FEATURE STORIES: Support coral reefs by sharing stories and imagery from the front line.
Fish Stocks Increase Fivefold As Indonesian Dynamite Fishers Turn to Jobs in Coral Restoration
Fishermen drop destructive methods and earn their ‘daily catch’ with new coral restoration jobs through nonprofit Coral Guardian, boosting fish stocks in a pilot set to expand worldwide.
60-Second Video - Optimized for Social Media
CREDIT: The Ocean Agency / Coral Guardian
Edited by Etienne Calmelet, @saltyfrogz
Fishermen are ditching destructive practices for jobs in coral restoration. Through Coral Guardian, Indonesian fishermen are retraining to grow coral and restore their reefs. In just four years, fishermen have planted 26,000 corals and established a 1,550-acre marine protected area. There are five times more fish in restored areas. The local community has a newfound respect for reefs. This all merges to develop an economy based on sustainable management of reefs. It’s a win-win-win.
"Testimony of Sutopo - Coral Heart Project" (French)
CREDIT: Coral Guardian
A story of women and men for the preservation of coral reefs. This program is developed with the local community of Seraya Besar, located 10km north from Komodo National Park, Flores, Indonesia.
My name is Sutopo. I am the local manager of this program, and I train, teach and bring awareness to traditional fishermen associated with coral reefs. In the past, coral reefs were very beautiful here. But fishermen were not sensitized. They caught fish using bombs, potassium cyanide, while anchoring on the reef. Our job is to protect and rehabilitate these coral reefs, which have been destroyed. If coral reefs are healthy, then there will surely be a lot of fish back. These coral reefs are therefore essential for fishermen. If the reefs are damaged, there will be no more fish here. Fishermen do not know what coral reefs are. And this is our mission: to make them understand what coral reefs are and their importance in their lives. Why do fishermen need to learn? Because they are the ones involved, they are the ones who will be able to keep coral reefs healthy for the future of our children and grandchildren.
Goals 2018: 10,000 coral colonies transplanted, 6 additional jobs created, 600 villagers sensitized, 629 hectares of marine area protected
FLORES, Indonesia — A remote Indonesian fishing village is turning away from destructive practices in favor of restoring reefs, paving the way for long-term healthy fisheries.
The team working off the Indonesian island of Seraya-besar, 310 miles (500 km) east of Bali, have reported five times more fish in the restored areas, including protected species, in the last two years alone.
The project to employ former fishermen to restore reefs instead of damaging marine habitats is managed by Coral Guardian, a French nonprofit dedicated to the conservation, awareness, research and enhancement of marine ecosystems.
Since the work began in 2014, the 15-man team has planted more than 26,000 healthy corals and established a 1,550-acre locally managed marine protected area. Where corals have been planted in the MPA, fish counts have jumped from about 200 to about 1,000 fish per 100 square meters over the past two years.
The idea is to show how communities can turn their own tides toward long-term sustainability of their waters, and to use this first project as a model for others to follow.
“We believe that effective biodiversity protection requires the involvement of local populations, their participation in its conservation and their capacity to sustainably manage the ecosystems on which they depend,” said Martin Colognoli, co-founder and scientific director of Coral Guardian, which is based in Paris, France.
Coral Guardian taught 15 former fishermen about reef science and health, and instructed them how to cut, grow and outplant corals. The organization also taught them how to manage the marine protected area and conduct biological monitoring.
Alongside the coral restoration, Coral Guardian is leading a study to track a group of 10 fishermen to gather consistent data about where fishers are most likely to fish, what they catch, how much they sell, and how much they and their families consume themselves. This data is used to monitor local fish populations for better management of surrounding ecosystems.
Now, the community works autonomously and has gained a natural appreciation and respect for the environment they have evolved to protect. They consider marine health part of their responsibility and have implemented their own fishing restrictions around restoration areas.
“The goal is to revive a circular economy around coral reefs, and show that there are solutions to combat local pressures on these ecosystems,” Colognoli said. “The fishermen and the whole village fully understand the importance of protecting the reefs.”
Sutopo, the local conservation program director who oversees operations in Seraya-besar year-round, said the community is grateful to have the education, training and support provided by Coral Guardian.
“At first, it was difficult for Coral Guardian’s idea to resonate with fishermen, because they’d been dynamite fishing since they were born,” Sutopo said. “Now, the community welcomes Coral Guardian’s presence and has embraced their activity as they’ve seen how it’s helped their waters.”
Following the success of Seraya-besar, Coral Guardian is planning similar programs in New Caledonia and Colombia in 2019.
