Coral reefs are often called as the rainforest of the sea. It is estimated that one quarter of the ocean population depends on the coral reefs for shelter and food. Without coral reefs, they will be homeless and have no place to reproduce. Oceans consist of only about 0,1% of coral reefs. Millions of people in the world directly or indirectly depend on the coral reefs for food, income and medicines.
“The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study found that coral reefs generate up to US$1, 25 million per hectare from tourism, coastal protection, bioprospecting and fisheries annually.” Source: UNEP, Coral Reefs – Valuable but Vulnerable.
The contribution to people’s lives is amazing. Regrettably, people are the ones who threaten the coral reefs. These threats vary from over-fishing, invasion of species caused by humans’ intervention such as the lionfish issue in the Caribbean waters, irresponsible marine tourism/fishing and water pollution. As a result, coral reefs are in danger and reduce in size and quality year by year.
Corals versus Coral Reefs
I am not a marine biologist thus my knowledge is based on information from articles that I have read. Corals are actually invertebrate animals. They have skeleton, stomach, mouth, and tentacles. The tentacles are used to capture plankton for food. A single coral is called a polyp. It lives in a group of hundreds or thousands polyps and are connected with living tissue to form a community. This community is usually seen like one coral by us but actually consist of many coral polyps.
Corals are divided into hard corals and soft corals. The hard corals are the reef builders. Their combined skeletons provide living supports for soft corals and other marine species as food or habitat. These living supports are known as coral reefs and they are created by millions of coral polyps and developed in many years.
Coral Day and A Dream for A Small Island
Since year 2009, a group of Indonesians who are concerned for the existence of coral reefs started a Coral Day with the aim to maintain and restore damaged corals. The 8th of May is selected as Coral Day because the Indonesian fishermen’s fishing period starts early May. The event promotes the coral restoration by planting the dominant reef-building coral species on the seabed and holds several educative activities locally to raise the awareness to the importance of the corals.
The coral day will take place on Bangka Island this year. The island is located in the North Sulawesi Province of Indonesia and currently the island is mined for its iron ores despite the protests by its islanders and environmentalists. The mining issue in the island that famous for scuba diving was also reported in Diveadvisor article, Save Bangka Island.
The sea surrounding the island is now polluted due to sedimentation soil from the mining blasting. The blue seawater has turned to murky brown color and the soil covers the seabed. There is no doubt that marine life will die as a result.
Ulva Takke, a founder of NGO Suara Pulau in Bangka Island wrote me a sorrowful letter. Rainy days have always made her cry, as she keeps picturing the more corals covered by mud and soil sediment from the mining. She had a regular educative program to introduce the importance of corals, mangrove and sea-grass to the school students. The program is discontinued as the area where they used to visit is polluted and is covered by mud and soils.
The struggle, Save Bangka Island, has been going on for four years now. The mining continues despite the changing new president, Joko Widodo. Save Bangka Island’s patron, Kaka Slank, a musician who is publicly known as a supporter of Joko Widodo had met him several times. Ironically, the meetings do not help a small island in need.
Despite of this ironic situation and the ongoing mining, Ulva Takke and the rest of the islanders are still not giving up their dream to have healthy coral reefs in their island.
Coral Day in Kita Bangga (Kinabuhutan-Talise-Bangka-Gangga) Islands
The Coral Day will be held in Bangka Island and it will also include three other nearby islands. The four islands are known locally as Kita Bangga (We are Proud in English) Islands. The event will take place on Saturday 9th of May 2015. The organizers and volunteers will install new corals at several strategic areas that are far from possible water pollution from the mining.
Scuba divers who wish to participate in coral installation are also welcome. There will be a briefing before the installation of the corals and it is great opportunity to learn how to “plant” and care for the corals on the seabed. If you are interested, please contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for reservation and advice on accommodation during your stay.