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Marine Life & Conservation

Renewing our Coral Reefs

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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.

Renewing-our-Coral-Reefs-2As divers, many of us have seen the loss ourselves, returning to areas we visited years previously, only to find the coral dying or dead and not a fish in sight except perhaps for the lonely few.

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)

Renewing-our-Coral-Reefs-3The 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.

Renewing-our-Coral-Reefs-5Renewing-our-Coral-Reefs-4BioRock 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.

Renewing-our-Coral-Reefs-6This 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.

Renewing-our-Coral-Reefs-7The 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 is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.

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Preserving Paradise: Seacology’s Island Conservation Mission

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seacology

Islands are not just pieces of land surrounded by water; they are sanctuaries of biodiversity, cradles of unique cultures, and vital components of our planet’s ecological balance. However, these paradises face numerous threats ranging from habitat destruction to climate change. Recognizing the urgency of protecting these fragile ecosystems, Seacology has emerged as a beacon of hope, championing the preservation of island habitats worldwide while empowering local communities. In this article, we are diving into Seacology’s mission, its global impact, and its generous support for key conservation initiatives in Curaçao.

The Seacology Story:

Seacology, founded in 1991 by Dr. Paul Alan Cox (American ethnobotanist), operates on a simple yet powerful principle: conservation through collaboration. Unlike traditional conservation organizations, Seacology adopts a community-driven approach, partnering directly with island communities to address their needs while safeguarding precious ecosystems.

seacology

At the heart of Seacology’s philosophy lies the belief that sustainable conservation can only be achieved by empowering those who depend on the natural resources of their islands. By working hand in hand with local stakeholders, Seacology fosters a sense of ownership and stewardship, ensuring long-term protection for vital habitats.

A Global Impact of Seacology

Since its inception, Seacology has made remarkable strides in protecting island ecosystems across the globe. Through innovative projects and strategic partnerships, the organization has conserved millions of acres of marine and terrestrial habitat, spanning more than 60 countries.

What sets Seacology apart is its holistic approach, which integrates conservation efforts with community development initiatives. By providing tangible benefits such as clean water, education, and healthcare, Seacology incentivizes local communities to actively participate in conservation efforts, forging a sustainable path towards coexistence with nature.

Curaçao: A Jewel in the Caribbean Crown

Located in the crystalline waters of the Southern Caribbean Sea, Curaçao boasts stunning coral reefs, lush mangroves, and vibrant marine life. However, like many island nations, Curaçao faces a myriad of challenges including overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change impacts.

seacology

In 2024, Seacology’s commitment to island conservation took center stage in Curaçao, where the organization provided generous support for three key initiatives: Reef Renewal Curaçao, Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, and the Queen Conch Hatchery. Additionally, Seacology provided additional funding to advance sustainable fishing practices through educational programs.

Reef Renewal Curaçao

Coral reefs are the lifeblood of marine ecosystems, supporting a quarter of all marine species despite occupying less than 1% of the ocean floor. However, these invaluable ecosystems are under siege from rising sea temperatures, pollution, and destructive fishing practices.

seacology

Reef Renewal Curaçao, a flagship project supported by Seacology, aims to reverse the decline of coral reefs by implementing innovative coral propagation and restoration techniques. By engaging local communities in reef restoration efforts, Seacology is optimistic that their support will enable Reef Renewal Curaçao to continue their important work revitalizingd amaged ecosystems and fostering a sense of stewardship among residents.

Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao

For millions of years, sea turtles have roamed the world’s oceans, serving as keystone species and indicators of ecosystem health. Yet, these ancient mariners face numerous threats including habitat loss, poaching, and accidental capture in fishing gear.

seacology

In collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, Seacology is supporting their efforts to protect Curaçao’s sea turtle populations through research, monitoring, and community outreach. By raising awareness about the importance of sea turtles and implementing measures to mitigate threats, Seacology is aiding Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao to safeguard these iconic creatures for future generations to admire.

The Queen Conch Hatchery

Conch, revered for their succulent meat and ornate shells, are a cultural and culinary staple in many island communities. However, unregulated harvesting has led to depleted populations, jeopardizing both ecological balance and traditional livelihoods.

In Curaçao, Seacology’s support for the Queen Conch Hatchery initiative aims to conserve dwindling conch populations through captive breeding and sustainable harvesting practices. By collaborating with local fishermen and authorities, Seacology is helping to ensure that conch populations thrive while preserving cultural traditions and supporting coastal communities.

