Marine ecosystems require every bit of the balance that those on Earth require, and they are just as impacted by ecological destruction as any healthy ecosystem is on land. Because of certain variables in the marine ecosystem, any damage that is sustained can take significantly longer to recuperate — if recuperation is even a possibility. Human intervention is needed at times to make sure recovery can happen, and that is the sole intent of The Marine Foundation’s installation of electrified artificial reefs in Pemuteran, Bali.
The furthest point from Bali’s main tourism centers, Pemuteran once had the distinction of having the largest area of shallow coral reefs that were easily accessible and largely unspoiled. The community of Pemuteran worked closely with hotel and dive shop developers to ensure that the reefs in front of the hotels were protected no-fishing zones, and destructive fishing practices like cyanide poisoning and dynamite were banned by local fishermen. Pemuteran became a diver’s paradise.
But all good things must come to an end, and the 1998 economic crisis in Indonesia led to a lax on fishing bans in the previously protected areas. Fishermen migrating from neighboring islands, where destructive fishing practices had decimated their fisheries, put even further pressure on the resources of Pemuteran, diminishing this once dazzling marine ecosystem into piles of coral rubble and devoid of any marine life. By the time the bans were reinstated, the damage could not be undone, and fishermen realized they’d have to change their game.
The Pemuteran Coral Conservation Project (alternately dubbed the Karang Lestari Project) was begun in 2000, when scientists and divers worked together to create the region’s first coral nursery in front of one of Pemuteran’s hotels. Since then, over 20 structures have been placed in the sheltered bay of Pemuteran, with documentation of just how well it’s succeeding.
The structures are constructed using the Biorock method, in which low electric currents are passed to electrodes on the structures underwater. The electrifying of the structures instigates and encourages the growth of calcium carbonate, the foundation for a wide variety of marine creatures, including corals and shelled organisms. The current is not harmful to people or the marine life surrounding it, and Biorock is a derivative of the very seawater in which it grows, making it ecologically sound. Each piece of coral that is affixed to the structures is a broken piece that has been recovered from the seafloor. If left where they lay, the pieces will simply die, but when added to the artificial reef, they have a chance to flourish and propagate the species.
Slowly but surely, the divers and snorkelers are starting to come back as the Biorock reefs create a place for all manner of marine life to inhabit, hide, find food, and have their young. The structures are beautifully built, with several representing cultural facets of Indonesia. Check out this captivating video of the life that Biorock has brought back to Pemuteran.
Image via Wikipedia