I visited French Polynesia, the Garden of Eden. I will not dwell on details of a unique adventure thanks to which I discovered natural beauties and human beauties. The main purpose of the trip was to give body and voice to a contingent and convincing project: Coral Gardeners. We succeeded in the enterprise thanks to the North Sails brand which has been collaborating and supporting the organization for two years. In Mo’orea, we met Titouan Bernicot, founder of the Guardians and spokesperson for this group of young and willing pioneers. Titouan is twenty-three, born on a tiny island off the Pacific Ocean. He has one big dream: to save the coral reef which is the second largest lung on planet Earth. All of us, with all of you, can help make it happen.

 When and why was Coral Gardeners born?

TCoral Gardeners is my childhood dream, one of an island kid who believed that changing the world could start by fixing a broken piece of coral. Our project was born in 2017 in Mo’orea, the sister island of Tahiti, in French Polynesia. We started as a small group of island kids who witnessed the rapid degradation of our local reef and decided to act. From our humble beginnings, we have grown today into an international collective of advocates, scientists, engineers and creators determined to revolutionize ocean conservation and create a global movement to save the reef. Our values reflect this ambition – we work with passion, courage, and integrity (afaro in Tahitian) and put creativity and innovation to the service of something bigger than ourselves: saving the reef.

What is it and what does it do specifically today?

To revolutionize ocean conservation and create a global movement to save the reef. The core of our work is built around coral reef restoration. Using the latest techniques and methods, our program aims at restoring coral coverage, and increase abundance, biodiversity, and coral recruitment. In 2021, we ramped up our restoration program by increasing the number of corals in our nurseries by more than 60% compared to 2020, and reached an exceptional survival rate of more than 96% after 9 months in our main rope nurseries. Throughout the year, the team put in the work to build, maintain and monitor new nurseries where close to 9,000 corals are now growing and thriving on ropes, trees, or cookies – setting the foundation for the coming years of transplantation. This incredible achievement puts us on track to plant as many corals in 2022 as we planted in the last four years: more than 15,000 corals onto the reef of Mo’orea alone!

What’s TO’A ORA?

It’s our most important awareness program. To’a Ora, meaning Living Reef in Tahitian, continued this year with three live workshop events. To’a Ora is a four-year-long collaboration that started in September 2020 with two classes from Afareaitu high school. Along with their teachers, we created a small coral reef restoration project as an educational tool to return the Tahitian culture and ancestral savoir-faire to the heart of the students’ education. Throughout the course, they lead their own reef restoration project from start to finish, including seeding the nurseries, monitoring and transplanting their matured corals. This year, the kids excitedly transplanted 32 corals onto the reef that they had successfully grown and monitored in their nursery – seeing their efforts come to fruition. In addition to their gardening skills, the students are now able to speak about l corals in Tahitian, and they understand the importance of preserving the ocean ecosystem as part of their heritage.

How did the collaboration with North Sails start?

We found each other, it was something simple… a natural link.

What does the capsule collection you have created consist of?

This SS23 collection is a love letter to the ocean—an ode to the colors, beauty and experiences that inspire and sustain both Coral Gardeners and North Sails. An offering of sustainable ocean essentials for men, women and children, these core pieces are crafted in line with the boundaries of ecology and designed with marine habitats in mind. The starting inspiration is the sea—quiet early mornings waiting for the ideal wave; the salty air against your skin; the bright, radiant coral of The Great Barrier Reef, Honaunau Bay, and Mo’orea. We come to the ocean for quiet and for peace; for adventure; for beauty and most importantly restoration. Above all, the ocean’s role as life-giving informs this capsule, as it makes up 90% of habitable space on earth, with coral reefs serving as home to a quarter of all marine life and an incredible diversity of species. The ocean is our planet’s lungs—giving us 70% of the oxygen we breathe. With 90% of reefs at risk of death by 2050, we cannot stand by. The 25 garments are developed thoughtfully, considering function, style and environmental impact. Each material is created with care in mind: From organic cotton to piquet, recycled chiffon, recycled lycra, Cotton Seacell Jersey and SeaCell Cotton. The SeaCell pieces stem from seaweed grown in the Icelandic fjords; the fabric is completely biodegradable.

What is the purpose of the collaboration?

Through our partnership, North Sails supports Coral Gardeners and our efforts to restore coral reefs. We have built 2 rope nurseries in North Sails’ name hosting a total of 603 corals that have been growing in these nurseries for the past 16 months and they are now ready to be planted onto the reef. We aim at planting at least 1,200 corals from these 2 nurseries, but this number is part of our big goal of 15,000 corals planted in 2022. Having nurseries built in your name allows you to have a more personalized tracking since we can provide specific metrics like survival and growth rate (95% survival and growth of 9x times their original size) alongside photos and videos of their evolution.

What is Coral Gardeners’ goal in the next few years?

Strengthened by our 2021 achievements, we have set the tone for the exciting times ahead of restoring coral reefs around the world. We are now entering into a new era: one of growth and impact that we call our Odyssey 2025. It is about scaling up our impact locally and globally by planting 1 million corals around the world, telling the story of the reef to 1 billion people, and becoming a force of the Blue Economy through innovation and a climate-compliant development model. Coral Gardeners mission has never been so relevant, and we are committed to continuing working hard and learning every single day. It’s not about perfection, but about progress, no matter how small it is. We are ready to write our odyssey, and we want you to be part of it. Will you join us?

A piece of advice to the new generations.

To be aware, attentive, courageous, visionary. We have one world and we have to take care of it. Sustainability is modern, sexy, cool. “Think globally, act locally!”, I always say.