As anyone who has ever experienced the soft colors you’ll find in the Bahamas can tell you, the impossibly blue water is what makes this archipelago nation such an incredible place. In fact, the country is nearly ALL ocean. It’s comprised of about 700 small islands and 2,000 islets or cays surrounded by over 100,000 square miles of ocean. Over 35% of the region’s coral reefs are located within The Bahamas and there is an incredible diversity of vibrant shallow water reefs, mangrove creeks teeming with young fish, sand flats that are a fly fishers’ paradise and deep water trenches that are virtually unexplored.

But as we all know, the world’s oceans continue to threatened by pollution and other factors. And that’s what makes the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF)—the non-profit foundation in The Bahamas that’s dedicated to protecting the ocean that sustains the islanders way of life—so important.

As Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, the executive director of BREEF explains, “Coral reefs are absolutely essential for so many elements of life in our low-lying island nation. Reefs provide the first line of defense that protect our islands from hurricanes and storm surges. They support a commercial and recreational fishing industry and they are what draw so many visitors to our shores every year. Bahamian coral reefs are hubs of biodiversity and they are incredibly beautiful.

“Over the past 25 years BREEF has been educating the public about coral reefs and this is essential for their conservation. By introducing thousands of children and teachers to the ocean, often for their first underwater experience, BREEF is creating the next generations of ocean stewards.

Education is key, particularly regarding the threats to our ocean from unsustainable fishing practices, climate change, habitat destruction, invasive species, plastic pollution… and the actions that everyone can take to protect our waters.”

BREEF helps with policy guidelines to support government initiatives to establish marine protected areas, protect endangered species, and eliminate single-use plastics. BREEF also has a coral nursery in their Coral Reef Sculpture Garden to grow endangered corals and help restore local reefs.