Algal growth over dead coral prevents coral recruits from settling and re-establishing the coral reef. Algae ecosystems support less diversity of life. This year is predicted to be a bad year in the Asia-Pacific for Coral Bleaching so keep an eye out!
This is my latest article on environmentally responsible scuba diving and the Green Fins work I’m involved in!
We scuba divers are by no means the greatest threat to coral reefs, but we do cause damage, and it can add up. However, we are also the most passionate ambassadors for the reef. Let’s make choices that reflect the respect we have for the ocean.
El Nido, Philippines
Many corals are nocturnal feeding. During the day you can clearly see their calcium carbonate skeleton, tinted with the colours of the zooxanthellae in the retracted coral polyps.
In the case of mushroom coral, the polyps are solitary, not colonial, meaning that each round disc of coral is one animal. The mouth is located centrally and is surrounded by tentacles.
Nutrient-rich slurry from farms has been causing coral populations on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to crash for 90 years.
The corals collapsed between the 1920s and 1950s, say John Pandolfi at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and his colleagues. The team took cores from three reefs and worked out when the corals died. Two had little coral left after the 1950s, while the third had been colonised since then by different types.
By the 1920s, European settlers were farming intensively near rivers flowing onto the reef, boosting agricultural run-off by up to a factor of 20. Events like cyclones kill coral, but the extra nutrients in the water help seaweed move in afterwards, preventing coral from regenerating, says Terry Done of the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, Queensland.
The reefs were already in decline again when monitoring began in the 1980s, says Joana Figueiredo of James Cook University, also in Townsville. Pandolfi’s work shows that it was pristine until the 1920s.
Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2100
Conservation Victory in Mexico!
Cabo Pulmo coral reef saved! Mexican President Felipe Calderón just put an end to plans that would have imperiled the marine paradise of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, home to the only living hard coral reef in Mexico’s Gulf of California.
Want to thank this world leader for doing the right thing? Send a message here: http://bit.ly/Myra8U
(via: NRDC) (photo: Octavio Aburto, iLCP)
This is right next to the Dumaguete City port in Central Philippines and very near a slum area called Looc. Local fishermen and community leaders from that area have been working toward protecting their shore and sea through regular beach cleanups, mangrove reforestation and lobbying to have a patch of this reef declared as a marine reserve. However, the proposed ordinance to have this reef protected has been in limbo for almost a year now following reports of another port expansion.
Photo by Steve de Neef. Find his photography on Facebook.
Marine Protected Area proves itself in Masbate, Philippines
The Buntod Sandbar and Reef Marine Sanctuary was set up in 2OO1 much to the dismay of local fishermen who saw it as a move that deprived them of their livelihood. Dynamite fishing was prevalent, and Masbate City’s Mayor, Socrates [I’m not even joking] Tuason said that it had been hard to convince the fishermen of the fact that the long-term benefits outweighing the short term.
It’s a common issue with trying to set up MPAs in countries like the Philippines. People depend sometimes solely on the sea to live. For some, providing each meal is a struggle. It’s easy to see how the desperation for tomorrow’s dinner drowns out the [to them] unproven advantage of an MPA.
Five years later, it was proved. There was a noticeable difference and now it is reported to be one of the two top marine reserves in the country. Groupers, Yellow Fin and Albacore Tuna have returned to the sanctuary much to the delight of the fishermen who can fish in the spill-over zones. This leaves a protected breeding population untouched in the sanctuary.
Other towns in the region have taken a leaf out of Masbate’s book and set up their own marine sanctuaries. For too long marine sanctuaries haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, both from local and international communities. They have proven time and time again that they work both socially and environmentally. Managed correctly, it is sustainability itself.
The best part is our good friend Socrates has declined to open the area to commercial development because he fears that it would lead to the sanctuaries destruction. However, tourists are allowed to come and see their conservation efforts in action.
It’s an exciting time for marine conservation in the Philippines. Eyes are slowly being opened to the need and the urgency to protect the centre of marine biodiversity, and with proven results from Apo Island and now Masbate and nearby Bugsayon, I hope the whole country throws it’s weight behind MPAs.
Now all we have to do is spread the word.
Enric Sala - Glimpses of a pristine ocean
This guy hits every single nail on the head. He talks about how our baseline of what a “healthy” ocean looks like comes from an ocean already impacted by centuries of interaction. The few remaining pristing reefs that we have are absolutely breathtaking, and there is still time to help the others recover.
A short dive film from Lhaviyani and Noonu Atolls, Maldives
Filmed and Edited by Dave Bretherton
Two minutes in heaven in the Maldives by my buddy Dave Bretherton. I have such talented friends!
Check out the Grey Reef Shark vertical cleaning stance [1:28] where it shakes it like a polaroid picture to signal to the cleaner wrasse.
Crown of Thorns starfish are corallivorous venomous starfish. Their populations naturally boom and crash. However in recent years COT outbreaks have become increasingly common. Some believe it is due to warming ocean temperatures and environmental factors, others that it is natural fluctuations in population. Either way, coupled with the other threats imposed on coral reefs, the damage caused can be catastrophic.
This population appears to be working it’s way across Monad Shoal - a seamount that hosts important Elasmobranch cleaning stations. Thresher and Grey Sharks, Manta, Devil and Eagle Rays, and Barracuda all come up from the deep and frequent the territories of cleaner and moon wrasse on the Shoal. The COT population was previously seen at another dive site, and has moved down and taken over the oldest known cleaning stations that have had protection from diver damage installed.
The worry is that they will destroy the habitat of the cleaner fish and thus the important cleaning station services. There are few Thresher Shark cleaning stations known globally, and the effect may be drastic. Threshers are known to be susceptible to diseases from the parasites that are removed by the cleaner wrasse.