This Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008 report is the 5th global report since the GCRMN (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network), was formed in 1996 as an operational network of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). The catalyst for GCRMN was the inability of international agencies to report objectively on the health or otherwise of the world’s coral reefs. The US government then provided initial funding to set up a global network of coral reef workers to facilitate reporting on reef status; and has continued to be the major supporter of GCRMN and ICRI since the first strategies and action plans were developed in 1995. Each report (1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004) has aimed to present the current status of the world’s coral reefs, the threats to the reefs, and the initiatives being undertaken under the umbrella of ICRI to arrest the decline in the world’s coral reefs. These reports have been produced using the data and information from many coral reef experts around the world. For example 372 experts from 96 countries have contributed to this Status report. Many regional, national and local organisations, governmental, academic, NGO and volunteers have supported the functions of GCRMN. The united goal is to inform the global community on the status of coral reefs, the threats to them and, importantly, to list recommendations to improve coral reef conservation. There is widespread recognition that action is needed urgently, not only to conserve the enormous biodiversity on coral reefs, but also to assist local user communities to improve their livelihoods by ensuring the sustainable use of the reefs.