When you hear on the news that there was an earthquake, a hurricane or another natural disaster, we swallow the news, digest it for a few minutes, and then… we continue with what we were doing before. But what we do not really realize is that the affected countries spend months or years recovering. Fiji, for example, is still trying to get back on its feet after the cyclon Winston. Since March! Roofless houses, whole families who lost absolutely everything living still in tents, schools and churches entirely demolished, health centers that lost all the medical equipment and medicines. But that’s not all, there is a devastated part that is not spoken about, and that is… the underwater world. I bet you’ve never thought of that one before! Hundreds of corals and aquatic animals are washed away and literally spit out to the beaches!
And what have you done about it? Nic (nothing) would the Polish say! The only thing that is commonly told to people about “conserving corals” is not to touch or kick the corals with the fins while snorkeling or diving. But that is not all that you can do…
The dive center on Barefoot Manta Island in Fiji is managed by two marine biologists (a lovely American couple) who lead different marine conservation programs. After the cyclone, the center collected semi-live corals from different islands in Fiji to return them back to their natural habitat. They collected and stored them in a place like this:
Photo by Marko Jiang. Behind: Laura Lemus
Because there were so many collected corals, the centre offered to the public (other divers) the chance to help. If you have ever felt the need to give something back to the environment of what we have taken away from it, this is a good way to do it. It is an absolute unique experience.
So how does it work? The dive centre gives each participant a pair of plastic gloves to avoid touching the corals with the bacteria of the hands (we do not have the same bacteria as corals and ours can affect them negatively) and give the following instructions:
1. Using the gloves, take gently from station A (pictured above) the corals to station B (where there were other corals and rocks).
Photo by Marko Jiang. On the picture: Lai Naikarua and Laura Lemus
2. Get rid off the dead part of the corals, it’s usually white, and leave only the living part (the section with colour)
3. With a toothbrush, clean the holes that are naturally on the rocks and that were previously the home of some washed away corals.
Photo by Marko Liang. On this picture: Julia Wörlein
4. “Plant” the cleaned corals in the holes. The bottom of the coral sacrifices itself for the rest of the coral to glue itself firmly to the rock.
After finishing the job, it is great to see how fish come along to check their new home. And this human effort is absolute worth it! 85% of the planted corals survive!
Diving for pleasure and for learning more about the underwater world is great. But to dive to conserve what you love is something that you really need to try. It is extremely rewarding. Ask the next dive center that you visit if they have a similar program.
Here are some other photos that I and Marko Liang have taken during other dives around Fiji Barefoot Island. Fiji has been one of the best countries where I have dived! Sharks, stingrays, wrecks, reef walls and tunels! I had never seen so much underwater life before! And the best of all is that… I found Nemo.
Video by Laura Lemus.
26 meters deep. Diving in a wreck. Photo by Lai Naikarua. In this picture: Laura Lemus
Photo by Marko Liang