Why should we take care of the coral reefs?
Coral reefs are incredibly important and provide numerous benefits to both the marine ecosystem and human society. Here are some of the key reasons why coral reefs are so important:
Biodiversity: Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, providing a home for a vast array of marine organisms. They support over 25% of all marine species despite covering less than 1% of the ocean floor.
Fisheries: Coral reefs are important for the fishing industry and provide a source of food for millions of people around the world. Many commercially important fish species rely on coral reefs for food and shelter during their juvenile stages.
Protection from storms: Coral reefs act as a natural barrier that helps to protect coastlines from storms, waves, and erosion. They absorb the force of waves and reduce their impact on shorelines, thereby reducing damage from storms and tsunamis.
Tourism: Coral reefs are a popular destination for recreational activities such as snorkeling and diving, providing income and employment for many coastal communities. They are also a major attraction for tourists, bringing significant revenue to local economies.
Carbon cycling: Coral reefs play an important role in the global carbon cycle by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This helps to mitigate the impact of climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
What are the threats to coral reefs?
Living center of the National Park of Raja Ampat and working in the tourism industry we are facing some threats that are harmful to corals. Having passionate workers part of our hard-working team we are trying to make the best decisions towards nature and surrounding communities. Soul scuba divers are very aware of these threats and are doing their best to minimize our stress towards the environment.
Coral reefs Raja Ampat is known for its incredible marine biodiversity and stunning coral reefs. However, like many other marine environments around the world, Raja Ampat faces the threat of coral getting overwhelmed by growing tourism. Having hundreds and hundreds of liveaboards visiting the area during the Manta season anchoring and crashing into coral reefs doesn't really help the fragile corals that are easily stressed by noise. There is a local program starting to "plant" mooring lines in the area so hopefully in the future we don't need to witness these bom-like sounds near the dive sites by anchors.
Mother nature has also done her part of destroying coral gardens by sending bigger waves damaging shallower coral reefs.
As a dive center, we are introducing scuba divers daily to the pristine coral reefs around Raja Ampat. Corals are very fragile and they are easily stressed by noise or broken by divers who aren't paying tension to their buoyancy control. We don’t want to see anyone touching the corals by the hands or fins while doing any kind of water activities in Raja Ampat. We are using reef hooks only on the dive sites that are needed and guides are very happy to help you to hook in the right place. We don’t hook into alive corals and we are very careful in choosing the best spot for you to enjoy the dive while not damaging the beautiful reef that surrounds areas.
Soul scuba divers are working very closely with Seapeople and offer weekly coral restoration programs to maintain and help the areas that need our protection.
You can witness the work of Seapeople in dive sites near Sawandarek and Yenbuba villages. This is a beautiful way to give back to Raja Ampat by joining this weekly activity as a diver.
Soul scuba divers start to build a dive center along a small compressor room in 2018 on Kri Island. In 2019 of June Soul scuba divers started a slow process of building a long jetty in front of the dive center where we currently operate. Building in remote areas and using wood from nearby areas where the logging is regulated it takes time to get supplies into the island. Locals also understand the beauty of nature and they are controlling the logging. The stock of wood taking is regulated, but it doesn't still take the fact away that we are also part of the threat to forestry. When the Corona hit 2020, the building became secondary and things were built by a very small team of two people, owner Thibault and our current captain, who remain the whole Corona time on the island. The team started to grow and the next steps were the staff house and kitchen. The Jetty took two years to build and was finished by June 2021, along with our small kitchen where the room for the Soul scuba divers comes. The team in 2021 was still small but Thibault was able to hire local villagers to help with the building. In 2022 in April Indonesian borders opened and tourists started to slowly find Kri Island the team was able to grow slowly, the same as the remaining plans for the new dive center on the top of the jetty, in October. The new dive center is still in process, and it has estimated to be running in a few months' time. Since our Soul scuba divers family is growing bigger and offering more jobs to locals, we also need to expand our living space, like others who have wished to live and settle here in Kri island.
