Interview with Richard Vevers, CEO and Founder of The Ocean Agency and star of Netflix Original Documentary Chasing Coral

This World Wildlife Day, the Wild for Life campaign is excited to partner with The Ocean Agency, an organization that utilizes the power of creative collaboration to accelerate ocean conservation and climate action. To foster change, the Ocean Agency raises awareness of the ocean’s most pressing issue and inspires optimism by creating innovative solutions to these issues. 

In partnership with the UN Environment Programme, the Ocean Agency has launched Glowing Glowing Gone, a creative awareness campaign that draws attention to coral fluorescence due to climate change. Coral fluorescence, or “glowing” coral, is a last line of defense before coral dies and bleaches. The Ocean Agency worked with Pantone and Adobe to turn the warning colours of glowing coral into three official Pantone colours, to inspire action that everyone can use. Through Glowing Glowing Gone, The Ocean Agency hopes to garner public support to inspire policy and funding needed to conserve coral reefs and save an entire planetary ecosystem that depends on them.

Richard Vevers, CEO of The Ocean Agency, shares his insights on why we should care about coral reefs.

Why are coral reefs important for marine life and the environment?

Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life - an estimated 1-9 million species. They are like ‘underwater cities’. These cities dwarf those built by humans and are critically important in the life cycle of so many species – from the smallest to the largest – acting as nurseries, sources of food, cleaning stations, and breeding grounds. 

What benefits do coral reefs provide for humans?

Coral reefs provide half a billion people with food security and livelihoods. They are essential to sustaining healthy fisheries, which is the no. 1 protein source for 3 billion people worldwide. Additionally, thanks to coral reefs, fisheries and tourism generate hundreds of billions of dollars per year for the global economy. They also protect coastlines from increasing damage by buffering shorelines against waves, storms, and floods, which helps to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion. 

What is the biggest misconception about coral reefs?

People often think of coral reefs as just pretty places to admire whilst on holiday, rather than critically important ecosystems. In fact, coral reefs support more life per hectare than virtually anywhere on the planet. 

What are the biggest threats to coral reefs today?

Overfishing, coastal development, and pollution are all major threats to coral reefs. However, the largest threat to reefs is now climate change. The ocean has absorbed over 93% of the heat generated by climate change. This puts coral reefs directly in danger, as they are the ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change. 

What are the consequences of a world without coral reefs?

If reefs disappeared, thousands of the world’s fish species would be left without nurseries, breeding grounds, food sources, protection from predators, and more. In turn, coastal communities would be left without the main food and income source they need to survive. In addition, tourism – the major source of income for these communities – would plummet. We simply cannot afford to lose coral reefs. Aside from impacting billions of people who depend on them, the loss of coral reefs would mark a dangerous moment in our history: the moment we start losing not just single species, but entire global ecosystems on which we all depend. 

What is being done to conserve coral reefs? What can we do to help protect them?

Many scientists and organizations around the world are working to conserve coral reefs using several methods. Marine protected areas and conservation areas are being created to limit local threats to reefs such as fishing and pollution. This is especially critical in areas which are naturally less vulnerable to climate change. Restoration projects are underway around the world to help reefs recover and improve their ability to reseed surrounding reefs. 

Helping to raise awareness of the coral reef crisis and the need for action is one of the best ways that individuals can help protect reefs. Due to a lack of awareness, coral reef conservation is rarely considered a priority issue, so public support for action can make a huge difference. 

Finally, if you were an animal living in a coral reef, what species would you be?

I’d be a mantis shrimp. They are incredible, brightly-coloured creatures with the most sophisticated eyesight in the animal kingdom. They also pack a punch that is so fast it explodes their victims – it is the speed of a .22 calibre bullet and causes the surrounding water to vapourize. People sometimes try to catch them and put them in glass aquarium tanks...that rarely ends well!