This forum/discussion is open to all. If you're interested in the topic or have something to contribute, please do so.
A Primer for the Discussion:
The main island of Fiji, Viti Levu, is not known for its coral reefs. Even along the coral coast, whose name suggests splendor, the fringing reef cannot compete with coral reefs on other Fijian islands. Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby, a local marine biologist, is in the process of turning this around through education and affirmative action. His coral reef restoration efforts in southern Viti Levu are known as "Coral Gardening," and he is the subject of much media interest. See:
Background and Topic:
A year ago, Cyclone Tomas ripped through northeast Fiji, scouring the reefs to their rock base, smashing the coral colonies into small fragments. Cyclones are a natural phenomenon; the coral reefs in and around northeast Fiji will eventually recover. But what if the locals in northeast Fiji coral garden? Will the recovery time be shortened? Will the reefs rebound to such an extent that you attract both tourists and a healthy fishery?
Roberta Davis and quite a few local teenagers and tourists, who live and visit northeast Taveuni, are putting these theories to the test, by taking these same smashed coral fragments and inserting them into the scoured reef wall. She and her crew have been working diligently for a year on this project and they have some surprising results. I will let her go into detail, but she reports the following:
(1) The majority of the reef fragments they have planted have taken off and it is now difficult to tell there was only bare rock a year ago.
(2) Coral larvae have planted themselves (from the coral spawn) in between the planted staghorn acropora. Thus, there will be a diverse coral reef in a few years.
(3) Large parts of the reef remain "unplanted" and no coral larvae have attached themselves in these areas. These areas are barren.
(4) There has been and there continues to be a huge infestation of crown of thorn starfish (also known by its acronym "COTS"). In order to preserve their coral gardening efforts, the crew have been removing the COTS from the gardened reef. There is one triton snail currently on the reef and the gardening crew give it a COTS to eat when they see it. There have also been sightings of a large Napoleon Wrasse at the reef - a sure sign there are lots of COTS to eat.
Please see the following for footage of tritons eating COTS:
1. Besides looking beautiful, does coral gardening improve the fish populations? Is there a noticeable difference between the gardened and non-gardened parts of the reef?
2. Does the removal of COTS help?
3. Besides the triton snail and the Napoleon Wrasse, are there other predators of COTS?
4. Do the locals target the Napoleon Wrasse and the triton shell for the tourist trade or for food? If so, what can be done to solve this problem?
5. Why do coral larvae only attach to reefs where coral is already present?
6. Any other topics pertinent to the discussion welcome.
Thanks for this forum topic. The goal of Corals for Conservation (the NGO I helped found), www.coralsforconservation.com is to encourage individuals and the tourism industry to care for the reefs they use and rely upon. We hope to train "coral gardeners" in (ultimately) a government approved and internationally recognized programme, and to encourage resorts and the diving industry to take on the role of conserving and protecting the reefs in collaboration and partnership with the customary reef owning communities. We realize that many are out there who want to do much more to save the reefs by becoming involved. Now is the time- and the coral reefs very much need our help. Major problems are overfishing and associated imbalances (like overabundance of coral predators COTS and a horrible small snail that kills corals). We plan to be offering workshops and training sessions in the coming years, once we can find the funding or when a resort arises to cover the costs. I am also writing a manual for the layman, as I killed a lot of corals learning what I do!
It is wonderful that Roberta and her friends are becoming involved! Vinaka Vakalevu!