With the mass destruction of coral reefs around the world due to climate change, destructive fishing methods, irresponsible boat anchoring, pollution or just careless divers, the short of it is, we are loosing a significant percentage of reef every year. There are many facts and figures on many different web sites, all putting some sort of spin on what we have lost and what we are about to loose in the future. Whatever the figures, the fact remains that we are loosing a unique and incredible part of this world’s ecosystem. I’m not just being sentimental here; the World Meteorological Organization says that tropical coral reefs yield more than US$30 billion annually in global goods and services, such as coastline protection, tourism and food.
There are people in the world taking a positive stance against this who are not only contributing greatly to the growth of new reefs but also helping people, locals and visitors, to feel some sense of ownership and take part in the saving of our seas.
This, on the face of it, is good news, but let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that when it all goes pear shaped we can simply re-build. We can’t. This article is about restoration, not creation.
THE GILI ECO TRUST (www.giliecotrust.com)
The trust was created in 2001 by the dive shops on Gili Trawangan to support SATGAS, an association of local security which was struggling against dynamite and cyanide fishing and its disastrous effects on the coral reefs.
However, because of all the factors of destruction that touch coral, protecting the reefs is not enough. In 2004 the Gili Eco Trust launched its cutting-edge Coral Reefs Restoration Program based on the BioRock technology.
BioRock technology relies on a very simple principle: reproduction by electrolysis of the natural reaction occurring between coral, sea water, the sun and dissolved minerals. A metal structure is installed on the ocean floor. A low voltage electric current, which is totally harmless for any organism, is passed through the structure and leads to electrolysis, causing a calcareous precipitation on the whole structure. This not only avoids the unwanted appearance of rust which would weaken the structure, but, as coral’s skeleton is made of calcium, the structure will, thanks to this reaction, become a favourable base upon which coral may develop.
Loose corals are then manually attached to the structure and typically grow 2 to 6 times faster than usual and are more resistant than under normal conditions, allowing the ecosystem to replenish itself and develop. The corals that are attached come from reefs in the surrounding area that were broken for various reasons such as unaware divers, strong waves or dropped anchors.
BioRock technology’s electrolysis is catalysis of the natural reaction and not only a simple reproduction, as this electrolysis enables a coral’s development to be 2 to 6 times faster than in usual conditions. Normally coral grows only a few centimeters per year and so quicker growth is an efficient way to restore reefs. Moreover coral on BioRock structures grows stronger and is more resistant to the hazards it faces.
Hard corals are not the only ones to grow on BioRock structures: tunicates, bivalves, sponges and soft corals also come to develop at speeds higher than the average. On a BioRock structure, their survival and resistance rate is 20 to 50 times higher than in the natural environment.
Delphine Robbe, from France, is a Gili Eco Trust Coordinator. This is her blog.
The 8th Indonesian BioRock Coral Reef Restoration, Fisheries Habitat Restoration, and Shore Protection Training Workshop, was held at Gili Trawangan, Lombok, from November 12th-18th 2012, with the kind support of the Gili Eco Trust and the entire Gili Trawangan community.
This was the 4th BioRock workshop I had organized and I was feeling a bit stressed out. Not as usual with a coming workshop, stressing about the organization of the event, but because my new born son was only 2 months old and I didn’t know how I would be able to manage a baby and a workshop at the same time. Evan is now my new priority, just before Coral Reefs and my job as Gili Eco Trust Coordinator.
I organize BioRock workshops every 2 years. The last one in 2010 was a great success, but how tiring it was for me to run around, organizing day by day all the activities for the 78 participants. Welding BioRock structures, sinking them, catching up on construction when participants are listening to Tom Goreau’s Lectures lectures, getting the program done for every day jobs that the participants are doing, making sure every group learns the same and have a look at all the different maintenance and construction jobs that BioRock involves…etc
How would I deal with all of that with Evan who needs me for feeding and mainly for love to grow up peacefully? For once I asked for HELP and I delegated! So many people, friends and family had been telling me that I should get some help, delegate and in doing so minimize my stress input, so I finally did it and learned from it! I nominated 12 team leaders to take the 4 teams of BioRock participants into all the activities, I supervised most of the construction but I mostly told the team leaders every night what they were supposed to do the next day. I set the program up for each day and went to give main briefings to the teams going diving, but I was not there all the time and everywhere. I did the first 2 days for all registration, payments and dealing with all the officials and everyone’s bookings. Then I would go there with Evan to set the program up and brief the team leaders. And yes everyone learned everything that they were supposed to learn during that workshop and only positive feedbacks came to us.
