Raja Ampat is one of the last strongholds on Earth where coral reef systems still thrive. This archipelago shelters an incredible abundance of life, and forms what is currently thought to be the most biodiverse marine system on the planet. These stunning reefs provide a rich and sustainable food source to local communities in small villages throughout the archipelago. These reefs also support a healthy tourism economy providing livelihoods to significant portion of the community.
Yet sadly, numerous reefs were destroyed by destructive fishing practices in the 80s & 90s, and to this day, they have not yet recovered. Additionally, the current rapid expansion of tourism in the region brings with it new impacts upon the marine environment.
At a time where coral reef degradation is occurring worldwide due to human activity, and in response to human induced climate changes, it is essential and common sense to design and develop conservation tools to respond to these current and future degradation issues. Rather than waiting for the local reefs to become damaged or lose their natural resilience, our Yaf Keru project is aiming to evaluate and optimize the current (and remarkable) recovery potential of Raja Ampat’s reefs.
Yaf Keru Kids - a Playground for Learning
The extent of the damage caused by bomb and cyanide fishing in the Dampier Strait is hard to evaluate due to the absence of previous baseline study. Yet, several kilometres deserted rubble slopes, levelled by destructive fishing practices, can be found within some the Dampier Strait reef systems. It is difficult to determine whether these areas were previously pristine and have degraded due to natural or anthropogenic causes, however, the lack of natural regeneration over the last decade suggests a need for artificial restoration.
20m east of our Dive Centre a stretch of degraded reef can be found that covers an area of approximately 1000 m2. There, the coral rubble layer can reach up to 1.5m in thickness, and regularly slides down the slope and onto the healthy reefs below. This rubble is an unstable substrate, meaning coral polyps cannot attach, grow and establish themselves as new and healthy coral reefs. Instead, new recruits only grow to a small size then die, producing more rubble in the process. This is a continual cycle of degradation leading to a situation where the reef cannot repair itself.
Yaf Karu, which means “Coral Garden” in the local language, will see the installation of a number of artificial reef structures. These structures will have coral fragments transplanted upon them, and will provide a stable substrate for the fragments to establish themselves, and thrive, ultimately restoring the damaged area. Within 3-5 years we anticipate that the structures will be covered completely with various species of coral, attracting aggregations of fish, invertebrates and macro life that can be seen on thriving reefs elsewhere in Raja Ampat.
The restoration of the house reef will serve as a pilot project and if proven successful, we aim to replicate our restoration techniques in front of local villages and other damaged areas.