To help start these and future initiatives, Goral Guardian has set up the Blue Center, a coral conservation training site where community representatives can come to learn about setting up a restoration program in their local waters. The aim is to create centers around the globe so program information and education is easily accessible to all.
FLORES, Indonesia — For the community of Seraya-besar, a small, remote island in southern Indonesia, fishing is more than a hobby — it’s the way of life. For as long as locals can recall, food and income has almost solely come from the ocean. But four years ago, decades of destructive dynamite fishing practices had left the island’s coral reefs severely damaged and fish stocks almost totally depleted.
In partnership with Coral Guardian, a French nonprofit focused on community empowerment through marine education and conservation, the village began restoring its reefs and replenishing fisheries.
To date, the team has planted more than 26,000 healthy corals, they have established a 1,550-acre locally managed marine protected area, and they have reported five times more fish in the restored areas, including protected species. They’re proving that with improved education and respect for the ocean, communities can turn their own tides toward long-term sustainability.
Coral Guardian co-founders Martin Colognoli and Guillaume Holzer spent two years searching Indonesia for the ideal community to partner with before finding Seraya-besar.
“At first, it was difficult for Coral Guardian’s idea to resonate with fishermen, because they’d been dynamite fishing since they were born,” said Sutopo, the local conservation program director who oversees operations in Seraya-besar year-round. “Now, the community welcomes Coral Guardian’s presence and has embraced their activity as they’ve seen how it’s helped their waters.”
The first class of fishermen to become coral gardeners was chosen based on the recommendation of the village chief of Seraya-besar. In total, Coral Guardian created 15 local jobs.
“We believe that effective biodiversity protection requires the involvement of local populations, their participation in its conservation and their capacity to sustainably manage the ecosystems on which they depend,” Colognoli said.
Colognoli, who is a marine biologist, led the fishermen-turned-conservationists through a few weeks of training on Hatamin Island. He taught them what coral is and what issues reefs are facing, showed them the different species, and instructed them on how to cut, grow and outplant corals.
First, they created simple artificial reef structures from pieces of bent metal, used as a nursery to grow mother colonies. Then, pieces of those colonies are fragmented and outplanted onto natural reefs that have been destroyed by dynamite fishing and unsustainable tourism practices.
After getting this process down, the fishermen started to work autonomously, gaining a natural appreciation and respect for the environment they were now protecting.
In addition to growing and outplant coral colonies, the employees were taught how to manage the marine protected area and conduct biological monitoring. For one week each month, they track a fixed group of 10 fishermen, gathering data about where they go on the water, what they catch, how much they sell and how much they keep to feed themselves. This is one method they use to measure the scope of their success.
With the establishment of the marine protected area and reports of growing fisheries, environmental impacts of the project have been remarkable. But perhaps the most important outcome has been the educational aspect for locals.
“It’s definitely eye-opening for the local community to learn that their way of fishing was wrong,” Sutopo said. “But it seems that gaining this knowledge has brought people to realize that the negative impacts not only affect the present moment, but far into the future as well.”
The community has even gone so far as to implement their own fishing restrictions around restoration areas, now considering marine health part of their responsibility.
“The fishermen and the whole village fully understand the importance of protecting the reefs,” Colognoli said.
The ultimate goal of Coral Guardian is to revive a circular economy around coral reefs and show that there are effective solutions to combat local pressures on these ecosystems. In existing areas, the organization aims to set up training centers, so surrounding communities can be trained to take up initiatives of their own.
“In the long run, our aim is to empower the local community financially (through ecotourism, for example), so that they manage their natural resources themselves,” Colognoli said. “Then they will be able to expand the number of employees.”
In the successful wake of Seraya-besar, Coral Guardian is planning to set up similar programs in New Caledonia and Colombia in 2019.
The Colombian program will take place near Santa Marta, in the village of Taganga on the country’s Caribbean side. In New Caledonia, it will take place on the west coast near Bourail.
The communities were chosen, Colognoli said, for their demonstrated interest and earnest desire to set up a successful and sustainable coral reef conservation program.
“We already have good partners in each place that are motivated and skilled,” Colognoli said. “The next step is to find the financial support that will allow us to train them and start their field initiative.”
To help set up these and future initiatives, Goral Guardian has set up the Blue Center, a coral conservation training site where representatives from small communities can come to learn about setting up a restoration program in their local waters.
Eventually, Coral Guardian aims to expand to create more Blue Centers, so that the program information and education is easily accessible for remote communities around the globe.
