05.06.2018 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

“Coral reefs, a challenge for Humanity”: opening of immersive photojournalistic exhibition at UNESCO Headquarters

© UNESCO/IOC - Alexis Rosenfeld (left) and Alexie Valois (right) during the inauguration of their exhibition “Coral reefs, a challenge for Humanity” on 5 June 2018 (Paris, France).

On the occasion of World Oceans Day (8 June) and the International Year of the Reef, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) is pleased to host the exhibition “Coral reefs, a challenge for humanity”, the result of two years’ efforts by photojournalist Alexis Rosenfeld and journalist Alexie Valois to call the attention of all to these precious but endangered ecosystems.

What do we really know about coral reefs? What role do they play in the ocean? What importance do they have for humans and the balance of the planet? Inaugurated on 5 June 2018, this immersive and interactive exhibition – with more than 60 large-format displays – bears witness to the beauty of coral reefs while stressing how important it is to preserve them and how urgent it is to find human and scientific solutions for their sustainable management.

“This photojournalist work combines knowledge, skills and powerful visuals. It was a very exciting project. We visited some really amazing places, then others where reefs are far less well-preserved, and others where there is an undeniable realization of the issue and what is at stake,” began Alexis Rosenfeld.

“We conducted a series of reports initially intended for magazines but we wanted to convey more stories, hence the idea of a public exhibition. The displays presented on the UNESCO gates are enriched with video content because it was important for us to give a voice to those who live near coral reefs, so that people who do not necessarily know much about this tropical environment also pay attention to what these ecosystems are,” added Alexie Valois.

Scientists, including UNESCO’s IOC experts, mobilized around this artistic and documentary advocacy project by calling for collective awareness and strengthening of international cooperation.

“Through these pictures and words, Alexis Rosenfeld and Alexie Valois allow us to highlight a scientific work that could have remained unknown to most. This point of view, this insight, this testimony, this aestheticism are the ambassadors of science and fully in line with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. On behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO and the IOC Executive Secretary, I thank them warmly for this project,” said Julian Barbière, Head of the IOC Section for Marine Policy and Regional Coordination.

These ecosystems, true jewels of biodiversity, are home to almost 30% of all marine fauna and flora. Nevertheless, they are in danger: half of the coral reefs are now suffering the consequences of pollution, deterioration, overfishing, ocean acidification and rising temperatures.

“The cultural services provided by these reefs are priceless but these ecosystems are facing many threats. That is why 37 countries joined forces for 2018 to be the International Year of Coral Reefs,” explained Sophie-Dorothée Duron, Deputy Assistant Director of Coastal and Marine Affairs at the French Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

From the Maldives to the Red Sea, including the Philippines and French Polynesia, this exhibition allows everyone to admire these exceptional but endangered natural sites, some of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

“It is estimated that 30% of corals are now dead, with obvious consequences for the well-being of humanity,” said Philippe Vallette, Director-General of Nausicaá and co-sponsor of the exhibition.

However, there is still hope: “Some areas are still fully preserved. If the temperature drops back down to a reasonable level after a bleaching episode, the algae grows back on the corals,” he continued before calling to encourage talent through sponsorships.

As a partner of IOC since 2015 in the context of World Oceans Day, SUEZ was represented at the inauguration by Jean-Pierre Maugendre, Sustainable Development Projects Director: “Protecting the sea is our job. Our new Sustainable Development Roadmap for 2017-2021 has a strong focus on protecting the ocean, including prevention of plastic pollution.”

He concluded by saying: “Our belief is that we never do anything alone,” highlighting the importance of partnerships and cooperation for the preservation of marine ecosystems.

The exhibition “Coral reefs, a challenge for humanity” is presented until 30 August 2018 on the gates of UNESCO Headquarters – 7, Place de Fontenoy and Avenue Lowendal, Paris 7e. Additional texts, video interviews, reports and 360° photos are available on Smartphone by scanning the QR codes on the displays.


© UNESCO/IOC

For more information, please contact:

Rejane Hervé-Hayworth (r.herve@unesco.org)




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