The head of the 3 Gili Islands opened the workshop, along with Pak Yes, Head of the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Department from Kupang, Nusa Tenggara. Bapak Arifin Bakti, lecturer at Mataram University (UNRAM) also gave a speech of introduction and I introduced everyone with the program of activities that will be done during this workshop week.
The youth association of Gili Trawangan and the staff of the BKKPN office for Gili Matra, Marine Protected Area, were presented to all participants as the future of the Gili Islands. An uncertain future, as it is difficult to balance tourism and environment protection, but some from local communities want to push towards Eco tourism and coral reef protection and restoration.
More than 83 people participated in the Workshop, including a wide range of divers, students, conservationists, scientists, engineers, artists, doctors, and lawyers from all over the world.
As usual, a good majority was from Indonesia. They included more than 10 students in Marine Science, Biology, and Fisheries at Mataram University, Lombok, all of who were trained as divers for the workshop. All of them are planning BioRock related research projects. There were also participants from Bali, Java, Sulawesi, and other islands.
Local people from Gili Trawangan island came to learn about the Biorock technology that they have seen installed around their island over the last 8 years; members of the island Youth Association “Remaja, Karang Taruna”, SATGAS (community ocean patrol that prevents fishing with bombs and poisons, and anchoring in restricted zones), staff from all Gili Trawangan Diveshops, locals and westerners.
Besides Indonesia, participants came from many parts of the world such as Australia, Germany, France, Morocco, Holland, USA, England, Mexico, Sweden, Philippines, Hawaii, Singapore, Austria, and Greece.
Students learned all aspects of BioRock® Technology theory and practice, including the fundamental physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, and biology, along with hands-on training in design, construction, installation, monitoring, maintenance, and repair. They saw documentary films and heard lectures on the latest developments in marine ecosystem restoration. They saw the dramatic growth of corals and fish populations on BioRock reefs ranging in age from 0 to 8 years, and the BioRock shore protection projects that are growing back beaches on the north end of the island that had been severely eroding.
13 new BioRock reefs were designed, built, installed, and planted with corals by the students, bringing the total of BioRock reefs at Gili Trawangan up to nearly 78. These are located in front of dive shops, restaurants, and hotels of Gili Trawangan. The total Gili reef restoration structure is now a whole dive site and many spots for snorkelling where tourists can enjoy observing BioRock structures and their inhabitants. The BioRock projects at Gili Trawangan now rival the Karang Lestari BioRock project in Pemuteran, Bali as the world’s largest and most spectacularly successful coral reef restoration project.
BioRock is the only method that increases coral growth rate and resistance to environmental stress, so BioRock reef corals bleach less, recover faster, and have higher survival from global warming-caused heat stroke. This course came at a very critical juncture, because 2012 is the hottest year in history, and severe coral bleaching took place across the entire Indian Ocean, South East Asia, the West Pacific, Persian Gulf, and Caribbean this year, including Lombok.
Water temperatures throughout Indonesia and many of the most important coral reefs in the world, now remain several degrees warmer than average, and will start to bleach in the next few months if this continues. If it is as severe as is expected, only places with BioRock Coral Arks will have much coral, fish, and beaches afterwards.
BioRock graduates are now trained to restore coral reefs and fisheries, and grow back severely eroding beaches. They can apply these skills as soon as local communities, government policy makers, and international funding agencies recognize the critically urgent need to restore rapidly vanishing coral reefs and the fisheries, shore protection, tourism, and biodiversity services they provide over 100 countries, before they vanish.
Only those with proper BioRock training have the knowledge and skills to implement new projects, and will receive full support with advice, advanced training, and materials needed to start new projects designed to save marine ecosystems from the runaway effects of global warming, global sea level rise, pollution, and unsustainable over-exploitation.
(You can learn more about BioRock at www.giliecotrust.com)
Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)
The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.
Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.
Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills
The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.
The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.
Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEO: “Untreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk.
We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”
Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm.
Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean.
The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.
Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours.
According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards.
Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “Untreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”
In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.
A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored.
Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant.
“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”.
If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.
For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.
Header image credit: Natasha Ewins
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