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Image: Casper Douma (WWF-NL)

What began as an experiment in the Oceanium at Diergaarde Blijdorp, has grown into RoffaReefs. A startup dedicated to saving coral by breeding fish. The method, tested on Bonaire, proved so successful that scaling up became necessary. As an early partner, Diergaarde Blijdorp has now definitively included RoffaReefs in its Caribbean hub. A piece of Blijdorp in Bonaire.

With the knowledge and strength of the Rotterdam zoo, RoffaReefs aims to make the crucial leap from startup to scale up. And this is urgently needed. With a severe coral disease spreading, the technique of the originally Rotterdam-based company is more relevant and urgent than ever.

RoffaReefs founder Sander van Lopik realized years ago that the world's coral reefs are in decline. Instead of planting bred coral, he decided to explore a different solution to the problem. Coral is a living organism dependent on the fish that maintain it, like the well-known surgeonfish. Decades of overfishing, climate change, and pollution have reduced the number of fish in many parts of the world to maintain and allow coral reefs to flourish, with all the consequent impacts.

In the Oceanium, he developed a method to catch fish eggs, breed them, and release them back into the coral. After years of testing in the 'controlled' environment of an aquarium, RoffaReefs took the step to Bonaire. There, after much experimentation, the technique proved applicable in the open sea. With the help of the local fishing cooperative Piskabon and nature organizations like STINAPA, DCNA, and WWF, RoffaReefs managed to perfect the method and achieve the first significant results.

This not only attracted the attention of numerous (nature) organizations but also other islands in the Caribbean region that benefit from RoffaReefs' fish breeding methods. Healthy coral forms a natural and indispensable barrier against rising sea levels, a significant and real threat to the numerous islands.

Blijdorp, as the breeding ground for this fish breeding technique, saw the perfect way to put the recently presented Masterplan 2050 into practice. A unique opportunity to work with the people of RoffaReefs to contribute to species preservation and nature restoration, outside the gates of the zoo. This seamlessly aligns with the new mission and vision. Hence, RoffaReefs is now entitled to add the designation 'powered by Rotterdam Zoo' to its logo. To reinforce and strengthen the close collaboration, Blijdorp director Erik Zevenbergen and the new Caribbean Hub program manager Tim van Wagensveld will soon travel to Bonaire to work with RoffaReefs, the local 'fishermen', and numerous organizations to build future-proof coral reefs. Worldwide.