If you missed anyone on your holiday gift shopping list, here’s a last-minute idea that’s perfect for those that like to give back. They can help restore coral reefs.
Coral Vita, a mission-driven enterprise in the Bahamas, is offering an “Adopt-a-Coral” program that lets anyone foster a baby coral on their Grand Bahama farm until it’s ready to be planted back in the ocean.
Co-founded by Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern, who met while getting their master’s degrees at the Yale School of the Environment, Coral Vita grew out of their joint admiration for the Earth’s oceans and coral reefs.
Advised by leading coral scientists, including the late Dr. Ruth Gates, the two friends developed Coral Vita through a land-based coral farming model that’s said to enable coral to be grown in months rather than years. Their first farm is operating out of Freeport, Grand Bahama, with the longterm goal of establishing more coral farms in other parts of the world.
According to Teicher, Coral Vita has been offering coral adoption for quite some time. This year, a new model was unveiled that gave adopters more than just a personalized certificate. This format will also provide access to a member porthole for obtaining updates on their adoption.
“There are a number of different features that give adopters insight into what’s going on at Coral Vita, the work that we’re doing in the ocean and at the farm,” said Teicher. “We really see this as not only an opportunity to fund our restoration work, but also as a great education tool, whether people adopt a coral for themselves or as a gift.”
Teicher also thinks of this new offering as a conservation starter, in bringing awareness about the decline of coral reefs due to ocean warming and acidification.
“We see this model as a momentum builder, not just for us at Coral Vita, but for the reefs,” he said. “It’s a useful tool to fund our work and to drive larger change by creating a larger community of stakeholders in caring for reef health.”
Both Teicher and Halpern have their expertise in relation to coral reef restoration. Together, they’ve won Prince William’s inaugural Earthshot Prize in the category of “Revive Our Oceans.”
Teicher launched a United Nations-funded coral nursery, while working at ELI Africa in Mauritius, and was a fellow for the Global Island Partnership, a coalition of island nation governments. He also interned at the White House on a council on climate adaptation policy. Halpern has more of an environmental science and academia background, with past fellowships in green innovation at Yale and the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Marine Programme.
For a number of reasons, Teicher and Halpern decided to launch Coral Vita’s first coral farm in the Bahamas in May 2019. Among them, Teicher cited a significant percentage loss of Caribbean coral reefs since the 1970s. “With that in mind there is also great dependency on coral reefs in this region, for cultural heritage, for protection from storms, for economic prosperity and for fisheries,” he added.
With 2022, Coral Vita’s plans include several restoration sites targeted off of the south shore of Grand Bahama, and the hope of starting to restore reefs further afield on this island as well as throughout the entire Bahamas.
“We are also building out a pipeline for where future farms may be located,” said Teicher. “We’re engaging with governments, local community leaders and private sector stakeholders to figure out how we can scale our work even further and collaborate with other restoration practitioners to really preserve these reefs around the world.”
Prior to the onset of Covid-19, Coral Vita’s farm was damaged by Hurricane Dorian in fall 2019; it reopened the following March after a refocus on humanitarian work. The incoming new year is also seen as a fresh start.
“We are really excited for 2022 in particular because we’re really going to be able to start doing restoration here in the Bahamas in the way we set out to do for years,” said Teicher.
For more information on Coral Vita and their adoption program, visit their website.