Yaf Keru Our Coral Garden

Raja Ampat is one of the last strongholds on Earth where coral reef systems still thrive. This archipelago shelters an incredible abundance of life, and forms what is currently thought to be the most biodiverse marine system on the planet. These stunning reefs provide a rich and sustainable food source to local communities in small villages throughout the archipelago. These reefs also support a healthy tourism economy providing livelihoods to significant portion of the community. Yet sadly, numerous reefs were destroyed by destructive fishing practices in the 80s & 90s, and to this day, they have not yet recovered. Additionally, the current rapid expansion of tourism in the region brings with it new impacts upon the marine environment. At a time where coral reef degradation is occurring worldwide due to human activity, and in response to human induced climate changes, it is essential and common sense to design and develop conservation tools to respond to these current and future degradation issues. Rather than waiting for the local reefs to become damaged or lose their natural resilience, our Yaf Keru project is aiming to evaluate and optimize the current (and remarkable) recovery potential of Raja Ampat’s reefs.

Objectives

Contribute to the restoration, maintenance and conservation of the Dampier Strait reef systems and the services they provide

Nearly 10 years after the designation of Marine Protected areas within the region, the scars of dynamite and cyanide fishing still remain, and are observable on local reefs. With rapidly increasing tourism to the area, and the influence of climate change, coral conservation and management tools are needed now more than ever. Throughout this project, we hope to create a team of local "coral gardeners" capable of mitigating past, present and future degradation of local coral reefs.

Targets 2018 - 2019

To replicate the project in nearby villages

After the completion of a successful 2 year pilot study, including training of local coral gardeners, we have now finalised our restoration techniques and are ready to expand this project to nearby villages. With grant funding from Kehati and the Blue Abadi Fund, and collaboration with local communities, we are looking to restore house reefs near jetties that are currently under pressure from increased tourism activities (trampling, boat and anchor damage).

Project Status - 2018

Yaf Keru – Papua Explorers

We are pleased to announce that Yaf Keru – Papua Explorers is now considered complete! And now, like any established garden, we can sit back and enjoy watching it grow. Total corals transplanted: more than 6000 fragments Area restored: 500 sqm restored with about 900 sqm of healthy reef protected below To say it is thriving is an understatement – through trial and error we established appropriate techniques for appropriate environments (slope, reef flat, variable depths, coverage) an are as always, stunned at the regeneration ability of corals when given a CHANCE. As it turns out… coral will not only survive, but THRIVE when given clean water, a passable temperature and the right amount of nutrients.

Project Status - September 2016 to September 2017

Coral Gardener Training

Prior to the launch of our Yaf Keru project, our coral gardeners travelled to Labuan Bajo, to join a one month training program with Coral Guardian – a non-profit organization dedicated to coral reef conservation. Throughout the training period, Tommi, Yermi & Rio acquired skills including coral ecology and transplantation skills, and how to raise awareness and collect data amongst local fishing communities. They now work together to build the structures, transplant corals and monitor the project.

Further Context

The extent of the damage caused by bomb and cyanide fishing in the Dampier Strait is hard to evaluate due to the absence of previous baseline study. Yet, several kilometres deserted rubble slopes, levelled by destructive fishing practices, can be found within some the Dampier Strait reef systems. It is difficult to determine whether these areas were previously pristine and have degraded due to natural or anthropogenic causes, however, the lack of natural regeneration over the last decade suggests a need for artificial restoration. 20m east of our Dive Centre a stretch of degraded reef can be found that covers an area of approximately 1000 m2 There, the coral rubble layer can reach up to 1.5m in thickness, and regularly slides down the slope and onto the healthy reefs below. This rubble is an unstable substrate, meaning coral polyps cannot attach, grow and establish themselves as new and healthy coral reefs. Instead, new recruits only grow to a small size then die, producing more rubble in the process. This is a continual cycle of degradation leading to a situation where the reef cannot repair itself. Yaf Karu, which means “Coral Garden” in the local language, will see the installation of a number of artificial reef structures. These structures will have coral fragments transplanted upon them, and will provide a stable substrate for the fragments to establish themselves, and thrive, ultimately restoring the damaged area. Within 3-5 years we anticipate that the structures will be covered completely with various species of coral, attracting aggregations of fish, invertebrates and macro life that can be seen on thriving reefs elsewhere in Raja Ampat. The restoration of the house reef will serve as a pilot project and if proven successful, we aim to replicate our restoration techniques in front of local villages and other damaged areas.

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