Since I left, Roberta Davis at Makaira Resort on Taveuni Island has been going gang busters repopulating the reef with coral fragments. Within two weeks of my departure, she had already done 200 free dives, picking up coral fragments off the sea floor and placing them into holes on the reef. She told me she wishes she could grow gills so she could garden the reef full-time without the inconvenience of having to surface for air. And most interesting of all: there's a chance the reef in front of Makaira will be turned into a marine reserve!
Roberta reports that there is a fifty percent (50%) survival rate for the coral fragments. That's not bad, considering many of the fragments' skin was receding when placed in or on the reef. However, for the survivors, "they take-off like a shot once they take."
In December, Roberta wrote to say that the reef is experiencing a problem with crown of thorn starfish (this was actually reported all around Taveuni - not a local problem). It may be due in part to all the nutrients released into the water by Cyclone Tomas. Luckily, there are a few triton snails on the reef to deal with the scourge and Roberta helps the chaps out by placing them right next to their meal. Roberta and the locals are also tackling the problem by bringing the starfish up to a floating cooler (without distressing them – if distressed they tend to release their eggs into the water). Once on shore the starfish are put into a dug hole and burned.
I’ve told a few acquaintances who keep coral aquariums about coral gardening at Makaira and, as a result, they’ve booked a trip to parktake. For those that coral garden, it’s a very addictive activity. Not only do you create a thing of true beauty, but you also create a spectacular home for thousands of fish and invertebrates. It's a win-win!
In July, Roberta wrote that the coral gardening was progressing. Every Sunday, she and a little group of teenage boys, including the owner of Maravu Resort’s son, go out to place coral fragments into the reef. Many of the guests at Makaira have been joining in on the fun. Any fragments the guests place in the reef are labeled with a plastic name tag - and when the guests come back, they can see their coral as a grown-up. She’s also been working on turning a barren patch of reef into a blue staghorn acropora forest. She reports it’s already looking very pretty and it’s attracting blue-green chromis.