Pemuteran Artificial Reef Project
The world’s largest archipelago nation, with 17,502 islands, Indonesia is an important habitat and eco-balance center for marine life, including corals. Indonesia possesses the richest assortment of coral species in the world (450 species) from fringe and barrier reefs to atolls and patch reefs. Estimates are that Indonesia’s reefs cover 85,700 sq km, constituting 14 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
However, today, only 6 percent of these reefs are in healthy condition. Destruction has come from human activities, such as dynamite and cyanide fishing, pollution, global warming, increased turbidity, over-exploitation and environmentally-unfriendly tourism.
Immediate economic gains do not offset the loss and destruction of reefs. Damaged coral reefs take year to recover naturally. Protected artificial reef regeneration speeds nature’s process in restoring coral growth and in even shorter order, providing a protected environment for fish regeneration. The Pemuteran Karang Lestari Coral Conservation project, off West Bali National Park, is Indonesia’s first step in the right direction.
Sustainable eco-tourism requires protection of natural beauty. Yet, conservation often conflicts with traditional resource users. For example, fish are more valuable when they can be viewed repeatedly by divers and snorkelers, versus their value as a single meal.
Pemuteran lies in the shadow of mountains to the south and to the north is Menjangen Island, famous for diving and nature treks. Pemuteran receives less rainfall than other island areas during rainy season and is too dry for rice cultivation. Its people traditionally live from the sea.
Pemuteran has the largest area of shallow coral reefs in Bali that are easily accessible, because the area is calm and free of strong currents and waves which affect most other parts of the island.
The spectacular coral reef growth near land made for a diving and snorkeling paradise. Because the area is furthest from the island’s main tourism centers to the south, it was quiet and unspoiled. Hotels and dive shops were pioneered by Mr. Agung Prana and Mr. Chris Brown, respectively, who worked closely with the village to protect the area.
Pemuteran community declared that the reefs in front of the beach where most hotels are located, as protected no-fishing zones, for eco-tourism use only. Local fishermen banned bomb and cyanide reef fishing in Pemuteran Bay to preserve what was left of their resources. Through such conservation efforts, the healthy Pemuteran bank reefs drew increasing numbers of divers and snorkelers to view the coral gardens.
As a result of this protection, many other hotels and dive shops followed, making tourism earnings a major contributor to the local economy, in a region which previously had few cash-earning jobs—in one of Bali’s economically poorest areas. The community quickly grasped the meaning of eco-tourism income, which had positive effects on lifestyle and health for local villagers.
To ensure conservation efforts continued, strong education, protection and regeneration programs were put into place, to sustain and grow tourism, with income flow directly to the villagers. And then the economic crisis befell Indonesia. Vigilance in enforcing fishing bans lapsed during the economic catastrophe of 1998.
Pemuteran’s large sheltered bay, once surrounded by reefs teeming with fish was targeted by migration of whole communities of fishermen from neighboring Java and Madura islands, where their own fisheries had been wiped out by destructive over-exploitation. They brought their destructive bomb and cyanide fishing techniques, steadily destroying almost all of Pemuteran’s reefs. The bank reefs, once full of coral thickets and fish swarms, became piles of broken rubble, barren of fish.
By the time the bombing and cyanide ban was reinstituted, the damage was done. Local fishermen now recognize the industry will not recover until the coral reef habitat can be restored.
Pemuteran Coral Conservation Project—Karang Lestari Pemuteran
In the Pemuteran coral conservation project, hotels, dive shops, village fishermen, scientists and conservationists united to protect and restore coral reefs and increase fishery resources, both for tourism and the local fishery economy.
The Karang Lestari Project began in June 2000, when Dr. Thomas Goreau and Professor Wolf Hilbertz, working with Yos Amerta and divers from Yos Dive Shop, built the first coral nursery in front of Pondok Sari Hotel, Pemuteran.
In October 2002, an international workshop on design and construction of coral nursery was held at the site and three more nurseries were installed in front of the Sea Temple. In April 2001, 19 more coral nurseries were installed in front of Taman Sari hotel with assistance from Archipelago Dive Shop, and another nursery was added in front of Reef Seen Aquatics.
The project uses the Biorock™ method to increase coral growth rates, increasing reef fish density by providing fish with a suitable habitat. All of the nursery structures are located in the Pemuteran Coral Reef Protected Area. Corals transplanted onto the structures attract high densities of all type of fish. As a result of the dense swarms of fish in and around the coral nurseries, they have become the major focus of near shore diving and snorkeling. Spinner dolphins, which vacated the bay due to bomb fishing, last year returned to the site, where they are protected.
All corals used in the projects are broken pieces found on nearby reefs where they were damaged by rolling or falling. They would sooner or later die if not rescued and attached to the nursery structures, creating attractive snorkeling and diving trails. This has greatly enhanced marine life in the area.
