The Big Build: The World’s Largest Coral Reef Restoration Effort in Bontosua, Pangkep

%When IKN Comes, Indigenous People Are Worried That Traditions Will Disappear%

The Big Build, a single largest coral reef restoration activity in the world was carried out in the Spermonde Islands (Sangkarang), South Sulawesi. This activity was initiated by PT Mars Indonesia, a cocoa company from the United States, located in South Sulawesi. This activity was carried out in Salisi’ Besar, the waters of Bontosua Island, Pangkep Regency, South Sulawesi, for four days, 10-13 July 2023.

This activity involved hundreds of people, including 49 divers from conservation organizations, researchers, universities, government, NGOs and the business sector, as well as dozens of residents and women’s groups. The planting of 30,000 coral reef fragments was carried out using 2,000 reef stars or commonly known as spiders.

In Spermonde waters, namely Bontosua Island and Badi Island, Pangkep, since 2011, through a project called Sheba Hope Grows Coral Reefs. Mars has carried out restoration in an area of ​​4.5 hectares with 35,939 reef stars installed, plus 2,000 reef stars installed during this activity.

According to Professor David Smith, Chief Marine Scientists, Mars Inc. , this initiative aims to help accelerate the recovery of 185,000 m² of coral reefs in locations around the world by 2029.

“Together we have the opportunity to save valuable coral reefs,” he said at the opening ceremony of The Big Build , Monday (10/7/2023).

Before carrying out the restoration, divers have been trained in the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System ( MARRS ) technique used in this restoration.  MARRS is valued as a method of coral reef restoration that is inexpensive and can be scaled up significantly.

Globally, Mars in collaboration with various parties has installed around 68,000 reef stars which cover nearly 900,000 coral reef fragments in 35 locations in 10 countries. As for Indonesia, -especially the Spermonde Archipelago, is the largest.

Reef Stars

Marine Program Manager for Mars Sustainable Solutions , Lily Damayanti, said that her party continues to develop and perfect coral reef ecosystem restoration methods that are cheap and can be replicated through MARRS . 

“ The MARSS method is not only related to media, but also includes site selection and obtaining seeds. How to make the media must be really good with good layers, “explained Lily.

Reef stars are in the form of hexagonal steel structures, where coral reef fragments will be attached to structures that will be installed to cover barren sections of coral debris, or gaps between living corals remaining on the reef.

The reef stars frame is made of strong and durable SNI 10 iron, and is formed through the same mold for each reef star . The iron is shaped like a spider web and then covered with sand and resin. In one reef star usually 15 coral fragments will be bound.

“ Reef stars are suitable in coral fault areas. Not all areas are suitable for this method. By involving many partners, we can combine the methods they have used in their respective locations,” explained Lily.

From previous experience, the failure of restoration using the reef stars method was caused by the selection of the location that was not suitable, the method of coating the frame was not good, the absence of routine maintenance, and the lack of involvement of the local community to maintain and monitor coral reefs.

Lily explained, in the last decade the conservation efforts undertaken by Mars on Bontosua Island have had an impact. In a period of 28 months, reef stars have increased the growth of coral reefs from 2 percent to 70 percent.

Owner of Mars Inc., Frank Mars, said it was important to encourage investment and build coalitions to restore coral reefs.

Barrang Lompo Youth Community

A diving community in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Sangkarang Ocean Dive (SOD) built a coral garden as a provider of coral seeds around Barrang Lompo Island. In an area of ​​20×20 meters, they built a planting medium in the form of a Vertical Artificial Reef (VAR) .

Since the coral garden has been proven to be a gathering place for fish and squid to lay their eggs. In the last three years fish have started to arrive, as well as squid.

SOD, which was founded in 2021, has dozens of members from the younger generation, some of whom are students from Barrang Lompo Island. It started with the Community Service Program (PKM) at the ITBM Balik Diwa Makassar campus.

“So far socialization activities have only been carried out on land, cleaning up trash, etc. Through SOD, many island youths are interested in knowing more about coral transplants and functions,” said Syahrul Harijo, chairman of SOD (26/5/2023), explaining their reasons for building a coral garden.

SOD has also become a forum for the younger generation of the island because so far many young people don’t care because they don’t understand the functions and uses of coral reefs, including the importance of transplants.

The construction of the coral garden itself is made of small pipes that are formed vertically which are crossed with other pipes and branch out like antennas. The transverse pipe is perforated and then tied with a fishing line as a place to hang coral reefs. The existence of a coral garden is expected to increase the stock of coral for transplants.

So far, many transplants have been carried out around the site, but failed due to the seed factor.

Coral gardens can also become the main attraction for new diving spots in Makassar. So far, the only dive spots known are Samalona and Kodingareng Keke, even though Barrang Lompo itself is a center for the islands in Makassar with potential dive spots that are no less good.

Apart from building coral gardens , in the last three years SOD has also been active in rehabilitating coral reefs in several locations around the island using a method called spider , where most of the seeds come from the coral garden.

Coral garden itself is still being developed through the addition of VAR. The condition of the VAR must always be monitored and maintained in order to protect the coral from predators.

“The presence of VAR actually invites squid in large numbers to come to lay their eggs on the reef. Many of the corals then bleched and died.”

The solution that was taken later, they built a kind of squid apartment so that they would not enter the VAR area again. In certain situations, they also cut off the egg-invaded coral before it has matured, so there is no chance for the squid to develop.

Even though it is still new, the presence of SOD itself at least contributes to solving various problems that exist on the island and its surrounding waters. One of them is repairing coral reefs around the island which suffered severe damage due to destructive fishing .

Destructive fishing has indeed been going on for a long time in the waters of Barrang Lompo Island which covers an area of ​​127.47 hectares. As a result, coral reefs were badly damaged with only 23.27 percent remaining cover.

“There are a lot of fishing activities that are not environmentally friendly, using explosives, cyanide, uncontrolled taking of rocks and sand and over-fishing ,” said Syahrul.

Attempts to transplant have actually been carried out frequently in Barrang Lompo, as evidenced by the presence of spider carcasses in the west to the north of the island, but many have failed, because there is no regular monitoring.

Syahrul also admits that there are still many limitations in his community. One of them has not been able to optimally monitor.

Regarding destructive fishing activities , -although the trend has decreased since SOD was actively outreached to the community, there is still a psychological factor. Most of the perpetrators still generally belong to the family, and SOD members are considered too young to give advice.

SOD then partnered with the waters police (polair) to socialize and build agreements with fishermen. Fishermen are no longer fishing around the coral garden and are starting to abandon non-environmentally friendly fishing gear such as bombs and anesthetics.

Another challenge is the tourists’ snorkeling activities which sometimes cause broken corals in the area. Sometimes they also throw away leftover disposable plastic food and drink packaging into the sea.

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