Guam Year of the Reef Unites Island Leaders and Locals in Coral Conservation

April 3, 2018

By Marybelle Quinata, Guam Community Coral Reef Monitoring Coordinator and Valerie Brown, NOAA Fishery Biologist

citizens posing for signing ceremony
The Guam Year of the Reef Proclamation signing ceremony drew an enthusiastic crowd eager to support and celebrate the islands valuable coral reef resources. Photo: W. Hoot, Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans.

2018 is the third International Year of the Reef— a celebration of the significance of the world’s coral reefs and an effort to promote awareness and protection. Guam’s coral reefs are some of the most diverse and important in the world, but they are also some of the most vulnerable, having experienced devastating bleaching for several years.

Island leaders recently declared 2018 Guam Year of the Reef. Students, resource agency representatives, and community partners attended a proclamation ceremony, which buzzed with excitement. Officials declared additional support for marine conservation in recognition of the countless ways reefs are critical to Guam and its citizens.

Coral reefs occupy a vital social, cultural and economic role in Guam. Tourism accounts for 60 percent of this tropical U.S. territory's business revenue, and at least $56 million pours into Guam’s economy every year from scuba diving—all of which would be lost without corals.

Guam Year of the Reef events kicked off with the Reef Exploration, Experiences, and Fun (REEF) celebration, featuring virtual reality tours, hands-on marine life interactions, an awards ceremony, and inspiring stories of coral reef conservation. The Guam Community Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s science coordinator captivated the audience with stories of community-led efforts and science in action, and unveiled the program’s new name, Friends of Reefs Guam (FOR Guam), which better captures the ways Guam’s community demonstrates stewardship from ridge to reef.

Marine Mania high school club plegde to protect reefs by practicing reef etiquette
Marine Mania. High school students pledge to protect coral reefs by practicing reef etiquette. Photo: NOAA

From beach cleanups and festivals to multiple training and educational events, Guam’s year-long celebration of its reefs aims to bring their importance to the forefront of leaders’ and locals’ minds.

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