2.4 What are the threats to marine ecosystems and how can these be managed? [Case study of a mangrove or coral reef and its management]

What threatens coral?
The right hand side shows what happens what the adverse impacts on coral might be.
  • There is increased run-off from the land because the mangroves and the seagrass are not there to catch the sediments. This is not so healthy for the coral – hence the dead coral inshore
  • The sediment that reaches the sea floor is not trapped by roots and so can become mixed up in the water, reducing water clarity.
  • The coral may be mined for building
  • Global warming makes the water too warm for coral growth.
  • Animals that destroy the coral multiply because of the changed conditions.
  • Dynamite – fishing more about that later!
  • All of these lead to coral bleaching and finally coral death.
Not included in the diagram:
  • The addition of CO2 to the atmosphere, which becomes an acid when dissolved in the sea, is changing the pH of the sea and this is affecting coral growth. While the air has benefited form the removal of 1/3 of its overproduction of CO2 into the sea, those organisms which use calcium carbonate to make shells/skeletons will be under threat. This is because the lower the pH, the less carbonate ions will be available in sea water, so they will find it more difficult build their necessary structure. Not only will these animals suffer, but also those that depend on them for food/shelter.

What can be done about it?Case study of a located coral reef and its management.

What is it? A joint venture between a resort with a village to conserve coral reefs. The village is Tagaqe and the resort is Hideaway Resort
Where is it?
The south west coast is know as Coral Coast of Fiji.
What happened?
Years ago when the resort was first built, the owners did something very unusual. They approach the chief of the village of Tagaqe to ask permission to use the villages tradition fishing grounds which run along the beach in front of the complex for tourism. They have worked with the village. They have provided scholarships for education and some other much needed development help.
The fishing ground extends from the high water mark out to the reef break, about 500 meters offshore, and encompasses four adjacent villages, including Tagaqe, for a total area of 6 km2, with the resort in the middle. The fishing ground is composed of mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs, where mangrove crabs, clams, octopus, lobster, sea urchins, trochus, and reef fishes such as emperors, parrotfish, groupers, and mullets are caught.
Due to increasing threats such as use of destructive fishing methods (specifically, undersize nets for fishing, poison fishing using derris root, and breaking/overturning corals and rocks to catch octopus), coral harvesting, pollution, and coral trampling by tourists, Ratu Timoci,2.4C_Chief_pic.png the chief, initiated discussions with the resort and other village chiefs within the district. After hearing on the radio and reading news of successful conservation initiatives carried out with assistance from the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) Network, Ratu Timoci wanted to find out more about what they could do to address their threats. Annie Wade, who managed Hideaway resort together with her husband Robert, contacted Alifereti Tawake of FLMMA for help.

In response, FLMMA conducted several meetings and environmental awareness sessions with Ratu Timoci, resort staff and village elders, where Ratu Timoci learned about the concept of LMMAs and decided to try it in his village and district. Since then, LMMA workshops on Marine Resource Management and Biological Monitoring (where community members learn 'scientific' monitoring techniques) have been held in Tagaqe.
As a result, the area of reef in front of Hideaway is "tabu," meaning that fishing is prohibited and the methods used for fishing in the other parts were made more sustainable. i.e. not doing those things stated above.

After just one and a half years of setting up the LMMA, mullets and trevallys are being caught again in front of the villages, and monitoring survey results have indicated an increase in abundance of groupers, parrotfish, octopus and lobsters both inside and outside the tabu area due to the spillover effect. Ratu Timoci is so satisfied with this outcome that he now serves as President of the Environment Committee for his district and gives testimony at LMMA awareness workshops in other districts and provinces.

