Having been in Bali a couple of months and dove a lot of the sites in the area, I have to remind myself not to take for granted the array of life on offer in the seas around the island. When the last survey was completed, nearly 1000 different species of fish and 400 different types of coral were identified in the seas surrounding Bali. The survey was carried out by Conservation International, an organisation that strive to ensure a healthy and productive planet by working with various communities, countries and societies to protect the worlds different biodiversities. They have been working on a 20 year RAP (Rapid Assessment Plan) at the request of the Bali provincial government and the Department of Fisheries and Marine Affairs to assess reef health and provide management recommendations for 25 areas proposed to be developed into a network of Marine Protected Areas in Bali.
Last month they embarked on a 2 week survey based mainly right here in Tulamben, as well as other as well as Nusa Dua, Gili Manuk and Pemuteran. Data was collected from these sites at depths between 10-70 metres at 33 different sites in total around these different areas.
“There was a tremendous variety of habitats, surprisingly high levels of diversity and the coral reefs appeared to be in an active stage of recovery from bleaching, destructive fishing and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks in the 1990′s” – Dr. Mark Erdmann, senior advisor for the CI Indonesia marine program
On top of this good news, they went on to reveal that they had found 8 new species of fish and a new species of coral whilst carrying out the survey. Among the potentially new species documented were two types of Cardinalfish, two varieties of Dottybacks, a Garden Eel, a Sand Perch, a fang blenny, a new species of Goby and a previously unknown Euphyllia bubble coral. Not only have they released the information stating that they have found all these new types of fish right on our doorstep, they even had the decency to release high quality photographs courtesy of Mark Erdmann for all to see!
This is great news for the future of diving in Bali, and shows that both the marine life and the coral in the areas surrounding the island are on the road to recovery after previous bleaching back in 2005.
Alongside the efforts of companies such as Conservation International, there are companies who are are out to change the way people dive and increase our knowledge on reef conservation. Project Aware is a registered nonprofit organization, who in partnership with scuba divers and water enthusiasts combine efforts to conserve aquatic resources in more than 180 countries and territories of the world. They address issues such as:
- Underwater Cleanups and Marine Debris Prevention
- Coral Reef Conservation, Monitoring and Data Collection
- Shark Education, Reporting and Conservation
- Improved Management Policies and Marine Protection Efforts
- Environmental Training for Divers and Education Programs for Kids
Another affiliated company alongside Project Aware is Coral Watch. They focus primarily on monitoring the health of different coral reefs around the world, via the use of a tool called a ‘Coral Health Chart’. This Chart is basically a series of sample colours, with variation in brightness representing different stages of bleaching/recovery, based on controlled experiments. It is an inexpensive, simple, non-invasive method for the monitoring of coral bleaching and assessment of coral health. In the field, users simply compare colours of corals with colours on the chart and record matching codes.
Even if you do not actively assist with these projects, you can still take measures to aid the survival of healthy coral reefs while you are diving. Probably the most important aspect is an elective skill learnt in the Advanced Open Water course. Peak Performance Buoyancy greatly increases your ability to navigate your way around the underwater world, in doing so making you able to avoid causing unnecessary damage to your surroundings, whether it be coral reefs, wrecks or wildlife. Even a slight knock from a fin or a stray hand can damage decades of coral reef growth, so being aware of your surroundings is a vital part of your role in protecting the underwater environment whilst diving.
This post is also available in: German