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Feb 18, 2020

Climate-Change Clock Ticks Faster - To Save Coral Reefs We Must Act Faster!

Christmas Island Super Coral Nursery
Christmas Island Super Coral Nursery

A late happy 2020, and a big thank you- "Vinaka vakalevu" to all of our special supporters from around the world.

Greta Thunberg recently reminded the world at the Economic Summit in Switzerland that the climate-change clock is not only still ticking – rather it is speeding up!  She doesn't want percentages cut, nor 5-year or 20-year plans, she wants the carbon emissions to be net zero- NOW. 

But doesn’t this sound extreme?  Impractical perhaps, yes, but no, not extreme.  I share Greta's concerns because I am on the frontline in the collapse of this precious planet- I see the coral reefs bleaching and dying from water that has become so hot in our summer that it is uncomfortable to swim in.  Just this week our southern summer (Feb = Aug), bleaching has returned to our Fiji sites.  My dear friends, this global warming problem is very real- yet it is difficult for most people to get their heads around.  Carbon pollution is more of a threat than any pandemic, because it is hidden, slow moving, and long-term, and because it impacts all species on the planet, not just our own. 

While I have little hope that our leaders will do what needs to be done quickly enough to prevent even more grave consequences, I do have hope for coral reefs, because there is something that we can do to save them right now, even in the face of rapid climate change. Admittedly, what we do may seem miniscule when compared to the scale of coral reefs, but we are doing is proving a concept that can then be multiplied a thousand fold and that will help keep hundreds of coral species from going extinct in the coming decades. Already we are helping reefs maintain coral cover in the warming seas in six countries.  

Over the past four years since the project began, the coral rescue work has spread from Fiji to Kiribati, Tuvalu, French Polynesia, Vanuatu, and now to Samoa.  An amazing movement is beginning to form that you are part of, and so we thank you for joining in.  We all have a choice: sink into apathy and despair, or join together, dive in, arise and move forward with positive actions and hope!   While there are many positive and transformative movements that we can and should get involved with to help save the species and ecosystems of the planet, it is truly precious that we have become a positive and hopeful movement for saving the coral reefs, involving the youth and others in many sites. 

Each project site starts by assessing the situation by field scoping and in consultation with government, local fishers, and the reef owning community. Where possible, a comprehensive coral reef restoration and management plan is facilitated or supported, including no-fishing areas, a coral restoration plan, and COTS removal activities.  For reefs mostly killed by bleaching, the focus is to search for 'super corals', bleaching-resistant survivors, for sampling and propagation within coral nurseries. If the main reefs are still largely intact, the focus turns to searching shallow tide pools and closed lagoons for heat adapted corals. These 'hot pocket 'corals exist at the upper thermal tolerance limit for corals, and so they are often killed out in mass bleaching events, and so our collection of samples of each of these corals represents a coral rescue.  Once these 'super coral candidates' grow big in the gene bank nurseries, if a major bleaching has not hit during the growth period, we trim off small pieces for further testing in containers of hot water, to confirm their bleaching resistance.  Once a coral has been confirmed as a super coral, we then begin trimming off branches for outplanting, to restore damaged reefs and to create patches of hot-water adapted corals, to be ready for when mass bleaching kills most of the other corals. We do not advocate replanting entire reefs, but we rather we create diverse patches of adapted corals where natural reproduction can occur, and from where bleaching resistance can spread naturally throughout the coral reef system.

A major advancement in spreading the strategy happened last year, with two international training workshops completed, and another ten-day workshop will begin just next week.  Over 70 have been trained so far in advanced coral gardening for climate change adaptation, which is a major advancement:  30+ from Fiji, 5 from Papua New Guinea, 3 each from Samoa and Malaysia, and with one each from Vanuatu and New Caledonia, plus others from Australia, USA, New Zealand, Spain, Netherlands, and Israel.   

During the September workshop, participants dedicated our newest coral nursery to a special person- we named the nursery the "Greta Thunberg Coral Nursery"  A bouquet of super corals is now dedicated to a super person, at a super important time.

SPECIAL THANKS TO EVERYONE!

PS: Giving a special Valentines Day "THANK YOU!" to our special volunteer in Seattle, USA, Nancy Clark, who has tirelessly worked to help thank donors, edit reports, etc.  Nancy helped us double our contributions on GlobalGiving this year!    She wants me to remind you that the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is this coming this April 22nd.  Donations made on that day will help us attain a high ranking as a Climate Action Fund participant, and donations on that day will receive a special match!  Good Thinking Nancy! 

