A year to remember: 40th anniversary highlights

40 is a number of spiritual importance throughout the Bible, associated with periods of testing, preparation, transition and renewal. As A Rocha’s 40th anniversary year comes to a close, we cannot help but reflect on the significance of this milestone and appreciate the foundation on which we now firmly find ourselves. Thank you to all of those that have faithfully walked with us this last year. Perhaps you are new to A Rocha, or perhaps you have been with us since the beginning. In either case, you have a place at the table and we’re grateful you’re here.

From home gatherings with new supporters in Singapore and Texas to anniversary parties with old friends at Cruzinha – it has been a whirlwind of a year, in the best possible way! In case you missed it, we wanted to share some of the highlights of our 40th year and ways you can still join us in this joyous and commemorative time. See some of the highlights from our 40th anniversary below:

  • Virtual 40th Anniversary Celebration – watch edited highlights of this special event.
  • Podcast interview, ‘Milestones, Miracles, and Migration’ with cofounder Peter is available here or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
  • Special 40th Anniversary edition of our Field notes. Get your digital copy.
  • A Rocha International appointed a new Executive Director, Ed Walker. Meet Ed.
  • We celebrated 250,000 birds ringed this year and ten years of the Marine Conservation Programme!
  • Jo Swinney and Miranda Harris’ book, A Place at the Table, won the prestigious international Nautilus Book Award.
  • We released five new videos and discussion guides in A Rocha’s Elements of Hope video series. Watch or download the videos and guides on our Vimeo channel.

Last, but not least – our ‘40 for the Future’ anniversary campaign continues through to the end of the year, with a special match gift opportunity to double your impact with the Big Give Christmas Challenge! Donate between 28 November and 5 December to double your impact. Learn more here. Thank you for helping us make this a year to remember.

AR Canada - Dead_salmon_fry_Laura_Tsai-2-e1695674974116

In support of salmon

The Tatalu (Little Campbell) River – which runs through A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale Environmental Centre in BC – is home to five species of Pacific Salmon, including the Chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and Coho Salmon Oncorhynchus kisutch. Boundary Bay Chinook Salmon, which include the Chinook that spawn in the Tatalu, are classified as threatened.

Chinook Salmon populations have declined in recent decades for a variety of reasons, including their susceptibility to drought and extreme warm temperatures. Coho Salmon also have their issues, witnessed in the Tatalu River. Every summer the river stops flowing in its middle reaches, becoming a string of isolated pools which gradually dry out entirely. This dry reach persists for around four months out of the year, even while the river is flowing both up and down-stream of it. It has profound implications for the surrounding wildlife, including thousands of Coho Salmon fry stranded in the pools. In autumn, the dry reach is an impassable barrier to spawning salmon, cutting them off from the upper half of the river. They must wait until the river reconnects, which can happen as late as November.

Since 2018, Brooksdale’s conservation science team has been walking the riverbed annually to record the timing and extent of the dry reach, and has been part of salmon fry rescue operations. They are also restoring important streamside vegetation that helps shade the river and keep it cool for the juvenile salmon. The vegetation also prevents erosion, which helps the river stay clear of fine sediment, which degrades spawning habitat.

And it’s making a difference! The team’s data and experience are helping raise awareness among community members and local governments to encourage protection of the river and remaining wetlands. Read more directly from the conservation science team.

Coral reef by Bob Sluka

Researching climate resilience in coral reefs

Watamu Marine National Park (WMNP) is one of the oldest no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the world, established in 1968. Since then, the park has been protected against human threats like fishing and unsustainable coastal development. However, the coral reefs in the park still face the threat of increasing thermal stress and coral bleaching.

Our Marine team, led by Peter Musila and joined by Dr Benjamin Cowburn, who helped initiate the Marine programme at A Rocha Kenya, diligently took up the regular coral monitoring activity during October. Every six months since 2020, the team revisits over 600 tagged corals in 70 permanent plots to see how the corals are growing and assess if there are bleaching resistant colonies and if baby corals (recruits) have settled in the plots. Our Marine team is concerned about coral bleaching with the predicted El-Nino marine heatwave, due to arrive in April next year. Plot monitoring will increase to monthly through the warm water season, to closely monitor any bleaching and mortality that occurs. The corals experienced bleaching in 2020 but many survived. If we can identify colonies that are resistant again in 2024, these will make good candidates for coral gardening and reef restoration, currently being planned and approved by Kenya Wildlife Service.

Why protect the corals? Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate there may be millions of undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs. This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. We also believe that coral reefs have value independent of any use to humans and should be protected regardless, as creatures loved by God.

Monitoring efforts in 2024 will require extra funding and volunteers to help. You can support this work by giving a coral care package to help monitor reefs in Watamu Marine National Park through Gifts with a Difference. Or come and volunteer with the coral survey! If you have any unwanted snorkel or scuba kit, we would be happy to put it to good use – email [email protected] to arrange transfer of kit to Kenya.

This picture taken three years ago of a coral in a devastating stage is now considered to be in good condition.

There is indeed great hope for the corals to survive. Let’s join hands and protect our corals.