Since the jetty came to be part of the island topography it has given home and shelter for many different juvenile species of marine life like Epaulette sharks and other important reef creatures.
Before our jetty was built, boats were able to cross on top of the shallow reef's water making a shortcut when they wanted to visit the village of Yenbuba. By building the jetty where it is now boats are going around from the coastal reef and using the path between Kri Island and Ransiwor that we call it little boat highway. This way there the stress of the corals is focused on one place not wiping the beautiful coral reef all around the coast of Kri island. We have noticed only from a few years of not trespassing, new corals have started to grow and the house reef of Soul scuba is in very beautiful condition.
Since we are building in Kri island, we are also taking some of the beauty away from the jungles. We are using iron wood for building our dive center and jetty, which is the stronger and long-lasting wood in the world. In Raja Ampat, we are lucky to have these trees growing locally and we don't need to ship wood from far away. Our wood supplies are from mainly Gam and Batanta islands. Building anything stresses the nearby environment by cutting trees so we as Soul Scuba divers
also want to give back what we have been taking and help the jungles around Raja Ampat to restore its beautiful nature. We don't only want to give back our trees which have been taken from the jungle, we also want to give back much more than taken. We are not the only ones in the area who are building so we need to also consider other's usage and being able to give back as much as possible. This is a long-term process of analyzing and researching the areas that need the biggest help. We want to focus on the trees which we have been taking such as ironwood.
We also want to start to restore mangrove trees in the areas that have suffered from tourism. We don't use mangrove in our buildings but we understand the importance of mangroves in our ecosystem. Our mangrove and tree rehabilitation project has started already in Soul scuba divers. We have collected mangrove seedling which are washing into our beach, teaching the local kids the importance of the trees. Local kids are daily bringing us new mangrove seedling into the dive center. Mangrove seedlings are in the nursery stage and we will keep you posted how are the little seedlings doing. Slowly slowly we are giving back what we have taken and want to have long lasting restoration program and hoping this will motivate others around in Raja Ampat.
Overfishing is a global issue that occurs when fish and other aquatic animals are harvested from the oceans at rates faster than they can reproduce. This leads to a depletion of fish populations and can have significant impacts on both the marine ecosystem and the human communities that depend on fish for food and livelihoods like in small communities that you witness here in Raja Ampat.
Raja Ampat has many no take zones and it is forbidden to fish near by the coral reefs, this reason at your dinner table you will mostly eat fish species that lives in the open ocean. Homestay uses local Fishermans, fish are freshly caught in near by area by using traditional fishing techniques without big vessels or fishing nets involved. This is the most sustainable way of catching fish.
By paying your Marine card (National park fees of 700,000 IDR) helps the National park to organize patrols to make sure that bigger fishing vessel with nets aren't entering the areas, dynamite or chemical fishing aren't in practice in Raja Ampat. This is very important for us and having Marine card is mandatory to dive with Soul scuba divers.
Soul scuba divers recommend everyone to watch Seapiracy documentary to everyone to understand more about fishing industry and pollution issues we are facing worldwide. Some of the consequences of overfishing include the collapse of fisheries, loss of biodiversity, and impacts on the broader marine ecosystem, including seabirds and marine mammals. https://www.seaspiracy.org
Raja Ampat is very popular scuba diving holiday destination and it is on every scuba divers bucket list. When the tourism grows in the fast way it has both positive and negative impacts on the local environment, economy, and culture.
Positive sides of tourism : Some of the positive impacts of mass tourism include the creation of jobs and income for local communities, as well as the development of infrastructure and facilities that can benefit both tourists and residents. Additionally, tourism can promote cross-cultural understanding and provide opportunities for education and cultural exchange.
Negative sides of the tourism: overcrowding and strain on local resources, environmental degradation, loss of cultural identity, and social conflicts. For example, large numbers of tourists can put pressure on fragile ecosystems and contribute to pollution, while local communities may feel excluded or marginalized by the influx of visitors
In Soul scuba divers we believe the educating the local communities and tourist who visit us, is very important for the future of the coral reefs in general. We are lucky to have passionated team members who are sharing their knowledge daily with our divers and locals in the island.
