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‘The Big Build’ – Mars leads one of the largest coral restoration events in history

Mars, Incorporated has successfully led one of the largest single restoration events in history, ‘The Big Build’, planting 30,000 corals across 2500 square meters, working towards the Mars Sustainable Solutions goal of restoring one million corals worldwide by the end of 2023. In response to the world’s urgent ocean crisis, the Mars initiative brought together 44 participants from 17 conservation and science partners across government, NGO, business sectors, and local communities to demonstrates the importance of cross-sector partnerships to achieve large scale coral restoration.

The Big Build included a key initiative to train national partners in the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (MARRS), which has proven success restoring damaged reefs at a greater speed, larger scale and lower cost compared to other approaches since 2011, where experienced teams of four divers can install 500 reef stars in just two days. The MARRS trained teams provided advanced training to participants to enhance the global capacity to deliver coral restoration at scale and to accelerate the pace of change that is possible – and needed. Through this programme, participants are now equipped to implement the MARRS technique to build new coral reefs across the Indonesian Archipelago to the benefit of their communities.

Frank Mars, board member and former board chair of Mars, said: ‘Fourteen years ago, I asked a small team of Mars associates a simple question if it would be possible to rebuild a coral reef ecosystem. And today, I am proud to say that the answer is yes, both technically and scientifically. As we build on two decades of dedication to coral restoration through Mars Sustainable Solutions, it is thrilling to witness the cross-sector, community centred collaboration shown in The Big Build, demonstrating that it is possible to deliver resilient coral restoration at a large scale. The world we want tomorrow is not going to materialise on its own. The success of SHEBA Hope Reef demonstrates that we can change the course of coral reefs if we collectively change how we live, work, and play together today.’

For nearly two decades, Mars Sustainable Solutions (MSS) has been committed to coral reef restoration and is now leading one of the largest programmes in the world today, with a mission to reverse long term coral reef degradation. In 2006, MSS launched the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Programme, focusing on the biodiversity of the Spermonde Archipelago off the coast of Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia – at the centre of the most diverse and biologically complex marine ecosystem on the planet in The Coral Triangle.

Today, the programme extends its reach to more than 30 reefs across 10 countries and five continents. And, Mars, along with its global partners, has successfully installed more than 60,000 Reef Stars – hexagonal sand coated steel structures with attached coral fragments place across barren coral rubble fields – planting 900,000 coral fragments.

Professor David Smith, chief marine scientist at Mars, said: ‘Through The Big Build, we will harness the power of cross-sector partnerships to restore critically endangered coral reefs at the centre of marine biodiversity within Indonesia. Our collaborative efforts will spread a message of hope and optimism to the global community. We aim to reveal the need for building trusted partnerships – locally and across the globe – to deliver large scale restoration at the scale that is needed to preserve these invaluable ecosystems and thereby secure a brighter future for our oceans.’

Farhan, member of the local Bontosuan community restoration team, said: ‘I am so proud to be part of The Big Build because there are so many people and partners from outside Bontosua, from across Makassar and Indonesia, that come to the Island and help the local Bontosuan community with coral restoration. We are now one of the only Islands in the Pangkep region which has received this level of Indonesia wide recognition and engagement. The Big Build and coral reef restoration is so important to our island as healthy coral reefs provide critical coastal protection and support the livelihoods and food supply for the island.’

The Big Build, part of the SHEBA Hope Reef initiative (now SHEBA Hope Grows), involves over 500 individuals actively restoring coral reefs, with a target to restore over 185,000 square meters (roughly the size of 148 Olympic Swimming Pools) by 2029.

SHEBA's coral reef restoration efforts, highlighted by the establishment of Hope Reef in Indonesia in 2021, have shown promising impacts with significant increases in coral growth (from 2% to 70%), fish population (260%), and fish species (64%). The ongoing restoration efforts span the world's oceans, including recent expanded commitments in Hawai`i, where Kuleana Coral Reefs, supported by the SHEBA brand, now operates across 30 sites on O‘ahu and Maui, reaffirming their dedication to marine ecosystem preservation.

Picture and video credit: Mars/Ocean Culture Life.


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