater, but in classrooms. To ensure long-lasting change, we have to educate young people about the importance of coral reefs to the marine ecosystem. That’s why our Yarimca team has created a character called Doli the Dolphin to appeal to children and help teach them about the value of corals and what must be done to keep them safe. 

This is the latest in a series of environmental education initiatives we are undertaking in the region. It started with the Minding My Waste campaign in 2019 to help eliminate single-use plastics. We collaborate on this project with the Mind Your Waste Foundation and Kocaeli University. 

It has helped more than 15,000 third-grade students learn more about sustainable consumption and recycling, including how to identify and reduce glass, metal, paper and plastic waste. The project has been so successful it was scaled up and rolled out across Turkey this year with the backing of the Ministry of National Education.

Coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the sea. They are crucial to marine ecosystems and support a wide variety of marine life, as well as protecting coastlines from erosion, recycling nutrients and locking in carbon and nitrogen. The Yellow Coral Conservation Project is devoted to preserving these life-giving reefs for future generations.