Imanaka Tabu Area- New Coral Restoration Site
Three amazing coral restoration workshops were completed in late August, actively involving indigenous ni-Vanuatu communities and representatives from several Vanuatu NGOs. The workshops took place in areas where the traditional coral reef owning communities have set aside reef areas into no-fishing ''Tabu'' areas. Unfortunately, because the corals are mostly dead on these reefs from recent hot-water bleaching events followed by coral-killing crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, the fish have not come back as quickly as had been hoped. Corals are indeed fish houses, and without corals, fish have less habitat.
The goal of the three workshops was to address this low coral cover- to identify bleaching resistant corals, to establish nurseries for rapid cultivation of these ''super'' corals for the coral replanting work one year later, when the biomass of the corals will have increased by ten-fold or more so that the communities can begin restoring their reefs with thermally tolerant corals.
Three coral nurseries were established, one in each of the three workshop sites. Stone and cement ''fish houses'' were also constructed for use in areas of broken coral rubble- to give the corals a firm foundation to begin growing, while providing extra fish habitat. Building fish houses is an excellent land-based activity for school children to contribute to the project.
The initial 'training of trainers' workshop took place over five days on Nguna-Pele Islands, and the following week, two of us focused on Pango, Efate island, while three of the trainees became trainers- taking their new knowledge to Southwest Bay, Malekula Island.
The Nguna and Malekula workshops were both carried out without the use of GG project funds, with our contribution being the sharing of knowledge and training the participants, which was offered as a donation. The Vanuatu NGO, Island Reach and the local communities arranged everything and covered all major expenses, incuding my return travel from Fiji. Another NGO, HCDI covered accommodation in Port Vila as well as transport to the nearby coral nursery site in Pango. GlobalGiving donations paid for the coral nursery materials used in the Pango site- which was quickly arranged by one of the initial trainees- at a community that had recently set aside a tabu area.
The outcome of the Vanuatu work is very encouraging. All of the essential elements for self-sufficiency are already in place; local support and initiative, keen local receptivity, resource management and conservation plans in place, including no-take marine protected areas and crown of thorns starfish removal efforts. The coral restoration work was about all that was missing.
The plan now is for me to return next June to train the trainers on the next phase of the work- the outpanting of second generation corals trimmed from the existing nurseries, to begin the process of healing and assisting the reef to adapt to warming seas.
Accomplishments of the Vanuatu trip
- Presentation on the coral reef crisis and coral gardening to 54 people in a public meeting at an art gallery in Port Vila, attended by the SPREP climate change rep and NGOs
- Conducted a four day coral gardening workshop for 20 participants on Nguna Island.
- Establishment of a coral Nursery at Unakepu Village, Nguna
- Conducted a two day training and established a coral nursery at Pango, Efate for the training of youth.
- Facilitated extension of to coral work to Malekula Island
- Site visit to Tanna Island to the Imanaka community no-fishing area, whch has been in place for eight years, for assessment and to plan for a restoration workshop on the next visit. Initial coral restoration trials were begun.
In other news, a major two-week coral gardening and restoration training is scheduled here in Fiji for the last half of January, directed to Pacific Island university students, and sponsored by a local resort. Sometime in March or April, depending on funds, a return visit will also be made to Christmas Island, Kiribati to follow up and to begin the outplanting process for the hundreds of bleaching resistant corals in the nurseries, in partnership with the Fisheries Department and using volunteers from local youth groups and secondary schools. Please drop me an email if you would like a draft copy of the scientific report on the GlobalGiving sponsored Christmas Island coral restoration work.
Thanks again for your continued support and donations in this time of grave planetary crisis.... even with other NGOs now pitching in, without your support through GlobalGiving, the wider project would not be possible. I have tried in vain- thus far at least- to find larger donor funds through grant applications, and I continue to do this work without pay and out of love for the planet... but what a wonderful blessing working with these comunities and in these beautiful places.
The results may appear to be relatively small thus far, but they are truly encouraging for all those involved, and every accomplishment helps establish coral gardening as a workable solution for helping coral reefs adapt to a warming seas and to survive into the future. I am confident that one day our unique approach will be taken more seriously and adopted widely to help save coral reefs all over the planet. We must first demonstrate a working model, and you- as contributors and supporters, are a vital part of getting this accomplished.
Blessings and hope,
Pango, Efate Island, Vanuatu- Youth Workshop
Pango Coral Nursery Helpers
Happy Coral Planter, Malekula
Coral Workshop, Vanuatu
Making Fish House Habitats for Planting Corals