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Reviving Earth’s Dying Organ: The Coral Reefs

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Did you know that May 8th was Indonesia Coral Reef Day?

Healthy coral reefs in Okinawa, Japan

Hirohiko Yishii [16]

Everyone seems to know where to go and what to do when they feel like seeing the beautiful underwater ecosystem, but ironically not many know how vital it is to our life. Therefore, it is imperative that we talk about coral preservation before it is too late.

Coral reefs make up less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, but give life to more than 25 percent of marine organisms [1]. As the rainforests of the sea, they also provide a great number of life-supports for humans such as fisheries, protection, and tourism. However, it is an undeniable fact that we have been taking these things for granted.

Destructive Fishing is Devastating

Stack of fresh fish

Oziel Gomez [17]

Fishery is one of the most populated and demanding industries around the world. Evidently, unconventional methods such as dynamite-fishing and poison-fishing pose a serious threat for the whole marine ecosystem as they kill reefs instantly. Traditional methods such as net-fishing are also found to be destructive if dumped mindlessly over the seabed [2]. When certain species of fish is declining, the coral reefs are also dying as it cannot live without the essential residents and vice versa.

Some people have been doing what they could in order to maintain a healthy marine ecosystem, namely through conservation, rehabilitation, and restoration breakthroughs. In Australia, mid-water nurseries were applied to grow more coral [3] and an underwater drone was developed to gather corals’ eggs and put them in an undisturbed area to grow healthily [4]. Indonesia also have organizations doing great work with coral restorations:

Gili Eco Trust

  • Has been making more than 120 biorock structures in Gili Trawangan [5], a technology that allows corals to grow stronger and faster by attaching it to a steel structure with low voltage current [5].

Biorock Indonesia

  • Has been aiding in biorock development and public engagement through programs like volunteer, research programs, and even educational tours in Bali [6].


  • Implemented Clarees (Clay Artificial Reef System), a rehabilitation program in Tunda Island, northern of Banten Strait [7].

  • Similar to biorocks, Clarees provide a stable foundation for the corals to grow and revive faster.

Coastal Tourism Needs to be Educational and Sustainable

The beautiful view of a coastal tourism spot

10 Star [18]

Coral reefs are one of the reasons we can live on the coastal area because its structure protects us from brutal waves, storms, and floods, thus making its absence dangerous towards our livelihoods [8].

The case of a cruise ship smashing Raja Ampat’s coral reef in 2017 is one of the most heart-breaking cases about destructive tourism. As the boat was being tugged away in low tide sea, The Jakarta Post reported that 1,600 meters of coral reefs were severely damaged [9]. The ship owner was compensated up to $1.92 million, but unfortunately the corals need 50 to 100 years to be fully restored [10].

Aside from being mindful, choosing a trusted and respectable tour agent is another thing we can do to protect the environment. Tour agents, with the help of local government, needs to also educate tourists exactly like what these organizations has been doing:

Coral Oasis Foundation

  • Built a sea conservation called “Nemo Village” (Kampung Nemo) in Sabang, as a part of their “Save Pulau Weh” campaign.

  • Aims to provide and preserve new habitats, raising and pushing local citizens to get directly involved, and promoting local tourism by building look-alike houses for nemo fish [11].

Yayasan Terumbu Rupa

  • Placed artificial reef structures in Lombok, Wakatobi, and North Jakarta for sea organisms to live and grow.

  • Highlighted the “ART” in artificial, they make use of the seafloors as art installations, hoping to raise public awareness on the importance of reefs [12].

The Ever-Rising Temperature Worsens Coral Bleaching

Dying coral reefs with no other marine creatures in sight

Jeremy Bishop [19]

The last but most important, yet unsurprising, factor is climate change. Corals are very sensitive organisms, meaning that a slight change in temperature affects its health greatly. When the sea gets warmer the algae (zooxanthellae) that keeps them alive gets stressed, turns white, and eventually dies if not getting any further treatment [13].

As an alternative, scientists from University of Melbourne has partnered with Tiffany & Co Foundation to develop ultra-thin sun shields to protect the corals underneath [14]. The layer is biodegradable and reduces light exposure up to 30 per cent, keeping the corals from direct sunlight. One Indonesian organization is also involved in protecting corals from being damaged by harsh sunlight:

Reef Check Indonesia

  • Created an information and guide page dedicated to local coral bleaching, together with Indonesia’s Coral Bleaching Team under the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Affair.

  • Citizens can fill out an online report for coral bleaching near them [15]. The reports will be followed up and actions will be taken.

However, healthy corals can be resilient to bleaching, further highlighting the importance of creating rehabilitation and conservation to boosting the ecosystem’s health. Corals are very similar to forests as we all share the same symbiotic relationship, if only we are more than eager to preserve it.

Now, It Is Your Turn

A fully-geared diver

Pia [20]

While growing a coral takes more time, dedication, skills, and knowledge than growing a tree, any help you can do matters. Supporting the foundations such as mentioned is the easiest thing to do.

Several foundations like Gili Eco Trust and Yayasan Terumbu Rupa have a donation guide on their websites, while other organizations like TERANGI open an occasional campaign for each project. You can also adopt baby coral or coral garden in Biorock Indonesia. Saving lives from the tip of your fingers.

If you are the type to get directly involved, you can always contact the foundations to join them as a volunteer, intern, or even diver. Reef Check Indonesia, Biorock Indonesia, and Gili Eco Trust are open for these opportunities.


What would you like us to talk about next? Write in our forum HERE!


Editor: Christopher Randy





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