Skip to main content

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative Unveils New Research Validating the 50 Reefs’ Approach to Conserving Coral From Climate Threats

Innovative 50 Reefs approach has helped at least 26 organizations and 8 funders prioritize 60 coral reef ecosystems across over 40 countries, offers future recommendations for funding

Read the full report here

New York, NY – Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative (VOI) released a report today assessing the impact of conservation efforts and investments inspired by the 50 Reefs study released in 2018. The new Report finds the 50 Reefs-inspired approach – which prioritizes conservation of a global portfolio of coral reefs that, absent other threats, have the greatest potential to survive climate change and repopulate surrounding reefs – has helped at least 26 organizations and eight funders prioritize 60 coral reef ecosystems across over 40 countries. Written by Blue Earth Consultants and based in part on interviews with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Rare, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and other VOI partners, the report finds that 50 Reefs provides a strong, science-based approach that can continue to guide future investments in coral reefs and conservation efforts that have the strongest potential to succeed in protecting priority reef ecosystems.

It also shows that there has been increased investment in conservation across each of the 50 Reefs geographies, and that even more investment will be beneficial in the face of increasing threats. Those interviewed for the assessment, including funders and non-governmental organizations supporting conservation in the 50 Reefs network, reported that the benefits of the 50 Reefs approach go beyond ecological outcomes and include crucial social, economic, health, and nutrition benefits for communities.

“Coral reefs are critically important—they are the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth—and they face profound threats from both local pressures and global climate change,” said Melissa Wright, who leads the Vibrant Oceans Initiative at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “This encouraging report shows how a portfolio-based approach can safeguard coral reefs. It also validates the role of funders in pioneering new tactics for addressing our most pressing ocean conservation issues.”

Since the 50 Reefs study was published in 2018, NGOs, national and local governments, and academic partners have used it to prioritize coral conservation investments and on-the-ground activities in the identified regions.

“The landmark 50 Reefs study has influenced the way the coral reef community is approaching conservation and restoration of these highly diverse, valuable and vulnerable ecosystems,” said Chuck Cooper, chair of the Global Fund for Coral Reefs. “Our novel public-private blended finance mechanism is using 50 Reefs to select priority sites for investment.”

Conservation efforts inspired by 50 Reefs address five key threats to coral: fishing impacts, non-point source pollution, wastewater pollution, coastal development, and climatic stress. If the 50 Reefs ecosystems can be protected from these threats, they have the greatest chance of surviving climate change. Threats to coral reefs are only increasing, so a strong science-based prioritization approach to guide investments remains a critical need; and as more data becomes available there are opportunities to adjust the model to favor additional conservation priorities like biodiversity.

To facilitate future funding and address rising threats, the landscape assessment identifies strategies for long-term reef conservation, including bolstering assessments of invasive species and disease, improving reef monitoring, increasing diversified funding sources, promoting knowledge sharing across diverse geographies, and strengthening management capacities.

“When our novel 50 Reefs approach was unveiled, it was unclear as to how it might motivate broader conservation science and action,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, world-renowned biologist and climate scientist at the University of Queensland. “The results published today, however, reveal broad-sweeping actions across the 50 Reef network as well as the beginnings of a strategic roadmap for further meaningful action on solving the coral reef crisis. For this, there are many reasons to be hopeful.”

The promising results come at a time when coral reefs face a dire outlook. Even with drastic emission reductions to ensure we keep warming within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 70-90% of the today’s corals are anticipated to vanish by mid-century. The 50 Reefs- portfolio engages with approximately 20% of all coral reefs, and at least 30% of the coral species on the planet and some 120 million people stand to benefit from this increased reef protection.

However, the successes of organizations working in 50 Reefs geographies have often been hard-earned and paired with substantial challenges—including natural disasters, the global COVID-19 pandemic, competition for ever-scarcer funding to support long-term conservation, and difficulties sharing information across organizations. The strategies identified in the report will help to overcome these challenges and outline a path to ensure reef ecosystems can survive in a rapidly changing world.


Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative:
As climate change increasingly threatens key ocean ecosystems, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative is working around the world to advance evidence-based conservation practices and implement data-driven policies to protect our oceans and the 3 billion people that depend on them. Launched in 2014, Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative currently operates with partners Rare, Oceana, Global Fishing Watch, and the Wildlife Conservation Society in 10 countries that are top fishing nations – Australia, the Bahamas, Chile, Fiji, French Polynesia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania, Peru, and the United States – to win science-based policies, protect priority coral reefs least vulnerable to climate change, and increase transparency through the adoption of national fishing data platforms.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 810 cities and 170 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.6 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTube, and Twitter.


Media Contact:
Daphne Wang – Bloomberg Philanthropies, +1 646-771-1473,