Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bali tourism agency launches coral restoration project

The first coral transplantation project in Nusa Dua was launched Tuesday in an effort to restore the coral reefs and improve marine tourism in the area.

Initiated by the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) as part of the ongoing Nusa Dua Fiesta, the project invited tourists, fishermen's groups and several organizations to join the Adopt a Coral program, by donating US$25 for a fragment of transplanted coral.

Some participants donated $500 for an artificial submarine reef and 20 pieces of transplanted corals. The artificial submarine reef is a man-made construction, which is submerged to serve as a platform for transplanted reefs.

The transplanted coral, made by growing small pieces of living coral on a biological substrate, was attached in an artificial submarine reef.

There were 16 submarine reefs, each of which consists of 20 pieces of transplanted corals.

The reefs were placed in some spots where the coral coverage was low. A group of volunteers dived into 8-meter-deep water to plant the artificial reefs and attach the transplanted corals. Names of the adopters were also attached to each of the coral pieces.

"It was very impressive down there. Crowds of fish started to come. Hopefully we will see this area with more coral and fish with this project," said Darren Lauder, one of the adopters, after joining the volunteer group to plant the coral.

Some prominent figures in tourism also took part in adopting coral, including former tourism ministers Joop Ave and I Gde Ardika, and the incumbent Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik.

According to a recent survey in the area, the coverage of living coral stood between 25 and 50 percent, a range categorized as "moderate".

Like reefs in other submarine areas across the archipelago, coral reefs in the Nusa Dua area are threatened by natural and man-made elements, with large areas of dead coral found in several places.

Although Nusa Dua is not a popular diving or snorkeling site compared to Menjangan, Nusa Penida or Tulamben, the beauty of its marine biodiversity has contributed to the tourism there, project head Pariama Hutasoit said.

"Coral reefs are important for protecting seashores from abrasion, and to bring local communities more benefits from fisheries and tourism."

She said the transplanted coral, especially the Acropora species, would grow about 2 to 3 centimeters a month. "A special team of marine biologists will monitor the coral reefs regularly, and take care of them once every three months."

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