Projects Abroad is responding to a worldwide series of coral bleaching events through the efforts of its own Diving & Marine Conservation volunteering programs.
Volunteers can join Projects Abroad in Belize to offer their help alleviating the effects of coral bleaching and maintaining coral reef health.
This year, the world has seen the continuation of mass coral bleaching events that began to intensify in 2016.
The world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, has experienced two back-to-back bleaching events in the past two summers, leading some scientists to declare a third of the reef dead.
“Historically there have been very few bleaching events recorded, up until the last 20 years,” says Roger Bruget, Project Manager for Project Abroad’s Conservation Project in Cambodia. “They are now happening more frequently and with greater force for each event.”
Coral bleaching occurs when algae living on coral reefs die due to rises in seawater temperature, leaving coral exposed and vulnerable to disease and subsequent death.
Through its marine conservation programs, Projects Abroad volunteers work to address these issues and keep coral reefs healthy.
After completing a PADI diver certification course, volunteers conduct regular survey dives to monitor reef conditions, including observation of the biodiversity around the reef, keeping watch for invasive species.
Volunteers also conduct reef cleanups, where they remove discarded fishing nets and trash that smother reefs.
Since December 2014, volunteers have removed nearly three tons of waste from coral reefs in Cambodia.
Beach cleanups are another activity through which volunteers help prevent harmful waste being washed to see to pollute corals.
Raising awareness around marine conservation is a major point among the goals set out by each Diving & Marine Conservation program.
Volunteers run campaigns to inform local community members about marine pollution, offer advice on how to recycle and responsibly discard their waste and educate others on fishery regulations.
Local community members also join on beach cleanups, which has seen several tons of waste removed from beaches across Belize, Cambodia and Thailand– Projects Abroad’s other site.
“We must make sure that we have as healthy and as many corals around as possible, so for the next bleaching event there is a bigger chance that more corals will survive,” Bruget said.