The project “Conquer the Future” is investigating the mortality and growth of Queen Conch juveniles, cultured at Curacao Sea Aquarium, after they have been outplanted in the wild. These experiments with small numbers of Queen Conch will take place in both Curaçao (Spanish Water) and Bonaire (Lac Bay). WWF-Dutch Caribbean is the main sponsor of this project, Seacology is the co-sponsor.

Advancing Sustainable Fishing Practices

Fishing is an integral part of Curaçao’s economy and culture, but unsustainable practices have led to overfishing and the depletion of key fish species. Recognizing the need for change, Seacology has provided a grant to the Federation of Cooperative Production (FKUP) to support innovative educational programs aimed at promoting sustainable fishing practices.

Through this initiative, Seacology hopes to instill a sense of environmental stewardship among local fishers. The educational programs focus on teaching sustainable fishing techniques, such as selective gear use, seasonal restrictions, and size limits, which help protect juvenile fish and allow populations to recover. Additionally, the programs emphasize the importance of marine conservation, the impact of overfishing on the ecosystem, and the benefits of sustainable practices for future generations.

seacology

By supporting the FKUP, Seacology is helping to ensure that local fishers have the knowledge and resources to adopt sustainable practices. This not only helps preserve fish stocks and marine biodiversity but also secures the livelihoods of fishing communities in the long term.

WWF-Dutch Caribbean supported in 2023 the first round of the sustainable fishing training organized by FKUP in Curaçao. Due to lack of budget at WWF-DC, FKUP has been looking for another sponsor for this training. They found Seacology to fund more training.

A Beacon of Hope for Island Conservation

In a world grappling with environmental crises, Seacology stands as a shining example of what can be achieved through passion, perseverance, and partnership. By empowering island communities, Seacology not only protects precious ecosystems but also enriches lives and preserves cultural heritage.

As we navigate the uncertain waters of the 21st century, organizations like Seacology remind us that the fate of our planet lies in our hands. Through collective action and unwavering dedication, we can safeguard the treasures of our islands and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

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Summer means it’s time to go ‘Fertilizer-Free for Manatees’ to protect Florida’s waterways

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Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms in both coastal and inland waters

Summer is here, and Save the Manatee® Club is excited to share our Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™ campaign. The campaign aims to underscore that while addressing the overall problem requires a multifaceted approach, the actions of each Florida resident can make a big difference for the health of our waterways.

Starting June 1 and running through September 30, this initiative aims to encourage Florida residents to take a pledge to be fertilizer-free, thereby reducing their contribution to nutrient pollution in the state’s waterways.

manatee

What is Nutrient Pollution?

Nutrient pollution refers to the presence of excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, in water bodies. These nutrients often come from agricultural runoff, wastewater, and the use of fertilizers on lawns and landscapes. While nutrients are essential for plant growth, an overabundance can lead to significant environmental problems.

How Does Nutrient Pollution Cause Harm?

Nutrient pollution poses a significant threat to Florida’s delicate ecosystem, leading to harmful algal blooms (HABs) in both coastal and inland waters. The Indian River Lagoon, a critical habitat for manatees, has been particularly affected, with devastating algal blooms causing the loss of native seagrass. Seagrass is essential for manatees as it is their primary food source. When seagrass is lost, manatees are at risk of starvation. Tragically, this has resulted in the starvation and death of numerous imperiled manatees since 2020.

Furthermore, the occurrence of red tide, a natural phenomenon characterized by the proliferation of toxic algae, can be exacerbated by excessive nitrogen and phosphorus inputs from human sources such as fertilizer and wastewater. Red tide not only affects marine life but can also cause respiratory issues in humans and economic losses for coastal communities.

manatee

Photo: David Schrichte

In pledging to be Fertilizer-Free for Manatees, Floridians commit to:

  • Avoid fertilizer use on lawns and landscapes
  • Conserve water by irrigating only when necessary
  • Keep grass clipping out of streets, waterbodies, and swales
  • Learn about Florida-Friendly Landscaping to protect waterway

“Human nutrient pollution from various sources has been a major driver of the harmful algal blooms that have led to a catastrophic number of manatee deaths in recent years,” said Patrick Rose, Aquatic Biologist and Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “The Fertilizer-Free for Manatees campaign aims to educate the public about how their individual actions, which may seem small, can have a cumulative healing effect on the overall health of our Florida waterways. Together, we can all take steps at home to protect imperiled manatees and their essential habitat.”

For more information on the “Fertilizer-Free for Manatees™” campaign and how you can get involved, please visit fertilizerfree.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with the late former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

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