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Reefs Conservation at Pemuteran  

by on Saturday, 20 May 2006One Comment | 2,551 views

Reefs worldwide are being destroyed by global warming, pollution, over fishing, bombing, and cyanide fishing. These events are killing our oceans. Bali is confronted with the same problems and often has less resources to combat them. The 1998 El Nino incident which raised water temperature worldwide, has caused a phenomenon called bleaching in which the coral dies due to the increase in temperature and gives the visual effect of the reef being bleached. Our own reefs here in Bali have experienced the same fate. Compounding this is the continuous bombing and cyanide fishing being used by local fishermen.

Here and now in Pemuteran Bali just off the shore of Taman Sari Hotel is a pilot project, the only one of its kind in Indonesia. Pemuteran Bay leading the way in conservation is experimenting with a radical new approach to artificial reef construction by means of ‘Mineral Accretion’ to literally grow our own reefs. Mineral Accretion is a chemical process pioneered and patented by Professor Wolf Hilbertz and Dr. Tom Goreau, two marine scientists. These very scientists offered to be on hand personally and spearhead the project to train, educate, build and place these artificial reefs right here in the ocean in Pemuteran Bay. All construction was carried out using locally available materials and skills. All of the structural and electrical design work was undertaken by Wolf and Tom.

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This novel technology uses electricity to ‘grow’ limestone rock on artificial reef frames and increase growth rates of corals and other reef organisms. Two electrodes, supplied with low-voltage direct current, are submerged in sea water. Electrolytic reactions at the cathode cause minerals naturally present in sea water to build up. At the same time, a wide range of organisms on or near the growing substrate are affected by electrochemically changed conditions, shifting their growth rates. Living corals are carefully collected and transplanted onto the structures by attaching with wires or wedged between steel bars. These corals are quickly cemented into place by the growing minerals forming all over the structure’s surface.

Reefs of any configuration and size can be grown for purposes of reef restoration and shore protection. They are growing life support systems, bringing about rich and beautiful ecology’s. Mineral accretion technology is unique because it is the only method which produces natural limestone, the material which also constitutes coral skeletons, reefs and sand. As a result, primary settlers and young corals readily settle on the substrate. Naturally settled corals, attached corals, corralling algae, bivalves, and a host of other organisms grow at exceptionally fast rates on these ‘third generation reefs.’ These growing reefs allow corals to thrive, even when water quality conditions have deteriorated to the point of killing surrounding corals. Coral growth rates are greatly accelerated in comparison with corals of the same species on nearby reefs. The increase of growth rate caused by mineral accretion is about 3 to 5 times faster than normal, and can be as high as 10 times faster.

Third generation reefs have been grown using shore power, wind-driven generators, and photovoltaics in Texas, the US Virgin Islands, Louisiana, California, British Columbia, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica, Panama, Japan, Corsica, on Saya de Malha Bank in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles, and the Maldives. Most of these are small pilot projects, up to five meters tall and up to forty meters long, submerged in water one to fourteen meters deep. Much larger reef systems, up to 630 meters in length and up to twenty meters wide, are in the planning stages.

Bio-diversity maintenance functions of the mineral accretion structures become starkly clear in the aftermath of bleaching. Due to the higher coral survival and higher growth rates the mineral accretion structures now have much higher live coral cover than surrounding reefs, and as the result many fish and other marine organisms dependent on live coral for either food or habitat have concentrated their populations in them.

Despite their small size in comparison to the natural reef, the mineral accretion structures have become major refuges of reef organisms that are now rarely seen on the reef, and are serving as an oasis of high bio-diversity, maintaining habitat for many reef species until the surrounding reef can recover. Corals on the mineral accretion structure, because of their higher growth rate and healthier metabolism, will reproduce sooner and more, and so play a key role in restocking the surrounding reefs.

With the success of this project there is the hope that the consciousness of the local fishermen will be raised. This is absolutely essential for the continuation of the ocean conservation movement. It is also hoped that this project will become an educational tool, a showpiece, for other areas in Indonesia that are experiencing similar destruction and wish to reverse it. The new technologies can be applied on any scale, and are applicable to even the smallest and most remote communities as well as the largest. The skills for maintaining and repairing mineral accretion structures are quickly acquired locally, following which no expensive foreign experts are needed to maintain them.

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At this very moment just off the shore starting from Yos dive shop extending in front of Taman Sari Hotel there are twenty two experimental structures ( in total the largest project of its kind in the world ) already placed in the ocean. These structures were constructed and put in place between June 2000 and March 2001. All of these can be viewed by snorkeling just off the shore at Taman Sari Hotel.

The project has had much success and has become widely published. This instills a sense of pride in the local community and serves as generating more motivation for further success. Scientists and ecology enthusiasts can often be seen visiting the area. Many requests for the start of similar programs are being received from all over Bali and Indonesia.

The second phase is the education of the fishermen to move from being hunters to being farmers. This is obviously the future.

Similar structures as those for growing coral will be constructed but designed for eatable fish breeding. The technology is the same but smaller in scope. The breeding sites will be made, maintained, and managed solely by the local fishermen. They will also manage the harvesting. This brings the direct benefit of supplying food to the community and teaching them new skills and understanding in marine management. This is absolutely necessary for their future.

We at Taman Sari are very excited by the possibilities this new technology has to offer to help solve the problem of world wide reef destruction and more particularly to our effort to restore and protect our marine ecology here in Indonesia. We wish to do everything we possibly can to support this effort.

You are welcome.

Editor’s Note
See also
Pemuteran Coral Reef Restoration Project
Pemuteran Artificial Reef Project

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