Mars, Incorporated successfully led one of the most significant single restoration events in history, 'The Big Build', planting 30,000 corals across 2,500 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 demonstrate 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 accelerate the possible and needed change. Through this program, participants can implement the MARRS technique to build new coral reefs across the Indonesian Archipelago to benefit their communities.
Frank Mars, Board Member and Former Board Chair of Mars Incorporated, said that 14 years ago, he asked a small team of Mars associates if rebuilding a coral reef ecosystem would be possible.
"I'm 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's 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," said Mars.
Mars continued progress would take a lot of work, adding that the success of SHEBA Hope Reef demonstrated that Mars Incorporated could change the course of coral reefs if the world collectively changed how they lived, worked, and played together.
For nearly two decades, Mars Sustainable Solutions (MSS) has been committed to coral reef restoration and is now leading one of the most extensive programs in the world today, with a mission to reverse long-term coral reef degradation. In 2006, MSS launched the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Program, 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 program extends its reach to over 30 reefs across ten countries and five continents. And Mars and its global partners have successfully installed more than 60,000 Reef Stars, hexagonal sand-coated steel structures with attached coral fragments placed across barren coral rubble fields, planting 900,000 coral fragments.
Professor David Smith, Chief Marine Scientist at Mars, said that through 'The Big Build,' Mars Incorporated would 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 globally, to deliver large-scale restoration at the scale needed to preserve these invaluable ecosystems and thereby secure a brighter future for our oceans," said Smith.
Farhan, a Member of the Local Bontosuan Community Restoration Team, said they were so proud to be part of The Big Build because there were 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.
Bontosua is 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 incredibly significant to the 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 two percent to 70 percent), fish population (260 percent), and fish species (64 percent). The ongoing restoration efforts span the world's oceans, including recently expanded commitments in Hawai'i. 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.