Coral Propagation Courses

Monday, 29 Feb, 2016

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, supporting more species per unit area than any other marine environment. However, the health of coral reefs around the world is in serious decline. One solution is the reproduction of coral, or coral propagation. Sea Shepherd, in partnership with Ocean Quest, offers courses in coral propagation.

Coral propagation with Ocean Quest and Sea Shepherd Dive. Photo Gary Stokes.

Globally, half a billion people are estimated to live within 100 kilometers of a coral reef and benefit from its production and protection. However, the latest reports state that as much as 27 percent of monitored reef formations have been lost and as much as 32 percent are at risk of being lost within the next 32 years. This damage can largely be attributed to human activity. Many are now looking for solutions to this issue, in face of what is an unfolding environmental disaster. One such solution is coral propagation, or the reproduction of coral. 

Sea Shepherd Dive has formed a partnership with the Malaysian based company, Ocean Quest who, among other services, offers courses in coral propagation. There are several methods of coral propagation around the world, many of which use questionable methodology including metal grids, PVC piping, leather and even electrolysis. What drew Sea Shepherd Dive to Ocean Quest was its almost all-natural method. The founder of Ocean Quest is Anuar Abdullah. Anuar is a dive-master / artist / oceanographer, and has spent most of his life on the coral reefs of Malaysia, observing their behavior and life cycles, and conducting his own research.

The founding principle of Ocean Quests’ Coral Propagation Program (CPP) is that the program is ONLY used to rebuild damaged reefs, NOT to create new reefs where they were not previously found. Besides restoring our reefs, this program goes beyond the sea to target the root cause of the problem - impoverished local coastal communities who are forced to harvest coral for their livelihood. Ocean Quest aims to involve the local communities in its CPPs, thereby providing them with an alternative source of income that is aimed at protecting, rather than destroying, the coral reefs.

The potential successes of Ocean Quest’s CPP can be seen at one location, which has been testing the CPP since 2009. In what can only be described as an amazing result, the reef has now been fully restored by the local community. Business in that town is booming thanks to its revived coral reefs, with an influx of divers and snorkelers keen to experience the healthy underwater habitat. The community has opened a cafe on the beach and the ex-dynamite fishermen now lead snorkel trips. An independent audit carried out by a local university has calculated that the reef now provides US$170,000 annually to the local villagers.

The simplicity of Ocean Quest’s program is quite unique, the secret being a patented catalyst that Anuar has developed. After a site has been surveyed for propagation, divers or snorkelers collect broken fragments of live coral and small live rock from the location, and bring both to shore in baskets. Participants in the program sort and prepare the coral, before using superglue to attached the 2cm high fragments to the live rock. The catalyst is then used with the glue to help bond the coral quickly to the rock. After two weeks, the catalyst dissolves the glue. The coral has attached itself to the live rock, and there is no glue or toxin left behind.

The corals are then taken out to chest deep water at low tide and placed on the seabed in a temporary nursery area. After several months the coral will have grown considerably, up to approximately 10cm. At this time divers can then transplant these corals and place them on the reef in their final destination.

The CPP course will be offered at Sea Shepherd partner dive centers at their discretion. A qualification card will be awarded upon completion so the holder can participate at any program at any location globally. The course packs have also been set up so that corporates can purchase a bulk amount for centers to use to train local villages as part of their CSR programs.

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