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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
Oct 28, 2019

Papua New Guinea Begins the Happy Chicken Project!

Kopsi , Grace, and Kevin
Kopsi , Grace, and Kevin

This has been a very exciting time this past month. Last week we said goobye to six community representatives from our biggest Pacific Island nation- Papua New Guinea (PNG).  The group: Grace, Igo, Kopsi, Kefin, Malisa, and Alii, were here for four VERY full weeks, being trained in Happy Chicken methods,  in participatory methods of community resource management, permaculture farming techniques, and coral gardening to restore coral reefs and local fish stocks. 

This holistic training focused on facilitating community well-being and prosperity, through faclitating the restoration of abundant resources provided by nature: including establishing no-fishing and no-hunting marine and forest reserves, and replacing wild-caught foods with home-grown eggs, chickens, and farm products. 

The group stayed in our dormatory and helped cook the food.  Every evening we shared stories around our traditional "happy circle", before sharing the evening meal together.  Grace Manani, an agricultural extension officer with the Central Province government, was particularly good at telling interesting stories about the day, and relating things to her life growing up and living in the PNG bush.   

The days of the workshop were educational and sometimes tiring, but filled with laughter and fun. The group learned chicken feed production using local resources: cassava, coconut, and locally available plants, selective chicken breeding to produce more productive and diverse chickens, simple chicken house designs, and how to train free-range chickens to sleep and to lay in their proper place- not in the trees and bushes!  They also learned good hatchery managent skills and did planning exercises in preparation for applying what they learned in their own communities on their return to PNG.  An in-depth Happy Chicken Manual was produced for the workshop, to reinforce what the trainees had learned, and to assist them with training others back home.

As PNG does not allow the importation of baby chicks from anywhere on earth, we unfortunately could not send chicks home with the trainees.  But because of this policy, the demand for good quality chicks is very high and mostly unmet. The first task of the PNG workers will be to create their own breeding flocks, so that they can begin hatching chicks on behalf of the wider community.

The airfares and most expenses were provided by Kyeema Foundation, our wonderful partner organization in Australia.  Kyeema will be following up on the progress made by the six PNG trainees over the next few years.  On this foundation they/we plan to build up a national Happy Chicken program in PNG.  Additional workshops at our Fiji model farm and training center are being discussed for the future.  

Without your generous donations, these sorts of capacity building workshops would not be possible.  We have succeeded in establishing a functioning hatchery, and have created an improved mixed breed of productive egg laying chickens, providing over 35,000 free-range chickens to poor rural communities throughout Fiji, providing cyclone relief by restoring damaged community poultry flocks, setting up small hatcheries in four remote villages, and bringing in people for training from dozens of Fijian communities- from nine islands and from three additional Pacific countries as well (Vanuatu, Kiribati, and PNG).

Thank you again so much for your kind and loving assisance. 

 

          

Milisa in the cassava/corn inter-cropping garden
Milisa in the cassava/corn inter-cropping garden
PNG Group as the Coral Restoration Workshop
PNG Group as the Coral Restoration Workshop
Our very own Grace, a Natural Leader
Our very own Grace, a Natural Leader
The Happy Chicken PNG Team and Fiji hosts Oct 2019
The Happy Chicken PNG Team and Fiji hosts Oct 2019
Grace Extracting Virgin Coconut Oil
Grace Extracting Virgin Coconut Oil
Sep 13, 2019

Surf's Up! World Surf League Helps Corals!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Austin Bowden-Kerby, people smiling, people sitting, outdoor, water and natureThe World Surf League provided flights for our own world-famous coral gardener, Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby, in this week's effort to help a youth group restore a coral reef in French Polynesia.  Here's Austin (in the red scarf) with a group of surfers and the Moorea Coral Gardeners, having the time of his life on the most beautiful island, just being one of the kids helping to save the reef.

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World-class surfers, several in the photo above, love and respect coral reefs and they want to help.  Once the surfing community found out about Austin's scientific expertise in restoring damaged and threatened coral reefs, he was brought in to train this group of coral advocates in new methods.  Suffice it to say, it is many nautical miles from Fiji to Moorea via NZ and Tahiti.  Austin was able to send this field report & reflections while the coral cuts were fresh, and a few tears of gratitude still flowed.  Here's the newsflash from Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort:

I am leaving today by boat to Tahiti, to visit another group for training in coral gardening.  Then leave at 2 am tonight for Fiji via NZ.  The trip has been exhausting but incredible. The group gave me a beautiful black pearl that one of their parents had farmed as a going away present. 

Moorea is the most beautiful island I have ever been to. This group has amazing energy but had never been trained, and so were a bit limited in what they were doing with the corals, but very receptive to new ideas and methods.  Twenty or so mostly volunteer staff, over half indigenous, the others mostly French, and in their mid to early 20's and late teens. Among them several Internet whizzes and film makers to produce promotional materials. They get funded by tourism and their parents, they have a steady stream of paying visitors, and they sell t-shirts etc.   I am worn out from the work, pretty much all day in the water, and a hundred small coral cuts.   
The main outcome of the trip is that the group will now be focused on collecting bleaching resistant corals from the very hot pockets- the nearshore shallows- as there are still some of the now rare acropora corals but very few and far between. 
I showed them how to build A-frame nurseries, rope nurseries, and coral cookie nurseries. I also implemented a new and very exciting method for the table acropora species, "coral garland", which translates well into French- 'coral couran' not sure of the spelling.   It reinforces the local Pacific culture of making flower garlands for loved ones.  The method uses 1cm or even more tiny microfragments which trim off so easily from the edge of the colonies--and those are woven into thin polyfilament twine.  After several days the frags are very happy looking. The method is much less damaging on the source colony and I think growth should be amazing.  
Okay it is nearly dawn and I have ten 'mother' corals to cement to their bases, because I have to leave here at 8am.....  Thankfully, the Coral Gardeners headquarters is right on the ocean.  I will be back on the farm for five days and then off to Tuvalu, thanks to Global Giving donors.  Then back to Fiji for international workshop I am giving in Fiji, with trainees coming from Papua New Guinea, Samoa, New Caledonia, Australia, and Fiji.    
Yesterday was my last full day here on Moorea, so lots of time in the water.  I am beginning to suffer from coral cuts and tiredness, but the work needs to get done. We went to a sand bank where the tourists feed the stingrays and got very up close and personal with them, stroking them and they ate from our hands.  At one point I picked up a shell and a seabird {black-capped tern} thought it was food and bit my hand which started to bleed- then the sharks suddenly appeared - in came three of them to check out the blood.... a bit too close for comfort, but the photographers who were in the water were so stoked.  This will hopefully all be on the World Surf League website.  
Vinaka... loloma levu, Austin
Feature from Fiji Times Image may contain: 2 people
I invite you to click on links about coral gardening, World Surf League's PURE effort supporting coral work, and the United Nations Environment link backing community action to protect coral reefs worldwide.  Global Giving will be promoting our Corals for Conservation project and their other Climate Action Fund winning groups during the upcoming United Nations Climate week starting September 23rd. 
You all do so much for us with your commitment to protecting the reefs from the consequences of the quickening pace of climate change and other threats.  You do so much when you share your love through gifts and by your positive thinking-- to restore Austin's energy after a grueling fight for the reefs we love!
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