In May 2002, seven new fish habitats were deployed in fishing grounds east of the protected area. Like the previous ones, these projects were constructed without any program funds, save a single workshop grant and small donations from area businesses, local hotels, dive shops and visitors.
News of the Karang Lestari project’s success has spread rapidly through Bali’s hotels, dive shops and villages, with requests for projects coming frequently. Funding is required for larger scale training to spread the projects. Students from Udayana and Bogor universities, Bali and Java respectively, have begun research programs on the project.
Low technology Mineral Accretion (Biorock™ methods are used to restore damaged coral reefs and reef fisheries, develop mariculture alternatives, preserve biodiversity and sustain reef-related eco-tourism economies for coastal communities. Steel lattice bases, submerged in the sea and charged with a minimal electrical current generate natural limestone rock growth on the base, which increases growth rates of corals and other reef organisms. Corals on the mineral accretion structures, because of their higher growth rate and healthier metabolism, reproduce more quickly and prolifically, because of healthier metabolism. They become key to restocking the surrounding reefs.
The infrastructure for Mineral Accretion coral regeneration is so simple, that it can be replicated with very little skill or training, few materials and direct, alternate, solar or wave-generated electrical current.
As of May 2002, 22 Mineral Accretion coral nurseries spanned 222 meters were operating in the 2.4 hectare Pemuteran Village Protected Area along 200 meters of coastline. Annually, these structures consume about 4 kw of electrical power.
A community based approach to conservation followed tourism-based businesses in Pemuteran. The project has been funded and staffed by voluntary efforts and modest donations.
This project has made it clear that restoring coral growth can bring fish back. Local fishermen see the schools of many kinds of fish attracted to the coral nurseries, as they pass over them en route to their fishing grounds miles off shore. There they spend the day searching for the few fish in a barren wasteland.
The fishermen are eager to see the coral nurseries expanded and fish habitat constructed in areas near their fishing grounds. They protect the projects and keep records of the fish caught in areas nearby as part of an experiment to improve the fisheries. They want fishermen from other areas to know what they are doing and why, and that they could do the same thing in their areas so they wouldn’t have to fish at Pemuteran.
Besides the economic interest of improved subsistence fishing, the local villagers have taken the initiative to start up dolphin watching tours. With coral regeneration and fishing bans in the bay, spinner dolphins have returned in significant numbers. The village also retains rights to all snorkeling income from tourists. Both of these income alternatives, in a traditional fishing community, serve to reinforce their basic understanding that each fish has more value in the sea than in a net or on the end of a fishing line. Alternative income avenues are made available. Thus, they have become avid proponents of conservation and eco-tourism, for economic and environmental benefits.
The nursery structures already attract dense populations of juvenile reef fish, resting fish schools and fish that only shelter in live coral, as well as other marine organisms. Young fish of many species are attracted to the sites to metamorphose from larval stages into juveniles. Snappers use the structured to hide in the daytime, forming schools so dense that it is impossible to see the other side of the structure. Batfish are regular habitants. Damselfish and cleaning fish quickly establish territories.
These unusual underwater stations already are major tourist attractions. The Pemuteran pilot projects, the largest of their kind in the world, exceed the size of all other mineral accretion projects worldwide, combined.
Karang Lestari is the first step to restore as much as possible of Pemuteran’s damaged reefs. More fishery projects are planned along the coast and fishermen are eager to educate colleagues from other areas about the new methods so that they can be applied in other own areas and prevent encroachment upon Pemuteran’s fishing grounds. They are eager to change from hunting fish to farming them, and to secure sustainable fisheries and tourism attractions for future generations.
This only will be possible if the current pilot projects are expanded in scale to major fishing areas, the banks north of Pemuteran and beyond. Funding is sought to train fishermen to build large, solar-powered fish and coral nurseries on the banks as part of a long-term coral reef restoration program. Many locations around Bali already have requested project start-ups.
New research and training programs in coral reef restoration, mariculture and ocean energy development could be started soon as part of a new Marine Research Center in the Biology and Environmental Sciences departments at Bali’s Udayana University. A potential site for a research laboratory has been identified at Nusa Lembongan island, off Bali’s southeastern coast. Support for these projects has been committed by the Indonesian Dive and Water Sports Federation, the Bali Tourism Association, the Governor of Bali and Indonesian ministries of Culture and Tourism, Environment, Marine Affairs and Fisheries.
At the National Coastal Zone Management Conference on Bali in May, Karang Lestari Pemuteran was selected as the best coastal project in the country and recognized with a cash prize equivalent to US$500. Culture and Tourism Minister I Gede Ardika presented the project’s success story at the United Nations Preparatory Committee & Ministerial Meeting of the World Summit, held in Bali in late May and early June.
Numerous newspaper and magazine articles have been published about the Pemuteran project. The project is being documented by an international film team for distribution world wide.