Inhabitants of the remote fishing village Flores, Indonesia have chosen to lay aside their destructive fishing methods in favour of reef restoration, and thus are paving the way for healthy fisheries.
In the last two years alone a team of former fishermen, who are located on the island of Seraya-besar have reported five times more fish in these restored areas, including some protected species.
The project, which was started by French nonprofit Coral Guardian, aimed to show that communities are able to make long term sustainability of their waters a priority, and then use this as a model for future projects.
“We believe that effective biodiversity protection requires the involvement of local populations, their participation in its conservation and their capacity to sustainably manage the ecosystems on which they depend,” said Martin Colognoli, co-founder and scientific director of Coral Guardian, which is based in Paris, France.
The 15-man team have established a 1,550-acre locally managed marine protected area (MPA), where since 2014 they have planted more than 26,000 healthy corals. Within the MPA where corals have been planted the numbers of fish have grown from 200, to roughly 1,000 fish per 100 square meters over the past two years.
Coral Guardian who are dedicated to the conservation, awareness, research and enhancement of marine ecosystems, have taught this team about reef health, and instructed them on how to cut, grow and outplant corals. They have also been taught about management of the MPA and how to conduct biological monitoring of the area.
Coral Guardian are concurrently leading a study to track a group of 10 fishermen in order to gather data on where they are most likely to fish, what species they are most likely to catch, how much they sell, and finally how much they and their families consume. This data is useful for monitoring local fish populations, and for bettering management of the areas.
This community is now able to work autonomously, having gained an appreciation for their environment. Marine health is now considered to be part of their responsibility, and as such they have since implemented their own fishing restrictions around the restoration areas.
“The goal is to revive a circular economy around coral reefs, and show that there are solutions to combat local pressures on these ecosystems,” Colognoli said. “The fishermen and the whole village fully understand the importance of protecting the reefs.”
The local conservation program director, Sutopo has stated the community is greatful for the eduction and training they have received from Coral Guardian.
“At first, it was difficult for Coral Guardian’s idea to resonate with fishermen, because they’d been dynamite fishing since they were born,” Sutopo said. “Now, the community welcomes Coral Guardian’s presence and has embraced their activity as they’ve seen how it’s helped their waters.”
Thanks to this success, Coral Guardian is now planning projects in both New Caledonia and Columbia for 2019.
Coral Guardian have set up the Blue Centre, to help start future initiatives, this is a coral conservation training site where community representatives are able to come and learn about organising restoration programmes in their own waters.
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