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  • Writer's pictureIntelliReefs NanoTech Team

United Nations Ocean Decade: 10 Challenges for Collective Impact

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

The 10 Commandments of Ocean Science

How IntelliReefs addresses the challenges we can.

united nations decade of ocean science 10 challenges with IntelliReefs and UNESCO

Explore the ambitious objectives and critical challenges aimed at safeguarding our oceans and fostering sustainable practices for a healthier marine environment.

UNESCO United Nations

Challenge 1

Understand & beat marine pollution

Oceanite acts as a biofilter


Oceanite is a solution to pollution. The porous structure promotes two critical elements of biofiltration: (1) increased surface area for microorganisms to attach and (2) ocean currents push water through the entire porous structure. Much like a natural biofilter in a natural pool, the minerals, microorganisms, and eventual plants that settle cleanse the water. Our site in a polluted harbour in Novia Scotia showed a rapid decrease in water turbidity in only four months.


Challenge 2

Protect & restore ecosystems & biodiversity

before and after oceanite 14 months sint maarten


We address habitat loss through the direct deployment of the ideal coral substrate and community engagement, restoring the critical balance between people and nature within one generation. Our approach provides substrate at scale, increasing the speed of coral outplanting and wild coral growth. Hiring local staff, we deploy Oceanite, a new kind of artificial reef that is engineered to mimic the chemistry, mineral composition, and texture of a natural reef for optimal growth of healthy reef species. We have the depth of experience and casting techniques to build reef restoration structures on an ecologically relevant scale, kilometers long.

Over 20 years, we developed and tested an unprecedented nanotechnology substrate that can be cast in any design and scaled up larger than any competing restoration substrate on the market. Oceanite is a proprietary, unique mineral mixture that allows artificial reefs to be fine-tuned and customized down to the nanoscale to support site, species, and function-specific conservation goals. The complex system of pores creates more surface area per square inch, optimizing animal settlement. In fourteen months, IntelliReefs saw nearly 100% coverage and a 400% increase in biodiversity. Video footage showed fish feeding every fifteen seconds on the reef.

Oceanite is unlike traditional artificial reef substrates, which often have high pH levels that harm animal tissue and need years of harmful off-gassing before settlement can occur. Traditional artificial reefs are smooth, making it challenging for life to attach once the reef is finally usable. Oceanite solves the shortcomings of traditional artificial reefs, allowing us to provide immediate habitat for coral, sponges, crustaceans, and fish.

Additionally, we go beyond environmental restoration by implementing a multifaceted approach, including: youth educational outreach, finding local contributors and partnerships, and hiring and training local staff in both manufacturing and reef monitoring positions. IntelliReefs restores the environment and lifts the local community, increasing support for MPAs.

coral and sponge growth on oceanite modules Caribbean

Challenge 3

Sustainably feed the global population

intellireefs oceanite kelp

kelp growth oceanite seaweed canada


Restoring Kelp Forests & Coral Reefs Increases Food Security

Kelp Forests and Coral Reefs are critical habitats that serve as nursery grounds for commercially important fish and shellfish. Restoring and protecting these habitats increases food security by ensuring that the species we eat have a place to forage, reproduce and grow. By providing an optimal substrate for kelp and coral attachment, Oceanite has demonstrated its efficacy in promoting rapid biodiversity growth at our locations near Halifax and St. Maarten.

Oceanite-based kelp forest restoration will accelerate the restoration of kelp forests to their historical range, and thus establish a more resilient ecosystem capable of sustaining vital fish populations, even amidst unprecedented or severe climate events. Additionally, kelp itself is a vital food source. Renowned for its exceptional nutritional value, kelp has a longstanding culinary tradition worldwide and is steadily gaining popularity in Western societies such as the United States and Canada. Expanding our food options will also increase food security.

Additionally, we are currently working on Oceanite designs that can support restorative ocean farming efforts in both cold and tropical climates. Restorative ocean farming works with the ecosystem to grow what wants to grow in a given location. These farms are ecologically regenerative, but overall restorative because they depend on the cultural values of the communities in which they are located. Thus, uniting our food security with what our ecosystem wants to provide.

oceanite fish food bank


Challenge 4

Develop a sustainable and equitable ocean economy

"Generate knowledge, support innovation, and develop solutions for equitable and sustainable development of the ocean economy under changing environmental, social and climate conditions."


We are developing equitable templates of sustainable blue business models that can be tailored to each restoration site. From coral to kelp, blue business models are not one-size-fits-all: each community’s biocultural values, governance system, equity, and resources (both personnel and funding) must be considered. Currently, RLF supports (1) long-term employment via reef monitoring, and (2) partnering with local dive shops to create eco-friendly tourism opportunities at IntelliReef sites. In the near future, we plan to expand into restorative ocean farming and policy consultation.

Our work supports and uplifts women involved in marine sciences and habitat restoration. With 8% of all profits being directed to scholarships for women in the field or Oceanite module donation.


Challenge 5

Unlock ocean-based solutions to climate change

"Enhance understanding of the ocean-climate nexus and generate knowledge and solutions to mitigate, adapt and build resilience to the effects of climate change across all geographies and at all scales, and to improve services including predictions for the ocean, climate and weather."


