Our Program Goal: Secure a healthy and resilient Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem to provide for present and future generations.

Restoring and protecting the Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem is essential for the health and well-being of the region’s coastal communities and economies, and for safeguarding a globally important center of biodiversity.

The Mesoamerican Reef stretches over more than 600 miles, from the northeastern tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, along the coast of Belize, the eastern coast of Guatemala, and the northern coast of Honduras, and includes the longest barrier reef system in the Western Hemisphere. We target our grantmaking on addressable threats to the reef and associated species, including nutrient pollution and unsustainable fishing and coastal development. Even with the effects of climate change, we believe a healthy and resilient ecosystem is possible and essential to increase and safeguard its ability to provide food, livelihoods, coastal protection, and much needed revenues to coastal communities and national economies.


Expanding and Strengthening Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas, especially those fully protected from all forms of fishing and other extractive activities, are essential for restoring and protecting the ecosystem and the many services it provides to people. Summit grantees focus on ensuring protected areas are well managed and increasing fully protected areas from less than 2% of the ecoregion to the 20-30% recommended by leading scientists.


Making Fisheries Sustainable

Fisheries provide nutrition, livelihoods, and revenue. But fisheries in the Mesoamerican Reef are at risk, with many important species declining due to unsustainable fishing. This threatens more than $200 million in annual revenue, tens of thousands of jobs, and the health of the ecosystem. Our grantees pursue science-based solutions to ensure fisheries recovery and sustainable livelihoods for present and future generations of fishers.


Addressing Nutrient Pollution

Nitrogen and phosphorus are important nutrients in many ecosystems but increasingly are present at excessive levels in marine environments. This is especially harmful to coral reefs, where they promote overgrowth and smothering of corals by harmful algae. We support work to address the two main sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution: inadequately treated sewage and run-off of fertilizers from agricultural operations.


Protecting and Restoring Corals, Mangroves, and Seagrasses

Corals, mangroves, and seagrasses are essential components of reef ecosystems. They play critical roles in supporting fisheries and tourism, help protect coastal communities and infrastructure from hurricane impacts, and provide habitat for birds, fish, and many other species. Summit grantees focus on protecting existing areas from damaging activities, like unsustainable coastal development, and restoring degraded sites.


Ensuring Science, Talent, and Funding

We are guided by science on ecosystem health and the effectiveness of conservation and management measures. Restoring and protecting the Mesoamerican Reef also relies on dedicated, talented people advancing high-impact solutions that work for the ecosystem and the people who depend on it, and resources to support their efforts. We fund initiatives providing actionable science, leadership development, and traditional and innovative conservation financing.

Photo © Roatan Marine Park

Photo © Ricardo Pérez/COBI

Photo © Antonio Busiello/CORAL

Photo © Antonio Busiello/CORAL

Photo © Antonio Busiello/CORAL

Our Program Approach

The health of the Mesoamerican Reef is declining. Sustainable management and restoration can and must reverse this trend. We focus our grantmaking on urgent and important threats to this ecosystem, supporting traditional and innovative approaches and seeking high-impact solutions that work for nature and people.


The Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem faces a broad range of escalating threats, including climate change, many different types of pollution, and an array of unsustainable human activities both on land and in the sea. We seek to focus our grantmaking on threats that are important and for which we see a viable path to meaningful results. We also are searching for ways to accelerate progress; the declining health of the ecosystem means that more must be done. We see enormous opportunities for restoring and protecting this vital ecosystem, through sensible, science-based interventions that will also promote lasting economic opportunities for the countries and people in the region. In the Mesoamerican Reef as elsewhere, we do not believe human well-being and prosperity are possible without the support of healthy, viable, and resilient ecosystems. We are focused on the Mesoamerican Reef because of its importance, the challenges, and the opportunities we see there.


We have grantees working in each of the four Mesoamerican Reef countries (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras) and at the region-wide level. Some projects are focused on a particular site, such as a protected area, but most have a broader geographic scope. While we recognize the reef both influences and is influenced by other ecoregions and the broader global environment, we seek to focus our available resources within the Mesoamerican Reef ecoregion itself.


We fund international organizations active in the Mesoamerican Reef ecoregion and those based in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. We support groups working alongside government and those publicly demanding that government do more, faster to halt damaging activities and restore the health of the ecosystem. Most of our funding is granted to groups recognized as charities by the US government or with equivalent status, to enable us to provide more flexible funding, but we also selectively support smaller, locally registered organizations with critical roles in achieving a resilient Mesoamerican Reef. We recognize the vital role of government in restoring and protecting the ecosystem but do not fund government work directly.


Our grantees tackle threats to the Mesoamerican Reef stemming from human activities on land and in the sea. Projects on land include collaborating with farmers to reduce run-off of fertilizers harmful to the reef, improving the effectiveness of sewage treatment, and fighting illegal and unsustainable coastal development. In the ocean, work of Summit grantees includes helping manage marine protected areas, developing and advancing science-based recommendations for expanding fully protected marine areas and improving fisheries sustainability, and conducting coral restoration in key sites. Grantees working at the region-wide level provide essential scientific data on the health of the ecosystem and the efficacy of management, support individuals and organizations leading change on the ground, and seek and disburse additional funding from a widening array of sources for existing and new initiatives to benefit the ecosystem and the people and communities depending on it.


We fund work that follows the science on the health of the Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem, that takes an evidence-based approach to developing and refining strategies, and that seeks always to accelerate and maximize benefits to the ecosystem and the people depending on it. Partners employ a range of approaches, including policy reform, strategic litigation, stakeholder education and outreach, communications, development and mobilization of coalitions and networks, and technical capacity-building. We fund select monitoring projects needed to track the health of the ecosystem, but do not generally fund research.

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