Restoration Project Increases Fish Stocks Fivefold
A project using former dynamite fishermen to protect and restore coral reefs has had a dramatic impact on an island in Indonesia with fish stock in protected areas increasing by as much as fivefold in two years.
The programme was set up by the French non-profit Coral Guardian in the isolated island of Seraya-besar, 500km (310 miles) east of Bali. It employs 15 former fishers to plant more than 26,000 healthy corals and establish 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 sqm over the past two years.
'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.
Coral Guardian taught the 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.
'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 programme 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 programmes 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 programme in their local waters. The aim is to create centres around the globe so programme information and education are easily accessible to all.