Coral Heroes: The International Coral Reef Initiative

Throughout the Coral Reef Conservation Program’s 20th Anniversary, we are highlighting Coral Heroes — individuals and organizations that have worked with the program and are making a real difference in coral reef conservation.

This is a guest web story provided by the International Coral Reef Initiative.

Coral in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Coral in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. (Jayne Jenkins/Coral Reef Image Bank)

The International Coral Reef Initiative is a unique international partnership between Nations and organisations that strives to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems around the world. Founded in 1994, the Initiative, which counts close to 90 members, including the USA, a founding member, informs international efforts to conserve coral reefs and associated ecosystems, providing both a forum for global advocacy on coral reefs and assisting managers of coral reefs at national and local levels. Although the decisions made by the Initiative are non-binding on members, its work is regularly acknowledged in international and United Nations instruments and documents and has been pivotal in continuing to highlight globally the importance of coral reefs and associated ecosystems to biodiversity, economic and food security, and social and cultural wellbeing.

The International Coral Reef Initiative Secretariat is hosted by Initiative Members on a voluntary basis and rotates every two years. Since 2004, the Secretariat has been co-chaired by a developed and a developing country. The US held the very first Secretariat in 1994, and since then it co-chaired the Secretariat in 2007. The current Secretariat is being co-chaired by the governments of Australia, Monaco and Indonesia.

“For over 25 years, ICRI has provided a valuable forum for coral reef countries and organisations from around the world to come together and share expertise, success stories, and lessons learned in the sustainable management of coral reefs and related ecosystems. At a time when coral reefs are facing unprecedented pressures, ICRI’s actions are pivotal in continuing to highlight globally the value and importance of these precious ecosystems,” said Margaret Johnson, the Australian ICRI co-chair. “Australia is a founding member of ICRI and the current ICRI Secretariat co-chair with Indonesia and Monaco. Australia is proud to support the work of ICRI and share our expertise in managing coral reef ecosystems.”

Some highlights of the International Coral Reef Initiative’s work:

  • The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, established by the Initiative in 1995, has produced a range of global, regional and thematic reports on coral reef status and trends. Soon, the network will publish a report on the Status of Coral Reefs of the World, the first global report on coral reefs in 12 years.
  • Initiated in 1997, the International Year of the Reef raises global awareness of the values of and threats to coral reefs, and supports conservation, research and management efforts. The third and most recent International Year of the Reef took place in 2018.
  • The International Coral Reef Initiative/United Nations Environment Programme Small Grants Programme saw grants being awarded to 5 projects that contributed to the protection and preservation of coral reefs and related ecosystems, with a particular emphasis on building climate resilience and facilitating coral recovery.
  • The International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Symposium, a symposium held roughly every four years, is a flagship activity of ICRI. The aim of the symposium is to develop and strengthen the capacities of coastal and marine managers, and partners, to conserve and promote the sustainable use of coral reefs and related ecosystems. The 6th International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Symposium is set to be held in Indonesia in 2021.
  • Recognizing the threats posed to reef fisheries and coral reefs in Indonesia, the International Coral Reef Initiative commissioned a study to understand the current status of the international trade in live reef fish and identify opportunities for reducing harmful and destructive practices. The resulting study highlights a clear and pressing need for action.
  • Most recently International Coral Reef Initiative members adopted a Recommendation for the inclusion of coral reefs within the Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the result of 18 months of work by the ad hoc committee to contribute to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework development process on matters relating to the critical status of coral reefs and how this ecosystem can be sufficiently addressed within the post-2020 framework.
Jardines de la Reina in Cuba
Jardines de la Reina in Cuba. (David Gross/Coral Reef Image Bank)

We invite you to learn more about ICRI by visiting the new website,, which was launched on International Biodiversity Day, 22 May, 2020.

Follow the celebration on our Facebook and Twitter pages and the National Ocean Service Instagram page all year using the hashtag #NOAACoral20th.

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