Meanwhile, Annie and Robert, also concerned about the reef health, sent their Recreation Activity Officer, Emori Qeruta, to participate in the workshops conducted in Tagaqe. There, the LMMA Network suggested the idea of coral farming as a way to help rehabilitate distressed reef areas. Hideaway sought technical advice from the University of South Pacific's Institute of Applied Sciences (USP-IAS) and Dr. Tim Pickering, and subsequently launched a coral farming initiative along reefs adjacent to the resort, which is gaining positive response from both villagers and tourists. Hideaway Resort also hired a marine biologist to help set up the coral farming program and to conduct hotel staff training.
Coral heads donated from Walt Smith International, an American wholesaler of marine fish and live corals, are placed on "racks" (wire mesh platforms) in about one meter depth on the reef to provide "brood stock" (spawning population) for regenerating the reef. Hideaway visitors can take part in a "reef walk" (a tour along a carefully marked path through the reef) to appreciate the marine environment and to view the coral racks. For a small fee (US$5), they can "sponsor" a coral in their name; the proceeds are split between the Tagaqe Village Environment Trust Fund and the resort (to defray expenses). Sponsored corals are planted in a coral garden just outside the protected area, where a small fragment taken from the wreck is affixed with epoxy onto a distressed coral head, which is first cleaned of any algae. Several youths from the village are now employed by the resort to guide tourists to the coral garden, plant corals, and help police the protected area.

German tourists Anna Maria and Otto Boehr give their impressions about the project: "When staying at the Hideaway Resort, we got to know about the coral farming project. We went on a very interesting guided tour and seized the opportunity to sponsor two newly planted corals. We hope that many visitors to your beautiful island support your idea. Maybe we will have the chance to come back one year to check on the two new corals now named 'Anna Maria' and 'Otto'."

Another venture in Tagaqe
Along most coral coasts, fishing is an important part of a subsistence economy, then alternative or supplementary employment need to be provided.
Have you heard of the live coral trade? It’s really a trade in bits of coral reef rock covered by particular algae species.Put live rock in your seawater aquarium and it keeps the water clean for your collection of tropical fish and other sealife to thrive in.
By one estimate, there are globally at least 1.5 million tropical aquarium hobbyists—mostly in the United States-—the world’s greatest live rock market. It buys 90% of it.
The trade began 15 to 20 years ago. When coral reef conservation-minded United States authorities banned the collection of live rock from local sources, the trade turned to sources abroad.
For Fiji’s coastal villages with little other money-making opportunities, the live rock business became a great blessing. In 2001, they harvested and exported about 800,000 kilogrammes of the stuff.
According to the WWF, the world’s conservation body, the target is rock covered with light to dark pink or purple algae. This is broken up with an iron rod, loaded on to a bamboo raft and taken ashore to a buyer. At least 60% of a lump of rock needs to be covered by the right kind of algae or be rejected by buyers.
The rock is put under a continuous salt water spray for 24 to 72 hours before shipment, trimmed of all visible green algae growth and graded according to shape, weight and percentage of coral line algae.
According to WWF, rock is bought for F$1.20 a kilogramme which is shared according to Fijian custom.
At an average of 150 kilogrammes a week, about 7500 kilogrammes harvested annually by a full-time harvest will earn about F$9000 a year. That’s a lot of money for the average Fijian villager.
In some areas, after 10 years of collecting, villagers are noticing some of the consequences of the live rock trade, such as the destruction of marine life habitats, the undermining of reef structure and underwater erosion.
Large amounts of rock are often rejected by buyers and left on beaches as accumulating piles of waste.
Not surprisingly there are conflicting views about the live rock trade in Fiji and abroad.
Conservationists want the trade stopped. Villagers need the cash. Tourists are discomforted by the sight of villagers chipping out lumps of rock from the reef.
Enter the Fogarty International Centre of the United States National Institute of Health working since 2004 with the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of the South Pacific. These institutions have a deal with Tagaqe village on the Coral Coast.
Instead of breaking off pieces of coral rock for sale to the saltwater aquarium trade, Tagaqe has begun “planting” pumice pellets, each several inches long and hung by wire in shallow water above the reef. After about eight months these become naturally covered by a desirable species of algae. They become a substitute for live rock.
An agreement with Tagaqe’s chief, Ratu Timoci Batireregu, was initially for the purchase of 5000 pumice blanks at a cost of around F$3400.
Villagers keep half the profit from selling the cultivated rock, as it is called, and reinvesting the other half in the next crop. .Revenue from the new cultivated rock venture will flow to the village’s development projects and education, he says.
Walt Smith, a conservation-conscious American aquarium company based in Fiji, has agreed to market the stuff as an environmentally-friendly product to aquariums around the world. Studies show that cultivated rock is as effective as live rock for purifying aquariums.

A brilliant panorama of mangroves