Growing coral helps save endangered reefs

It was in 2015, when he was 16, waiting for the waves at the surf break on Mo’orea in French Polynesia, that Titouan Bernicot first saw corals that had turned white. Then, he discovered that meant they were dying – and realized that with them, the reefs on which his home island depended were at risk, too.

Coral reefs support the livelihoods of more than 500 million people, provide habitat to about 25% of all marine life, act as breakwaters to protect coastlines against big waves, and are the ocean’s lungs. “The coral reefs have given me everything in life, from the waves we surf to the fish we eat,” Bernicot says.

Three weeks after seeing the dead coral, he says in his story told as one of Harper’s Bazaar’s 2023 Voices of Now, he was introduced to coral gardening and ecosystem restoration and fell in love with choosing his favourite coral, fragmenting it, and seeing it grow until he replanted it. It is a process that rebuilds the reef, piece by piece.

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