Oceanite mitigates the impacts of climate change by rapidly encouraging the growth of kelp, a carbon sink. Kelp removes carbon from the water during photosynthesis, storing it in its blades. Increasing kelp will increase the amount of carbon captured and sequestered; additionally, future uses for farmed kelp are being developed and mainstreamed to utilize the carbon in effective ways (for example, using kelp as fertilizer on land restores carbon to the soil without harmful runoff).

After 4 months in a busy, polluted harbor near Halifax, Oceanite attracted kelp spore coverage of 70% in the highly degraded site and 100% at a nearby less degraded site. Oceanite is critical to the restoration of kelp forests, both as protected habitat and as farmed areas, because of Oceanite’s proven rapid settlement and growth rates which outpace other methods.


Challenge 6

Increase community resilience to ocean hazards

"Enhance multi-hazard early warning services for all geophysical, ecological, biological, weather, climate and anthropogenic related ocean and coastal hazards, and mainstream community preparedness and resilience."

intellireefs seawalls

Living coastal protection reefship


Oceanite increases community resilience by providing critical storm protection. Wave energy can be dissipated up to 97% by strategically placed oceanite structures. The high-level strength of Oceanite allows our design team to develop innovative architectural designs that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously: ecological restoration and storm protection.

In November 2018, we deployed 60 IntelliReef block units underwater that were assembled into 3 artificial reefs near Philipsburg, Sint Maarten as part of a pilot study. Sint Maarten’s marine ecosystems have been degraded by overfishing, hurricanes, runoff, and a suite of other compounding natural and anthropogenic stressors over the past five decades [2].

Like many ecosystems in the Caribbean, coral reef communities in Sint Maarten have been severely affected by hurricane activity. Hurricane Irma (September 2017) caused widespread damage to the island and is one of the strongest hurricanes to have hit in the Atlantic Ocean to date, with winds exceeding 185 MPH [7]. Large surge caused severe damage on reefs and intense rainfall increased freshwater and nutrient input [8]. Sint Maarten coral communities also suffer from continued deterioration due to eutrophication and physical damage from boating traffic [8]. The Reef Life Team identified Sint Maarten as an ideal location for an IntelliReef prototype structure, due to the need to restore and protect rapidly deteriorating marine biodiversity and structural complexity of island reef systems.


Challenge 7

Expand the Global Ocean Observing System

"Ensure a sustainable ocean observing system across all ocean basins that delivers accessible, timely, and actionable data and information to all users."

Challenge 8

Create a digital representation of the ocean

"Through multi-stakeholder collaboration, develop a comprehensive digital representation of the ocean, including a dynamic ocean map, which provides free and open access for exploring, discovering, and visualizing past, current, and future ocean conditions in a manner relevant to diverse stakeholders."


We are excited to be part of the larger movement to expand the global ocean observing system and create a digital representation of the ocean. Data from our sites, both from before and after oceanite deployment, will contribute to understanding the past, present, and future ocean conditions, making data actionable. The variety of data we collect includes fish behavior, eDNA metrics, coral spawning events, water quality, ocean acidification trends, storm surge reductions, and more.


Challenge 9

Skills, knowledge and technology for all

"Ensure comprehensive capacity development and equitable access to data, information, knowledge and technology across all aspects of ocean science and for all stakeholders."


At each site, we work with local communities to ensure comprehensive capacity development by incorporating traditional ecological knowledge and providing equitable training opportunities. This includes data and technology sharing of ancient practices and modern advances. We look forward to combining our nanotechnology with existing organizations’ expertise in site specific approaches to management.


Challenge 10

Change humanity's relationship with the ocean

"Ensure that the multiple values and services of the ocean for human wellbeing, culture, and sustainable development are widely understood, and identify and overcome barriers to behaviour change required for a step change in humanity’s relationship with the ocean."


Restoring nature restores humanity. The benefits to all life from healthy kelp and corals are multi-faceted, like our approach. After Oceanite is deployed, storm protection is immediate, wild kelp or coral settle, outplantings establish, fish begin to feed, sponges grow, and our impact is lasting–yet our work is not done. At each site, we seek to honor the community’s relationship with the ocean by providing site-specific socioeconomic programs that will become self-sustaining. This includes job creation through the continual monitoring of the site; education programs that incorporate traditional ecological knowledge and encourage women in science; and blue business models based on the community’s biocultural values. In the future, we will expand to policy consultation and advocacy to ensure the harmonization of human activity with our coastal habitat.

Beyond our sites, we share ocean stories on our blog and (forthcoming) podcast. By providing multiple perspectives and many guest speakers, our podcast aims to change how we think about the ocean and nature in general–not as something separate from humanity, but the home in which we all live. With each episode, we want our listeners to start asking themselves, “How does this ecosystem want to support me?” With this perspective shift, our relationship with our habitat, whether it's the coast, the forest, or the desert, will slide into a collaborative, symbiotic relationship much like clownfish and anemones.

Ocean decade challenges for collective impact

nanoscience and biological research, scalable manufacturing the ocean

IntelliReefs Sustainable Marine Solutions

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission


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