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Celebrate Corals Week

December 04, 2023

Corals Week is December 4–8, 2023! Join us in celebrating this diverse group of invertebrate animals and the reef habitats they create.

Corals in clear pristine waters. Shallow water provides habitat for branching corals (Acropora spp), as seen here on a reef flat in Guam. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Jonathan Brown

Coral reefs are the most diverse habitats on the planet and serve as homes for fish, crabs, seahorses, sea turtles, and more. They provide coastal protection for communities and millions of dollars in recreation and tourism. There are both shallow coral reef habitats and deep-sea coral habitats.

Despite their great economic and recreational value, corals are severely threatened by rapidly worsening environmental conditions (such as ocean acidification and rising water temperature).They are also threatened by human activity, such as pollution, oil and chemical spills, ship groundings, and marine debris. Corals are slow growing. When corals are harmed, it can take many decades—even centuries—for them to recover.

The best way to conserve coral reefs and reduce future habitat loss is to know everything we can about them. Explore the features below to learn about the many coral species, coral reef habitats, and the work NOAA Fisheries does to research and protect this diverse group of animals.

Coral Features

Meet Your Pacific Islands Protected Coral Species

Five of the 15 Indo-Pacific corals listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act occur in U.S. waters. Get to know them!

Meet the Pacific Islands protected coral species

Yellow coral that has colonies of thick, finger-like branches that are always closely spaced.
Acropora globiceps at Tinian island, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Under the Endangered Species Act, A. globiceps is listed as threatened in CNMI, American Samoa, Guam, Hawaiʻi, and the Pacific Remote Islands Area. Credit: Doug Fenner

Podcast: Restoring Florida's Iconic Coral Reefs

Mission: Iconic Reefs is an effort to protect and restore seven key reef sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Listen to a podcast about coral reef restoration in Florida

Tan corals fanning out with fish swimming among them
The branches of fast-growing elkhorn coral provide important habitat for fish. Populations of this iconic coral have declined across the Caribbean due to disease, bleaching and storms. Credit: NOAA

Millionth Spiny Superhero Released to Devour Hawaiʻi's Coral-smothering Algae

One million sea urchins have now been deployed through NOAA and the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources’ work restoring corals after the M/V Cape Flattery grounded on an Oʻahu reef.

Sea urchins help to restore struggling corals 

A Hawaiian collector sea urchins cleaning a coral of invasive algae in Kāne‘ohe Bay.

$1 Million Available for Coral Restoration Projects in Honor of Coral Researcher Dr. Ruth D. Gates

As part of our efforts to restore resilient coral ecosystems, NOAA is announcing the availability of funding for coral restoration in 2024.

Find out more about Ruth D. Gates Coral Restoration Innovation Grant funding

Scientists with flash lights overseeing experimental coral spawning  in lab tanks under red light.
University of Hawaii’s Coral Research Lab staff watching the experimental corals in lab tanks spawning under red lights. Credit: University of Hawaii.

New Hope for Puerto Rico’s Coral Reefs

With $10.6 million in new funding through NOAA, our long-time Puerto Rico partner Institute for Socio-Ecological Research is poised to restore coral reefs on a massive scale.

Learn more about this collaboration for coral restoration

Coral reef in Tres Palmas, Puerto Rico (Photo: NOAA)
Coral reef in Tres Palmas, Puerto Rico (Photo: NOAA)

Local Talent and Indigenous Knowledge Key to Restoring Hawaiʻi Coral Reefs

Threats to coral are increasing and the involvement of the local community is imperative. With funding through NOAA’s underserved community grants, Kuleana Coral Restoration graduated their first cohort of local and Native Hawaiian ocean conservationists.

Read more about Kuleana Coral Restoration

COAST participants prepare for one of their first restoration dives. From left to right: Baylee Jackson, Pono Okimoto, Denise Oishi (instructor) Ciara Ratum, and Makaio Villanueva.
COAST participants prepare for one of their first restoration dives. From left to right: Baylee Jackson, Pono Okimoto, Denise Oishi (instructor) Ciara Ratum, and Makaio Villanueva. (Photo: Blake Nowack/Kuleana Coral Reefs)

StoryMap: Explore Mesophotic and Deep Benthic Communities Expeditions in the Gulf of Mexico

Learn about expeditions informing restoration of habitats injured in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Explore the StoryMap

A screenshot of the NOAA mesophotic and deep benthic communities restoration StoryMap

Restoring Coral Reefs

Coral reefs provide coastal protection for communities, habitat for fish, and millions of dollars in recreation and tourism, among other benefits. But corals are also severely threatened by rapidly worsening environmental conditions. Learn how NOAA works to restore these valuable habitats.

Learn about NOAA's coral reef restoration work

A diver attaching corals to the reef bottom

Deep-Sea Pioneers Take Root in the Gulf of Mexico

The first seafloor trials are under way to restore coral communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Learn more about the outplanting efforts

healthy fragment is shown in a small bin of water
Healthy fragments of Swiftia exserta are prepped and ready to be affixed to outplanting rack (Credit: NOAA Fisheries)

West Coast Wraps Up Exciting 4-Year Deep-Sea Coral Initiative

The effort has greatly improved our understanding of deep-sea corals and sponges off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington, particularly within national marine sanctuaries.

Read more about the research initiative 

A snowy white deep-sea coral with branches fanning out from the sea floor. An orange crab is perched atop.
A colony of the deep-sea coral Parastenella supporting a cluster of orange zoanthids and a deep-sea crab, extends from a ledge deep in Quinault Canyon off the coast of Washington State. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, NOAA Sanctuaries

A Growing Facility to Leverage Coral Science

Advancing coral research, spawning efforts, and restoration science in an expanded experimental wet lab facility.

Learn more about the Coral Research and Assessment Lab team and their wet lab facility

the A and B Raceway tanks of the newly expanded coral science facility
Flow-through seawater systems at the newly expanded coral wet lab, which has 3 grow out raceways and an experimental 30-tank system. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/ Allan Bright (Permit: FKNMS-2018-163-A1)

Mesophotic and Deep Benthic Communities Restoration

Vital seafloor habitats were damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. NOAA and partners are building a network of experts and resources to restore this underexplored area in the Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat restoration in the mesophotic zone and deep-sea communities 

A colorful array of corals and crinoids on an underwater bank
Mesophotic corals and crinoids on Bright Bank, near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Marine Applied Research and Exploration, NOAA

How Are Fisheries and Coral Reefs Connected?

Learn how overfishing impacts corals and what you can do to protect these important ecosystems.

More on the connected between fisheries and coral reefs

Fish swim above a coral reef in the Caribbean.
Fish swim above a coral reef in the Caribbean. Credit: Tom Moore

Science Blog: Innovation to Learn About Deep-Sea Coral Communities in the Gulf of Alaska

We are using new technologies and methods to learn more about deep-sea coral communities in the Gulf of Alaska.

View more from this science blog series

Colorful orange and white fish species swimming around a yellow-colored deep-sea coral habitat in Glacier Bay Alaska.
Rockfish swimming around deep-sea coral habitat in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Credit: NOAA Fisheries