The "Greta Thunberg" Nursery in Fiji, Sept 2019
The "Greta Thunberg" Nursery in Fiji, Sept 2019
Nadiri Community Site, Fiji Nov 2019
Nadiri Community Site, Fiji Nov 2019
Pink Pocillopora Super Corals, Kiritimati
Pink Pocillopora Super Corals, Kiritimati
PNG Trainees Conducting Their Own Training in PNG
PNG Trainees Conducting Their Own Training in PNG
Loloma levu to Nancy Clark, our special volunteer!
Loloma levu to Nancy Clark, our special volunteer!
Jan 28, 2020

Happy Chickens Provide Food Security For Climate-Challenged Pacific Islanders

Happy Chickens make Happy Children
Happy Chickens make Happy Children

Looking Back:

As we welcome a new decade 2020, it's fitting to pause and reflect how Happy Chickens started as our first GlobalGiving project for Corals for Conservation.  Looking to our neighbors here in Fiji, we saw communities impacted by food shortages and suffering the rampages of diabetes--the highest death rate due to diabetes in the entire world.  Meanwhile, the coral reefs were being severely impacted with the effects of overfishing, higher temperatures causing corals to bleach and die, horrifically severe cyclones, and floods.  Taboo no-fishing sites had been set aside to allow the fisheries to recover, but closing the fishing grounds compounds food shortages in the beginning, as it takes three years or more before the restored fish stocks begin spilling over to the fishers.  A reliable low-cost protein source was needed.

I turned to my childhood, growing up in North Carolina, and remembering what my grandmothers had taught me about raising free-range chickens, housing, feeding, keeping them secure from predators, and breeding them, and I realized that a workable solution for the communities was to breed and provide village-adapted chickens that are good foragers- happy to be pecking about during the day on grass, worms, and local feeds like coconut and cassava. The introduced mongoose had eliminated most local chicken flocks two generations ago, and so most local chicken raising knowledge had died out with the chickens.

With determination, Happy Chickens were bred with care, and they improved with each passing year, until they finally became one of the most sought-after commodities in the town market.  We have now provided over 35 thousand day-old chicks to farmers and communities, at-cost, below cost, or free of charge, depending on the economic condition of the farmer.  If a community went through a happy chicken workshop, they were rewarded with chicks and feed and housing materials.  I now am known as "the chicken man" in the communities surrounding our farm, and I am often stopped in the market to discuss people's chickens and how big and nice they are and how many eggs they are producing- it is clear that the chickens have made a big difference to the communities and to the farmers.  I receive warm handshakes and sometimes even hugs from the children. In other areas of the country and on the coast, I am better known as "Tui Lase" or "the coral man".  Strange how chickens and corals belong together!

Happy Chickens has also played a key role in our Climate Action Fund effort.  This past year, when Corals for Conservation was awarded GlobalGiving's high honor of being one of the first of five organizations chosen for special Climate Action- Happy Chickens was in the wings.  Island villagers could live on eggs and chickens while they were letting the coral reef, river prawns, and forest birds rest.  It was truly a case of empowering local actions for the bigger picture of small actions to save the planet while improving human and animal health both, and becoming more effective with each passing year.

However, we were recently challenged and have had to slow our work down.  As we were having our chickens tested for export throughout the region, Fiji Biosecurity identified a rather serious chicken disease in one of our eight chicken flocks, and as a precaution, in November we were forced to reduce our flocks by selling off 2/3 of our hens, as they might be disease carriers.  It broke our hearts to say goodbye to our favorite birds.  We made the difficult decision to close the hatchery until we could guarantee that the chicks we produce are disease-free once again. We now have a lot to do to improve the cleanliness of the flocks and to prevent another disease from coming in.  Next month Fiji Biosecurity will return to test the chickens, and if they give the 'all-clear' we will proceed to re-open the hatchery.  Starting with quality rather than quantity, we will build up once again.

Looking Ahead:

Once we attain a disease-free flock, we will not only start the hatchery back up, but we will finally be able to export chicks to Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, and all the other island nations that cannot access such productive village adapted breeds of chickens.  No one has chickens like these!  Our plan to export regionally was how the disease was identified in the first place!

By May or June, we expect to be ready to carry out our community workshops once again, with five villages on the wait list, either with no-fishing areas already, or in the process of setting some of their coral reefs aside for recovery.  And yes, I expect to be back in the market once again, selling off surplus chicks to the farmers in order to break even, and in general making a spectacle of myself to the delight of the children and everyone who come in with their parents from the villages and farms every Saturday.  Any personal sacrifice is small in relation to all the good this Happy Chicken program has done in the past, and most certainly will do in the future.

