NPO Spotlight: Coral Reef Alliance

6 mins read
Diver swimming over a big school of Creole wrasse (Clepticus parrae) on Cayos Cochinos Seamounts reef. Cayos Cochinos, Honduras
Antonio Busiello

Thank you for speaking with us today, could you please introduce yourself and what it is you do?

My name is Heather Starck, I am the Executive Director of the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL). Our mission is pretty simple: we’re working to save the world’s coral reefs. 

Tell us more about the coral reefs.

Coral reefs are the most diverse and complex ecosystems on Earth. They cover less than 0.1% of the ocean surface but contain about 25% of all marine life, including more than 4,000 species of fish and more than 800 species of coral. Nearly one billion people depend on reefs for food and income. Coral reefs are also economically important because of the way they protect coastlines and bring in much-needed tourism revenue..

photo credit: Antonio Busiello

What is the coral reef crisis?

Coral reefs are threatened at local and global levels. Locally, things like overfishing and poor water quality threaten their survival. Globally, climate change is causing our oceans to warm and become more acidic, and storms to increase.  . But there’s a lot of hope for coral reefs—Corals can learn to adapt to the global changes if we take care to protect them from the local threats. And if we do this, future generations can enjoy their beauty as much as we do today.

How can people contribute to coral reef preservation?

Here are a few ways you can help save coral reefs:

  • Live sustainably. Reducing your carbon footprint is one way to reduce the threat of climate change on coral reefs. Things includes avoiding single-use plastics, reducing your energy consumption, finding sustainable ways to travel and get around, and more.
  • Become an advocate. Advocate for high-level policy change by letting your representatives know that you care about climate change and coral reefs. Vote for candidates that commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving the environment. 
  • Spread the word. Sign-up for our e-newsletter at to get monthly news about coral reefs, and then share it with your friends to help bring attention to the struggles coral reefs face.
  • Be a sustainable traveler. Visit to download our travel guide and learn about steps you can take to protect reefs when traveling to a tropical destination, like using reef-safe sunscreen. 

Where is your organization working currently?

We work in Hawai’i and the Western Caribbean, including Honduras and México.. We also partner with folks in Guatemala and Belize, and a few other places around the world.

photo credit: Antonio Busiello

What are the current and future challenges to protecting coral reefs?

There are several challenges we face to protect coral reefs:

●     Our climate is changing rapidly, and not enough is being done to slow the rate of climate change. We need policy makers to take action quickly to slow the rate of climate change so coral reefs have enough time to adapt. 

●     People around the world depend on coral reefs for food and income—so we’re facing a global economic and food security crisis if we don’t take enough action to save coral reefs.

●     Community members around the world are doing what they can to save their coral reefs, but it’s a challenge when resources are scarce and government and corporate priorities don’t align. We need to be sure the people that live near coral reefs have what they need to build lasting, collaborative programs to protect them. 

Silverside (Menidia menidia) in the West End Wall dive site. Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras
photo credit: Antonio Busiello

What alternatives are there to coral reef fishing?

Coral reef fish support over 6 million fishers and their families around the world—so taking away coral reef fishing is not a viable option. There are ways for fishers to protect reef fish and feed their families at the same time, and that’s where our approach comes in. Sometimes this means providing fishers with data so they can better understand their fisheries and make sustainable decisions to protect them. Sometimes this means giving artisanal fishers rights over their fishing grounds, and allowing sustainable traditional fishing methods while prohibiting unsustainable or commercial fishing methods. Sometimes this means providing alternative sources of income for fishers. The right solutions really depend on the communities themselves, which is why we partner so closely with the communities we support and help them design the fisheries management plans that are right for them.  

How can people get involved?

The best way to get involved is to stay up-to-date on coral reef news from around the world by following us on social media at @coral_org, or visiting our website at to sign up for our monthly newsletter. You can also visit to learn more about coral reefs and how you can help protect them. We hope to see you join us online soon!