Raja Ampat facing many kind of pollution by the growing tourism and local communities. Here is some of the pollution that can be also found in the Last Paradise on earth. Here is some examples that can be witness while visiting the remote island of Raja Ampat.
Plastic waste; including bottles, bags, and other single-use items, can end up in the oceans, posing a significant threat to marine life. It can entangle marine animals and be mistaken for food, leading to injury or death.
Sewage and wastewater: Improper sewage disposal and inadequate wastewater treatment can result in the discharge of untreated or poorly treated wastewater into the surrounding waters. This can introduce harmful bacteria, pathogens, and excess nutrients, which can lead to water pollution and negatively impact coral reef health.
Agricultural runoff, industrial activities, and improper disposal of chemicals can introduce pollutants such as pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals into the marine environment.
Accidental oil spills from shipping, oil exploration, or oil transport can have catastrophic consequences for marine ecosystems.
Soul scuba divers main priority at this moment is to open up recycling center in Waisai, and take a full speed action towards the plastic and other waste. We are this is still in very early stage but we are getting there step by step.
Read more in our previous blog Waste management project how we deal with trash in the island
Soul scuba using 4 stroke engines which are better option for our diving boats than 2 stroke engines. four-stroke engines offer several environmental benefits over two-stroke engines, particularly in terms of reduced emissions, improved fuel efficiency, reduced noise pollution, lower pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides, and longer life span compared to two-stroke engines.
We are planning to have a traditional Papuan longboat to pick up our customers from the other side of the Kri island by using electric engine. The best for us and for engine use pollutions would be our divers choosing the homestay’s on our side of the beach, voiding the pick ups by boat from multiple homestays in kri island. There is seven homestay in 2-5 min walking distance from our dive center and the closest homestay from us is Yenbuba Homestay, what we highly recommend to people.
All of these threats can lead to coral bleaching, where the corals expel their zooxanthellae and turn white, and eventually, the death of the coral colony.
It is important to address these threats through various conservation measures, such as reducing carbon emissions to mitigate climate change, implementing sustainable fishing practices, regulating coastal development, and improving water quality through pollution reduction measures. Additionally, coral reef restoration efforts, such as coral propagation and reef transplantation, can help to rebuild damaged reefs and increase their resilience to future threats.
How you can help to remain the coral reefs remain healthy stage?
There are several ways that individuals can help to protect and conserve coral reefs:
Reduce carbon emissions: Climate change is one of the biggest threats to coral reefs, so reducing your carbon footprint can help to mitigate this threat. You can do this by driving less, using public transportation or cycling, eating a plant-based diet, and using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
Support sustainable seafood: Choose seafood that is sustainably sourced and avoid buying fish that are overfished or caught using destructive fishing practices.
Reduce plastic use: Plastics can be harmful to coral reefs, so reducing your plastic use can help to protect them. You can do this by using reusable bags, water bottles, and containers, and avoiding single-use plastics.
Use reef-safe sunscreen: Certain chemicals in sunscreen can harm coral reefs, so using reef-safe sunscreen can help to protect them. Look for sunscreens that are labeled reef-safe and avoid those that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Volunteer for Seapeople's coral reef restoration projects: Supporting Sea People's coral restoration program you help to protect coral reefs around Raja Ampat and maintain the beautiful work that Lynn and Arno are making here with the local coral gardeners. You can also make direct donations to Seapeople
Educate yourself and others: Learn more about the threats facing coral reefs and spread awareness to others about the importance of protecting them.
Soul scuba divers offer many SSI marine specialties such as Coral ID, Fish ID, Manta & ray ecology, Shark ecology, Marine ecology, and Sea turtle ecology.
Overall, coral reefs are incredibly valuable ecosystems that support numerous species and provide a range of benefits to human society. Protecting and conserving these important ecosystems is essential to ensure their continued existence and the benefits they provide.
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