THE CORAL TRIANGLE - AMAZON OF THE OCEAN
Raja Ampat-Indonesia, South East Asia
If coral reefs are the rainforests of the seas, then the Coral Triangle is the underwater equivalent of the Amazon. This is a bioregion that’s half the size of the United States, passes through six countries (the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea Solomon Islands and East Timor), and harbours more marine species than anywhere else on the planet. There are single reefs in the Coral Triangle that contain more species than the entire Caribbean. When it comes to abundance and sheer scale, nowhere else comes close to the Coral Triangle. The Coral Triangle can claim an impressive list of superlatives – it’s home to 76% of all known coral species, more than 3000 species of fish and 6 out of 7 of the world’s turtle species.That’s why the bioregion isquickly gaining a global profile as one of the planet’s most valuable natural assets, comparable to the Amazon. Just as the Amazon is the figurehead of the world’s rainforests – the so-called lungs of the earth – the Coral Triangle is developing iconic status as a marine treasure – the wellspring of the world’s oceans. With its numerous natural attributes, growing stature as a destination, exuberant mix of marine based cultures and globally significant status as a fishery, the Coral Triangle makes for fascinating subject matter. There are sharks that walk the ocean bed, marine nomads who spend their lives at sea, constant new species discoveries and incredible destinations waiting to be uncovered. And with the growing awareness of the crisis facing the world’s oceans – and more specifically coral reef ecosystems – the need to highlight the impacts of overfishing, pollution and climate change has never been keener.
Main programs of focus are:
SCIENCE TRAINING AND REEF MONITORING: This program offers volunteers the opportunity to learn basic coral reef biology and ecology as well as identification of some of the amazing coral, invertebrate, fish and plant species that are commonly spotted throughout Raja Ampat and coral reef across the Indo- Pacific. After having completed the science program volunteers are able to join the survey and monitoring teams who conduct numerous research dives across many of RajaAmpats amazing coral reefs, helping Barefoot to achieve one of their goals to assist local government and communities to conserve and protect the coral reefs of Raja Ampat. One of the ways we hope to achieve this is to create a GIS map of the corals surrounding the islands of Raja Ampat. Volunteers who have completed the science training program are integral to this goal as without them mapping of the area would be a near on impossible task, due to the scale of biodiversity and area of reef cover. Barefoot hopes to map Raja Ampat one island at a time in the hopes that the information and data they gather can be used by management officials and other conservation bodies who share our goal of protecting the reefs for future generations.
EDUCATION: One of their most important missions is to undertake educational programmes on environmental issues, sustainable fishing techniques and the economic benefits of MPA's. They believe this partnership with the local communities is bonded by a willingness to make a real difference, and the understanding that research, survey dives and Marine Protected Areas cannot work unless accompanied by education and the sustained alleviation of poverty. Another of their community work programs is to run English courses both for children and adults. Taught in a friendly, easy-going environment, we aim to improve the Papuan children's English skills to help their chances of qualifying for higher education. And the adults to communicate better with the tourists they encounter through their local businesses (village shop, homestays, snorkeling tours etc..). Classes are run separately between children and adult and they include writing, listening, reading, and speaking. To make it easy to grasp, examples and exercises are made such that they relate to every-day life in Raja Ampat. On their first community class they were surprised with almost 30 students that showed up ranging from Year 1 to Year 7. All in one class. Worse, there were only enough notes for 20 students which in the end had to be shared between them (after all sharing is an act of love, isn’t it?). They were shy at first and after a quick Hangman session, Desiree the community manager and teacher won their heart.
WASTE MANAGEMENT: One of the greatest threats facing our oceans today is plastic waste, and it seems that there are few, if any, places left in the world that are unaffected by this issue. A major problem is with plastic wastes such as water bottles, sweet wrappers and plastic bags. They can take decades to degrade and even after this point they can remain within ecosystems as Nano-Plastics. Although beach clean ups may be less glamorous than releasing baby turtles, science diving and manta ray spotting, they are just as important, if not more important than all of these other activities. Many marine creatures are often seen taking bites of plastic, before realizing what it is and spitting it out. Some however do not realize until it’s to late, this is a particular problem for many sea turtles such as the Leatherback who mistake plastic for one of their food sources jellyfish. Simply collecting the waste that washes up on the beach can have a huge impact on reef ecosystems, helping to prevent coral damage, ingestion by marine creatures and the release of harmful chemicals once the trash eventually starts to degrade. Volunteers at Barefoot Conservation are asked to help out with beach clean-ups as often as possible. This not only sets a great example to the local community, but also allows participants to see the good they are doing by physically removing rubbish from the environment.