Recipes for conservation

At first sight, Pom Pom is amazingly beautiful. White beaches, palm trees, water so clear you can see turtles swimming around while standing on the beach. And when you enter the water, you can see as far as you want, and you want to see far! PomPom’s reefs are the home of many remarkable species such as stonefish, frogfish, scorpionfish, leaf fish, ghost pipefish, lionfish and many many more. And then there’s the turtles: On my first snorkell trip off the shore I saw 19 on them!!

A stonefish in the middle
of the coral rubble
But then you look closer, and realize there’s not many alive corals left once you get 100 meters out from the shore. What happened? Dynamite fishing. This blew up all the coral, so there’s only a mess left of broken, dead corals. Although this might be enough for some species who feed on plankton and other particles in the water, a reef like this cannot sustain a healthy complete fish population, consisting of a whole food chain of fish, with the top predator on the end: the shark. Sharks have not been recorded here for a long time, since the ones that were here have been fished, and they have no reason to come back: there’s no food!

Luckily dynamite fishing only took place in shallower water, so there are still beautiful coral reefs  surrounding PomPom where corals are abundant. They are even fighting with each other for space to grow. Also fish are expected to be somewhere around these islands, but in too deep water to be seen by anyone. Because of Celebes Beach Resort, fisherman won’t come close to the shore of PomPom anymore, so the reef is safe. But it doesn’t have enough corals to grow!

And that’s where this conservation project comes into the picture. There are two main tasks: collecting and replanting corals, and putting up fish aggregating devices (FADs). Once there is coral (=food and shelter for fish) and other FADs, fish populations might stay on the reef, attracting more and more life. Supervised by Professor Steve Oakley I got the chance to kick off the project on PomPom!

Want to help? See next blogs for our recipes to get an idea. Don’t try this at home…. :-), just sign up and come help to restore the under waterworld around PomPom!

By Sylvia Looijestijn