The reefs, however, are in danger. A combination of expansion, overfishing, and climate change have all contributed to dwindling coral populations in the last few decades. Fortunately, help has come in the form of the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation, a joint effort with the University of Miami and Counterpart International, is dedicated to repopulating staghorn coral in Punta Cana and elsewhere on the island.
Staghorn coral populations have declined by 98% in the last four decades, making it one of the most endangered types of coral in the world. In fact, since 2006 staghorn coral has been officially classified as an endangered species, and many people believed that future generations would not be able to enjoy the coral reefs in Punta Cana due to their rapidly diminishing populations.
As part of a collaborative effort between the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation and Mark Goldsmith, a dive instructor, there is a new dive certification called the Coral Reef First Aid Distinctive Specialty. This special dive certification, which is only found here, allows experienced divers to do their part in maintaining and expanding the staghorn coral population in Punta Cana, showing that conservation is truly a communal effort and something that visitors to the island can do to help.