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Launched in Monaco in 2019, the World Coral Conservatory is a Noah’s ark dedicated to ensuring the survival of coral ecosystems.

Coral reefs are the first major victims of the overheating planet. According to the expert members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a 1.5 °C average rise in sea surface temperature would lead to the disappearance or extreme endangerment of 70–90% of coral species by 2100. This is one of the conclusions of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere, which was produced at the request of the Principality, among others, and unveiled at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco in 2019.

First raised during discussions at the 2016 International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu (Hawaii), the idea of a world conservatory appeared to be a novel solution that would help to better understand and conserve the biodiversity of coral reefs.

The project was launched in 2019 as part of Monaco Ocean Week, which, every year, brings together in the Principality key stakeholders from the marine world.

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© Eric Béraud (CSM)

The Monaco Scientific Centre and the Oceanographic Museum, both true pioneers in coral conservation and preservation for more than 30 years, decided to create a Noah’s ark for coral reefs.

“Today, fewer than 200 species of coral are grown in aquariums around the world. In five years’ time, we hope to have protected 1,000 coral species, two thirds of those in existence,” says Didier Zoccola, a molecular biology researcher at the Monaco Scientific Centre. The World Coral Conservatory will preserve strains of coral in the aquarium before eventually reintroducing them into areas that have been devastated.

This project, supported by the Prince Albert II Foundation, will make it possible “to protect, in a network of partner public and private aquariums, a unique global collection comprising the majority of coral species and strains in the form of living colonies.”

The role of the World Coral Conservatory is to protect the biodiversity of coral reefs, increase the capacity of reef organisms to tolerate stress, and provide additional information about corals and coral reefs for the general public and policymakers.

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© DR

The samples of coral taken from the natural environment will be cultivated and shared with the world’s leading public aquariums and museums.

“We are hoping for support from institutions that already know how to grow corals and have an understanding of reproduction using fragging and even artificial insemination,” says Robert Calcagno, Director of the Institute of Oceanography. Monaco is behind numerous measures to preserve corals, including the Coral Reef Life Declaration, which celebrates the importance of coral ecosystems as key indicators of ocean health, and the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, a blue economy financing mechanism for coral reefs.

From 2018 to 2021, the Principality also co-chaired the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) with Australia and Indonesia.

Corals and coral reefs are regularly the focus of Monaco Blue Initiative discussions. Launched by Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2010, this discussion platform co-organised by the Institute of Oceanography and the Prince Albert II Foundation helps to bring together key decision-makers, scientists and representatives from NGOs and the private sector to address current and future global challenges in ocean management and conservation.

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“Due to their sensitivity to acidification and their importance within global ecosystems, corals must now – more than ever before – be at the centre of our strategies.”

Albert II of Monaco.

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