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Project Abroad answers call to curb effects of coral bleaching

Marine Conservation Volunteer Projects to help protect threatened coral reefs

Projects Abroad volunteers collect samples on their Diving & Marine Conservation Project in Thailand

TORONTO – June 14, 2017Projects Abroad is responding to a worldwide series of coral bleaching events through its own Diving & Marine Conservation volunteering programs. Volunteers can join Projects Abroad in Belize, Cambodia or Thailand, to contribute to efforts to alleviate the effects of coral bleaching and maintain coral reef health.

2017 has seen the continuation of mass coral bleaching incidents that started to intensify around the world last year. The world's largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, has experienced two back-to-back bleaching events in the past two summers, leading some scientists to declare a third of the reef dead."Historically there have been very few bleaching events recorded, up until the last 20 years," says Roger Bruget, Project Manager for Project Abroad's Conservation Project in Cambodia. "They are now happening more frequently and with greater force for each event."

Coral bleaching occurs when algae living on coral reefs dies due to rises in seawater temperature, leaving coral exposed and extremely vulnerable to disease and subsequent death. Through its marine conservation volunteer programs, Projects Abroad volunteers do vital work to address these issues and help keep coral reefs healthy. After completing a PADI diver certification course, volunteers conduct regular survey dives to monitor reef conditions, including observation of the rich biodiversity around the reef, keeping a close watch for invasive species. Volunteers also conduct reef cleanups, where they remove discarded fishing nets and trash that smother reefs. Since December 2014, volunteers have removed nearly three tons of waste from coral reefs in Cambodia. Beach cleanups are other important activities volunteers take part in to prevent harmful waste being washed to see to pollute corals.

Raising awareness around marine conservation is a major point in the goals set out by each Diving & Marine Conservation program. Volunteers run campaigns to inform local community members about marine pollution, offer advise on how to recycle, responsibly discard their waste, and what the fishery regulations are. Local community members also join on beach cleanups, which has seen several tons of waste removed from beaches across all three destinations. Bruget believes that coral reefs need all the help they can get, as global warming and climate change intensify each year. "We must make sure that we have as healthy and as many corals around as possible, so for the next bleaching event there is a bigger chance that more corals will survive." Project Abroad acknowledges that the time to act to take action for the environment and help protect the oceans' coral reefs is now. Through its marine conservation programs, ordinary citizens can be active participants in the solution to saving the oceans' forests.

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