This story is part of The Ocean Agency's expedition program, conducted as part of International Year of the Reef 2018, an initiative of the International Coral Reef Initiative in collaboration with the UN Environment supported by The Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
1. Why does Coral Guardian focus on coral restoration?
It is very important to understand that we use coral restoration as a tool to raise awareness among the local fishermen. They figure out that it brings back a lot of fish and decide to protect larger areas. We do not pretend to restore all of the destroyed reefs around here — that would be impossible. The real solution is protection.
2. What's the process like for establishing a relationship with a community?
We approach them without proposing anything — just exchange about their life, our life; what they do, what we do. When the community becomes interested in what we do, they ask if it would be possible to set up a conservation program.
3. Is Coral Guardian only focused on areas with associated Marine Protected Areas, or are you looking to expand to other areas?
We can work in areas without MPAs as long as they are not too polluted and local people want to participate in the project. This is the case in Colombia and New Caledonia. Then, in a second phase, we set up locally managed marine protected areas in the restored areas.
4. Can you explain a little more about how the growing and outplanting process works?
To grow coral, healthy colonies must be collected in the wild near the rehabilitation areas. To create minimal impact, we collect colonies that have already been detached from their parent colonies. These broken coral colonies are found on the seafloor, lying on a moving substratum (coral debris layer). Are removed, preventing them from settling and dying. This happens in areas where tourism is present. The impact of passing anchors from boats, swimmers, divers are the reasons why these corals break off. A great diversity of species can be harvested on the bottom. They are mostly branched corals, because they are the most fragile and are the first to break in physical contact.
A stock of mother-plant colonies must be established before they can be planted onto reefs. The area of coral transplantation on the metal support structures is chosen according to the tide. So that the work is comfortable and fast, it is ideally an area of sand where the depth does not exceed 2.5 feet. To minimize the stress of coral colonies, cutting and planting must be done quickly. Once set, the corals must not move for at least a month. This corresponds to the time required to allow the corals to cover the metal support with their calcareous skeleton.
Question-and-Answer with Sutopo
Conservation Program Director – Flores, Coral Guardian
1. What changes have you seen in your local marine environment?
The coral is growing incredibly fast. It looks like it’s found its own pattern and way to grow, which becomes a catalyst for reefs to revive and bring back many fish.
2. How has the community been educated on destructive fishing practices?
It’s definitely eye-opening for the local community to learn that their way of fishing was wrong. But it seems that gaining this knowledge has brought people to realize that the negative impacts not only affect the present moment, but far into the future as well. One important thing is that our local English teacher educates the local children about the coral reef ecosystem and how to protect it.
3. How has the rest of the community change fishing practices as they have become more aware of the issue?
One thing we can see is that the community has stopped using dynamite fishing. They have changed and are now considering marine health part of their responsibility.
4. How has the community accepted Coral Guardian’s presence?
At first, it was difficult for Coral Guardian’s idea to resonate with fishermen, because they’d been dynamite fishing since they were born. But now, the community welcomes Coral Guardian's presence and has embraced their activity as they’ve seen how it’s helped their waters.
Coral Guardian is a French nonprofit international solidarity organization dedicated to the conservation of coral ecosystems, raising awareness, scientific research and the enhancement of marine ecosystems. Coral Guardian aims to promote innovative approaches to marine conservation and encourage sustainable development models by deploying multiple angles of action through five areas of intervention, harmoniously combining the preservation of marine ecosystems, the enhancement of biodiversity and sustainable development.
The Ocean Agency is nonprofit dedicated to supporting ocean science and conservation through creative communication and technology innovation, providing media with stories and imagery to help raise awareness of ocean issues. This story is part of The Ocean Agency's expedition program, conducted as part of International Year of the Reef 2018, an initiative of the International Coral Reef Initiative in collaboration with the UN Environment supported by The Tiffany & Co. Foundation.
The Tiffany & Co. Foundation seeks to preserve the world's most treasured landscapes and seascapes. The Tiffany & Co. Foundation values healthy oceans and the important role that corals play in these ecosystems. The Foundation supports organizations that work to improve the health of oceans through research, preservation and management of coral reefs. Its grantees also promote awareness and education of the importance of corals and marine ecosystems through outreach to targeted constituencies such as consumers, ocean enthusiasts and other key stakeholders.
International Year of the Reef has declared 2018 the third International Year of the Reef (IYOR). This year-long celebration is a great opportunity to come together to raise and strengthen awareness on the plight of coral reefs, and to step up and initiate conservation efforts.