These days, we could all use a little more hope—and in the case of the world’s coral reef population, the species is in dire need of it.
While coral reefs are integral parts of the Earth’s ecosystem—often serving as habitats for underwater ocean species, protecting shorelines from the effects of hurricanes, and even supporting the very livelihood of nearly 500 million people through fishing stocks and tourism opportunities—they’re also facing the destructive consequences of climate change head-on.
According to data from Secore International, over 50% of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years, and an estimated 90% may die within the next century.
But the famed cat food brand, SHEBA, is joining in on the fight to preserve and restore the coral reef population through the launch of Hope Reef—the largest-ever coral reef restoration program, which aims to ensure the future is full of both “coral reefs and fish.” The company also recruited actress, environmentalist activist, and proud cat owner Kate Walsh (of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice fame) to serve as a spokesperson for the initiative.
“I have always been a longtime ocean advocate and conservationist and cat lover—and so I was like, ‘Wait a second—we can marry two of my favorite things and work together?’ It was a no-brainer for me when I was approached about the project,” says Walsh. “SHEBA, as a brand, has a real love for the ocean—the beauty of it, the sustainability of it—and they’re taking what’s happening with our planet seriously. The fact that scientists say that 90% of coral reefs will be obliterated by 2043 if we don’t do something about it is scary, and people might think it’s just hopeless—but it actually is possible [to save them], and they [SHEBA] are doing it.”
While Hope Reef was only recently announced, the restoration efforts actually began nearly two years ago. Through the use of “Reef Star” technology—90cm-wide, star-shaped, steel structures handmade by community members in Indonesia—each of the stars are joined to create a sturdy web which drapes over the seabed and provides a stable base for coral fragments to grow.
Since then, coral cover has reportedly increased from 5% to 55% in the area, and the abundance of underwater species has also increased, with everything from fish, sharks, and turtles becoming integral creatures in the underwater habitat.
The reef can even be seen on Google Earth, and has purposely been regrown to spell the word HOPE. Thanks to the SHEBA Hope Reef story, The Film That Grows Coral, which can be viewed on YouTube, anyone from anywhere in the world can admire the beauty of this project too.
“If you can, go on to the SHEBA YouTube channel, and watch the videos—they’re so cool and they showcase the process of how the reef technology works. Plus, anytime you watch, a donation is made to the NGO partner of the Nature Conservancy.”
According to Walsh, this is also the first time ever that 100% of the funds from a YouTube channel have been monetized for sustainability efforts.
SHEBA’s goals with coral reef restoration are long-term and expand far beyond that of Hope Reef. By the end of 2029, the brand hopes to restore more than 185,000 square meters of coral reef at sites around the world. And since 2008, SHEBA’s parent company, Mars, Incorporated, has invested more than $10 million in research, community engagement, and restoration as part of its coral reef program.
Plus, as part of the new Hope Reef program, Sheba is making it easier than ever for sea-supporters to celebrate—even from their very own homes. The brand-new Hope Reef World Oceans Day app, which is now available in honor of World Oceans Day, turns your immediate surroundings into a virtual coral reef via augmented reality (AR), so you feel like you’re swimming among the fish!
For more information on Hope Reef, and the environmental efforts of Kate Walsh and Sheba, visit www.shebahopegrows.com.