OneReef is working to scale up coral reef protection across Micronesia, while providing long-term sustainable livelihoods to Pacific Islanders.

Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet; they are also one of the most endangered. Nearly two thirds are threatened by local pressures, such as overfishing, and even more are at risk when coral bleaching and ocean acidification – both caused by climate change – are factored in. This affects countless associated species, as well as nearly 300 million people with reef-dependent livelihoods.

OneReef – founded in 2007 by Chris LaFranchi, a former aid economist – works to address this through an innovative partnership model. By connecting Pacific Island communities who own, and are willing to protect, their reefs (but lack the funds and technical know-how to do so) with overseas ‘investors’ keen to save a global public good, it is putting in place the conditions for long-term conservation.

This is achieved through marine conservation agreements (MCAs), which reward good performance, leverage multiple financing sources, and verifies outcomes. OneReef negotiates MCAs lasting 20 years, with commitments from both parties. The benefits for communities include increased fish catches, jobs, training in new skills, and adaptation to climate change.

OneReef has successfully set up two MCAs in Palau and Federated States of Micronesia, covering 90,000 hectares (almost half of which is fully protected). Synchronicity Earth provided funding to build an independent team to expand this model across the region. OneReef hopes to eventually create a portfolio of over 30 such agreements across Micronesia, covering 1.5 million hectares of coral reef. This would expand the area of reefs globally that are protected by over a fifth.

At A Glance