Pemuteran’s ‘FrankenReef’ Comes Alive

By Annabel Thomas

For The Bali Times

SEMINYAK ~ By the late 1990s, a combination of coral bleaching as a result of El Nino and dynamite-fishing had decimated the reefs at Pemuteran on Bali’s far northwest coast. This meant a very bleak outlook for local residents who relied on fishing (both for their own consumption and to sell) as well as the money brought in by marine tourists: divers and snorkellers.

However, in June 2000, the Taman Sari Resort in Pemuteran donated US$12,000 to start the Karang Lestari Proyek (Coral Protection Project). This project uses Biorock® technology which applies a (safe) low-voltage electrical current to promote and accelerate coral growth on metal frames. Taman Sari Resort also supplies the electricity used by the five charging stations (although the power could also be supplied by solar panels). Further funding was supplied, and still is, by other private donations.

Biorock® technology comes from the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) in the United States – founded by Wolf Hilbertz and Thomas Goreau. The basic principle is that when electrodes are immersed in seawater, limestone is created, making a very strong base on which corals readily grow – sometimes five times faster than normal. Corals like high pH, which this process supplies; therefore, more energy can be used to reproduce and build.

These corals are also more resistant to environmental stress such as sedimentation and pollution, and it is believed that they will also withstand future seasonal temperature rises (the cause of coral-bleaching).

The Karang Lestari Proyek, at 2.4 hectares, is the world’s largest coral-reclamation project. At present there are over 40 metal frames at depths of 5-10 meters. The metal frames vary in style and shape: cubes, cones, tubes large and small, and on each, in various stages of development, are a variety of hard corals. Although this is a young project, the area is brightly colored and makes an interesting and educational day’s diving, with a surprisingly diverse population that includes juvenile fishes, crabs, nudibranches, anemones and the occasional prowling octopus.

The project is fully supported by the people of Pemuteran village, some of whom were given the work of making the metal frames. In order to restore the fish population, everyone has agreed to observe the site as a no-fishing area; and they have also agreed to stop dynamite- and cyanide-fishing in the area.

Smaller Biorock® projects can be found in northeast Bali in the Tulamben area, and in Lombok.

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The writer is director of AquaMarine diving in Bali.

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