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Marine

Coral Gardening with Island Spirit in Fiji

On all our trips we give you the chance to help us restore coral reefs by planting corals.

Snorkel equipment, gloves and reef shoes are required to collect live but broken coral from the sandy seabed. Once collected and placed in a kayak or similar floating device it is transplanted in secure rock crevices and cracks. It is essential to find areas which the coral root can be plugged firmly into as it can take months for it to take root and the smallest swell can dislodge it.

It has been noted that a coral will 'take hold' in as little as a month and if planted well will has a 90% success rate, conversely, if planted badly there is a 90% death rate.
We coral garden in the shallow reef around northern and eastern Taveuni. The process is simple and effective (if comprehensive training is provided). Whilst gardening it is easy to do damage to living coral with snorkel fins so relatively confident swimmers are needed.

Coral gardening gives reefs a minimum of a 5 year head start to its development or restoration. As it develops the fish populations start to increase rapidly and the whole ocean cycle is enriched. We monitor the reefs and put the developments in our blog.

The latest scientific theory is if a decimated reef is left to its own devices it will take 50 years to establish itself again. Around Taveuni coral gardening has helped the reef re-establish itself in just one year. It is believed that corals send out signals that let other corals know it is safe to live in the area. This image shows an area of the shallow reef which was planted just one month before the photo was taken in late 2011.

We train community members to remove overabundant coral-killing predators and to replant corals broken by careless divers and storms. Healthy coral reefs need clean water low in muddy silt and low in pollution with abundant fish and other animals that in turn keep the corals clean and free of major predator outbreaks.

While coral gardening is useful on degraded reefs, we are very aware that the longer-term solution requires addressing the root causes of decline. Any reef- no matter how healthy, if visited by thousands of tourists annually will decline over time. Coral gardening, if actively applied to such highly-used reefs can help manage the inadvertent damage caused by this.

The 'Soft coral capital of the world'

Fiji hosts some of the most beautiful and diverse reef systems on earth. It is often referred to as the ‘Soft coral capital of the world’. Deep drop-offs, endless hard coral fields and huge channels with strong currents are just some of the underwater landscapes creating a unique experience.

Did you know that two thirds of the earths surface is water and that 80% of life on earth lives in the ocean. For generations coastal communities have depended on coral reefs to supply their primary food source.

Increasing populations in developing countries within which coral reefs often occur, has led to the need for coastal communities to learn about sustainable resource management to ensure the continuation of future harvests.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and diving tours near reef ecosystems creating livelihoods for an enormous number of people worldwide. Reefs are a natural barrier against waves, storm surge and floods.
There are more species per unit area of coral reef than in any other ecosystem. It is estimated that less than 10% of the Earth’s reef organisms are known to science. Corals may look superficially like plants, but in fact each polyp feeds on passing food parcels floating in the marine plankton.

Coral reefs are being degraded at a rate of 2% a year. About a fifth of the world’s stock has already gone, and nearly half of the remainder is in danger of disappearing within the next 20 years.

There are 109 countries with coral reefs. In 90 of them reefs are being damaged by cruise ship anchors and sewage, by tourists breaking off chunks of coral, and by commercial harvesting for sale to tourists (Earth Portal). Coral reefs are one of our plant’s greatest natural attractions.

Due to their abundance of species and great ecological complexity they are frequently compared to tropical rain forests. But, in terms of sheer abundance of readily observable animal life, even the mighty rain forest takes a back seat.
In the rain forest one must be either lucky or a trained observer to watch many of the animal inhabitants involved in their daily activities. But even a first time snorkeler will be absolutely overwhelmed by the parade of exotic life forms on a coral reef.