In November 2005, Reef Check Founder Dr. Gregor Hodgson proposed that we hold a second International Year of the Reef (IYOR) to galvanize action for reef conservation on a global scale.
IYOR 2008 was launched at the ICRI general meeting in Washington on January 23rd 2008 and was followed by three events hosted by the US and Mexican governments at the Smithsonian, the World Bank and the Mexican Cultural Center.
Reef Check used the opportunity to announce its International Declaration of Reef Rights that includes a pledge to take action to protect coral reefs. “Our biggest challenge in solving the coral reef crisis is ignorance among the general public about how important coral reefs are to our daily lives,” said Dr. Hodgson. “We hope that everyone will ask their friends and neighbors to sign this important declaration.” The Declaration has already been signed by the Presidents of four threatened island countries (Palau, Seychelles, FSM and Marshall Islands). Celebrity environmentalist Daryl Hannah and world renowned oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle signed the Declaration underwater in California. To sign the petition go to http://www.reefcheck.org/petition/petition.php
Many prominent speakers spoke passionately about the need for more action on reefs. “The International Year of the Reef is a year-long, worldwide campaign to highlight the importance of coral reef ecosystems, and to motivate people to protect them,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. The White House was represented by James Connaughton from the Council on Environmental Quality and co-host Mexico by Juan Elvira, Minister of Environment (SEMARNAT).
The launch was also an opportunity for the release of the “Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs After Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005” report by Dr. Clive Wilkinson, Director of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. The report includes a section on Reef Check results from the 2005/6 bleaching event.
At the final IYOR Symposium at the Mexican Embassy, Reef Check partner Body Glove organized a group of schoolchildren from the Chesapeake Bay Middle School to sing the “Year of the Reef Song” to the delight of the international guests including host Mexican Ambassador Arturo S. Casamitjana.
Reef Check is encouraging everyone to download the song and provide it to their local schools so that children can learn the song in their local language and musical styles. Videos of the song sung throughout the world will be posted on the Reef Check website video gallery and a special prize will be given to the best version of the song in a unique cultural style.