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)
The life of a Great White Shark
The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.
As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.
Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.
Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.
Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.
However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.
Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.
Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org
Book Review: Sea Mammals
This is a book packed with information about some of the most iconic and charismatic marine species. I have a particular soft spot for the pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, due to some incredible diving encounters over the years. So these were the pages I first turned to.
Once picked up this book is hard to put down. Polar Bears, Narwhal, Sea Otters, manatees, whales and dolphins adorn the pages with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Each turn of the page lures you in to discover more about a species you love, one you want to learn more about, some you have never heard of and even includes the details of fascinating animals that are sadly now extinct.
I think what I love most about this book is how it is organised. Rather than simply lump the animals into taxonomic groupings, they are put into chapters that tell you a story about them. Whether it is the story of their evolution, how they were discovered, their biology, behaviour or need for conservation. Once you have decided on an animal to delve deeper into, each species has its own story, as well as key information about size, diet, distribution, habitat and conservation status.
There is plenty to enjoy in this delightful book. Plenty to learn too. As the cold dark nights draw in, I can see myself delving into this book time and time again. This is a perfect gift for anyone that loves the ocean and its inhabitants. Or just treat yourself.
What the publisher says:
From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.
The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.
About the Author:
Annalisa Berta is professor emerita of biology at San Diego State University. A specialist in the anatomy and evolutionary biology of marine mammals, especially baleen whales, she formally described a skeleton of the early pinniped Enaliarctos. She is the author of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals and the editor of the award-winning Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 26th September, 2023
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