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Adopt a Coral Reef

A number of organizations offer the option of “adopting” a coral or an entire reef

The world’s coral reefs are in peril, as most divers are well aware. The situation is critical for the oceans, as some studies show that up to 25 percent of marine life lives on or near coral reefs. There are, of course, a number of organizations around the world working to protect and restore the damaged reefs.

As with any non-governmental organization, these depend on contributions from sponsors, partners and private individuals, along with volunteers, to keep their work going. To ensure that they receive the support they need, organizations must find ways to motivate people to donate, which they accomplish in a variety of ways.

One unique approach is to give people the option to symbolically adopt a coral reef or individual corals; while you may donate a certain amount and in return become the proud adoptee of a coral reef, this of course doesn’t mean you get full usage rights of that reef. Instead, you’re given some form of documentation of your adoption in return for your donation, which can be anything from a simple certificate to regular updates on the work you’re helping support.

How the adoption is set up varies from organization to organization, as does the more specific purpose of the work. An organization such as California’s Reef Check approaches it more as a general donation. So while you’re “adopting” a reef, your donation goes towards the organization’s entire portfolio of work, which aims to establish a statewide, community-based reef monitoring, protection and restoration program. Your donation is not specifically earmarked towards the work on any given reef. The Coral Restoration Foundation, based in the Florida Keys, has more of an earmarked approach. Here, people can adopt not a coral reef, but an individual coral that was grown in a coral nursery. Once these corals reach a certain size, they’re transplanted to local reefs that have been damaged or are suffering from coral bleaching. You can choose between adopting a coral, a coral nursery tree (where corals are grown), or an entire coral thicket, with prices varying between them. French-based Coral Guardian is even more specific. While they work in much the same way as the Coral Restoration Foundation, they go so far as to let you name the coral you’re adopting, and give you its GPS coordinates, allowing you to visit, should you ever be in the area.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from simply donating to any marine organization, adoption or not. The adoption element helps create a closer connection, however symbolic, with the cause you’re donating to, similar to when wildlife protection groups ask people to adopt a tiger, elephant, or other wild animal in need of help.

Keep a few things in mind whenever you’re considering donating to any organization:

  1. Get to know the organization, its purpose, and their work. Use their website for this, as well as any other material you can get.
  2. Research their work, again using their own website, but preferably other sources.
  3. Ask them any questions you may have.
  4. Research what kind of documentation they supply, publicly or directly to the donors, as to what work is being done with the money donated.
  5. Find out what percentage of your donation goes directly to the cause you wish to support.