Vinaka Vakalevu Kemuni, Nai lolma nei Taiose!

Thank you very much to all, sending love from Grandfather Ose

Over a dozen Happy Chicken workshops so far!
Over a dozen Happy Chicken workshops so far!
The Moala incubator hatched out hundreds of chicks
The Moala incubator hatched out hundreds of chicks
We also have provided over 700 baby ducks
We also have provided over 700 baby ducks
Climate change impacts communities but we can help
Climate change impacts communities but we can help
The Happy Chicken Man
The Happy Chicken Man

Links:

Nov 27, 2019

Race to Save the Reefs of Samoa

Searching for super corals among the dead corals
Searching for super corals among the dead corals

Unquestionably, the earth's temperature is rising.  Compilations worldwide are in for October, and the scientific consensus is that 2019 is on target for being the hottest year ever.  I'm preaching to the choir of dedicated ocean conservationists who care so much about corals, but let me share the story of the efforts in Samoa made possible in part by your continued help.

I just returned last night from Samoa to answer the summons--there's trouble on the reefs.  Coral is being stressed, bleached stark white and killed, by high water temperatures not seen before, and locals are scrambling to help save their national treasure of the reef ecosystem.  Food security and tourism livelihoods depend upon the success of our work.

On this trip I locally trained close to a hundred Samoans to identify and conserve the corals that can survive hot water without bleaching.  These corals were then planted into coral nurseries established within existing community established marine protected areas.  This work brought together the government fisheries division, FAO- the food and agriculture division of United Nations, and also the village fishers keen to get the project going on their reefs, as some or the reefs are mostly dead from elevated water temperatures earlier this year and in 2016.  Survey work was done to measure the extent of the damage, plus a source of bleaching resistant "super corals" was found in naturally occurring shallow hot pockets on the reef.  Four community no-fish zones were recommended for the work, and this is where I am today.

The three Samoan trainees from our September workshop in Fiji: Tavita, Warren, and Faletoese, who had paid their own airfare and who were supported by a partial scholarship from our GG funds, are central to one project site. They were excited and ready, and had already taught the Matautu community to prepare concrete "cookies" for planting super corals on.  They also had made ten "fish houses," hollow igloo-like structures out of stone and cement, on which to plant corals on in sandy areas. 

In total, seven new nurseries were created inside four no-fishing conservation areas.  By June, the corals will have doubled or tripled in size, and will be ready to be trimmed for planting fragments back to the reef, to create patches of hot-water resistant corals.  Within a few years under the loving care of the community coral gardeners, the reef will again thrive in its amazing natural colors and form. I am so proud of these young people, and applaud them for their dedication and their willingness to devote so much personal time and resources.

As the reefs are now heating up again in the Southern Summer, the plan is for me to return to Samoa in June for a strong push to replant some major dead reef areas we have now identified.,  The plan is to use hot pocket corals from a site so clogged with corals that they are crowding each other out. We will thin out competing branches, and remove corals that have grown so high that they are exposed at low tide, rescuing corals which would in time otherwise die.  

Emergency Response to Massive Coral Bleaching was started as a project on Global Giving four years ago.  Much has been done, not only in Fiji, but also in Kiribati, Moorea in French Polynesia, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and now Samoa. Trainees have also recently returned from our training to Papua New Guinea and to New Caledonia. In time every island nation across the Pacific where reefs exist will have some reefs being restored by local coral gardeners. I pioneered these techniques over thirty years ago, and with some recent refinements like fashioning garlands of coral micro-fragments, it still remains as the only answer to the bleaching emergency..

Giving Tuesday is being offered by Global Giving on December 3rd.  This year triple the amount of money is in the bonus fund waiting to be tapped by you!  There will be a percentage donation for every gift--the fairest way to award matching so that no organization is left out.  This year you're invited to donate either to our micro-project or directly to the main corals project.  

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Here's our next coral gardening workshop, to be held in February in Fiji just when the water is the warmest.  We'll be doing real time work in testing for super corals by stressing some to find the best ones to propagate for success!  Those of you in marine sciences or in communities with urgent need of help for your reefs, please respond and we'll get you more information.  Because of the generosity of so many via Global Giving, we will have accommodation, meal costs, and fees waived for indigenous islanders from Fiji and other developing nations.  Our site sponsor is Plantation Island Resort--without them this event would not happen.  Thanks to everyone!Image may contain: text
Excited youth join in with Fisheries staff
Excited youth join in with Fisheries staff
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
 
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