Smithsonian's Marine Conservation Program is an interdisciplinary research program to understand changes over space and time in commercially and ecologically important coral reef species.
One of the great challenges in creating protected areas for marine life is our lack of knowledge about where different marine habitats are located. To address this, the Marine Conservation Program uses remote sensing, maps fishing activity and conducts exploratory surveys to find and document uncharted reefs in the western Caribbean. With funding from the Summit Foundation, National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Marine Conservation Program researchers were the first to explore the reefs of eastern Honduras and create high resolution habitat maps in this area. These maps help national and local government and fisher associations identify critical areas that need protection to protect biodiversity and sustain their fisheries.
Since beginning this approach in the Western Caribbean, the Marine Conservation Program has applied similar approaches to document important marine areas on the Pacific Coast of Colombia and now the Tanintharyi region of Myanmar.