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The International Year of the Reef (IYOR) 2008 is a yearlong celebration intended to increase global awareness of coral reefs and associated ecosystems, and to persuade people worldwide to take simple actions that benefit coral reefs. During IYOR 2008, government agencies, environmental groups, universities, and businesses are requested to come together to host and support activities that promote coral reef conservation.      


Coral reefs and their associated seagrass beds and mangrove habitats support the highest marine biodiversity in the world. More than 500 million people worldwide depend on them for food, storm protection, jobs, and recreation. Their resources and services are worth an estimated 375 billion dollars each year, yet they cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface.

Unfortunately, many of the world’s coral reefs have been degraded, mainly due to human activities. According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2004, 20% of the world’s coral reefs are destroyed beyond repair. The threats may continue to build up as global temperature rises. The Status of the Caribbean Coral Reefs After Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005 reports that the hottest year in the Northern Hemisphere from records since 1880 was 2005. Coincidentally, the most severe coral bleaching and mortality event in the Caribbean was that same year.

THE FIRST IYOR in 1997 was organized by the International Coral Reef Initiative, a partnership among governments and non-government organizations, with the purpose of raising awareness of the state of coral reefs worldwide, and to encourage their conservation. IYOR 1997 stimulated national and international actions that helped lead to establishment of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force in 1998, and the passage of the Coral Reef Conservation Act in 2000. Successes included creating stronger links between researchers and conservation groups, reef clean-ups, creation of coral reef guides, educational videos, teacher workshops, and photo competitions. Reef Check carried out the first global coral reef survey and held a news conference to announce the discovery of the global coral reef crisis.

THE SECOND IYOR IN 2008 is intended to go beyond simply increasing public awareness into stimulating action to protect coral reefs. IYOR 2008 is an opportunity for anyone interested to join in this effort, even those people who live far from coral reefs. Some examples on how to reach the public are museum exhibits, magazine articles, television documentaries, aquarium and zoo activities, film festivals, teacher workshops, school activities, and contests (writing, photography, art, etc.). Any effort, from the small classroom talk about coral reefs to the symposium can make a difference.


Reef Check’s founder and Executive Director, Dr. Gregor Hodgson, participated in the organizing committee for IYOR 1997. Reef Check is a member of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and in November 2005 at the ICRI meeting in Palau, Dr. Hodgson proposed that ICRI host another IYOR. ICRI approved this plan for 2008, and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force endorsed the plan.

We would like to invite everyone to participate in International Year of the Reef. If you would like to know more or to post your events/news on our calendar please contact Mary Luna or at +1-310-230-2371.

The International Declaration of Reef Rights

A major Reef Check activity for IYOR 2008 is the International Declaration of Reef Rights. Four Presidents of coral reef countries have signed and pledged to carry out nine actions to help reefs. Please sign the Declaration and tell others, so at the end of 2008 we can present it to the United Nations and all governments to show the worldwide support for reefs. You can review the petition in fourteen languages and add your comments at:

BRINGING THE LIGHT - TROY HOTARD2008 - 38" x 28" - Oil on canvas
Donated to the Reef Check Foundation by gifted artist TROY HOTARD to be used in our 2008 International Year of the Reef campaign.

The image was designed with symbolism and meaning. The large spherical appearance of the coral reef represents the global aspect of the reef issues. The divers are depicted swimming counter-clockwise to represent the idea that we are trying to “turn back the hands of time” for the reefs; trying to preserve the reefs that we have left and improve the condition of reefs everywhere. The fish swim in the other direction representing the idea that the sea creatures cannot make choices.  They must go with the flow of time and survive with whatever the future brings.

The lights carried by the divers represent the attempt to bring awareness and education (light) to the issues facing today’s reefs. Finally, the warm sunlight filtering through the water from above represents our ultimate hopes, reef conservation and preservation for future generations.


As Reef Check’s first activity leading up to IYOR, we present “The Year of the Reef” song. Please feel free to download this song and use it to help educate and inspire people everywhere about the value of coral reefs and the need to work together to save them. The song has been donated to Reef Check by our Board Member, Russ Lesser and his band Thin Ice.

Download the Song

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