The Mesoamerican Reef System (MAR) encompasses the largest coral reef in the Atlantic, and is part of the interconnected system of coastal habitats and currents that extends throughout the Caribbean basin and beyond. It is home to some of the world’s most stunning coastline and vibrant waters, with an astonishing array of over 500 known fish species, some of the largest remaining population of manatees and sea turtles, possibly the largest known aggregation of whale sharks, and valuable concentrations of mangroves, sea-grass, and coral, of which there are 66 species of spiny coral alone.

Many reef systems are under threat. Climate change is causing coral bleaching, acidification, sea-level rise, and stronger and more frequent storms, which, in combination with overfishing, pollution (sewage and solid waste) and unsustainable coastal development, are endangering its health and survival, and therefore the goods and services for the communities that depend on them.

The MAR Fund is a regional environmental fund established to support conservation efforts specifically in the MAR Ecoregion. Its mission is to drive regional funding and partnerships for the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of resources in the region.

Funding is required to support activities that reduce the impact of these threats. The philanthropy-driven conservation model alone has proven to be ineffective and is now evolving to one that is more market-driven. Funding for biodiversity investments need to come from not only public and philanthropic sources, but also the private sector to offer a blended finance environment that can propel sustainable market initiatives.

Faced with this challenge, MAR Fund decided to set up MARTAF. The MARTAF will provide grants for specialized business development services (e.g. IT, financial planning, management, sales and marketing, product development skills, risk assessment and mitigation, traceability) for initiatives that generate environmental outcomes for the MAR. This TIE project will work directly with the MAR Fund team to help them create a long term business strategy for this initiative, so that they can help support businesses that are beneficial to the region.