The Moral of Coral

The March issue of A.S. Magazine features an article on TRACC and the wonderful reef rejuvenation project happening on Pom Pom Island written by past TRACC volunteer Sarah Tulkens. The full article is available in both French and Dutch, and the section focusing on TRACC has been translated to English below.  Thanks for the great write up Sarah and for the translation Erik Hagestad!

The Moral of Coral

“Pom Pom Island is a miniscule Tropical Island situated a short hour boat ride off the coast of north-east Borneo and in the heart of the marine protected marine park of Tun Sakaran. It boasts all the usual characteristics of a tropical island; warm crystal-clear seawater, fine sand beaches, palm trees, all the tropical vegetation, and occasional torrential rains of such islands.
            Over the last 45 years there have been massive amounts of bomb-fishing, a deplorable method of fishing where explosives are detonated under water. It is also very practical, allowing fishermen to easily harvest the dead fish, which float to the surface. It is also devastating to all underwater life. It goes without saying that such areas resemble graveyards – huge stains of dead coral with no other life around.
            The British marine biologist Steve Oakley decided five years ago to create an NGO with the goal of revitalizing the coral reef crest circling Pom Pom Island – TRACC, the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre. He assembled a team of a dozen people charged with the tasks of logistics, scientific research and education. Each year they welcome dozens of volunteers, students, and interns all pursuing the same goal; the rehabilitation of the reef around Pom Pom Island.
            A small primitive camp of tents, buildings and toilets/showers, all open air, the facility is home to the collaborators of project TRACC. Six days a week they build structures that the divers install underwater to help coral grow and provide protection to the marine eco-system. In the neighboring dive sites you can see the hard and soft corals growing, which were planted on such structures in the past and which will grow into a new reef and help stabilize the sandy crest of the island.
            The fabulous results of this long, hard process are already apparent after 5 years – fish surveys have shown a renewed presence of large fish – schools of barracuda, bump-head parrotfish and morays, big–eye trevally, eagle rays and even coral cat sharks spotted on night dives. If you add to that the dozens of species of small reef fish, nudibranchs and coral, starfish and sea cucumbers, you realize that things are moving in the right direction.

            Pom Pom Island is a favorite locale for sea turtles to lay their eggs; sadly poachers unearth them in the night to sell in the market at nearby Semporna. Here again TRACC is trying to make a difference and put an end to this practice. The team collects the new eggs and incubates them in a secure place until they are ready to hatch. Afterwards the new baby turtles are released in the sea. The population of green and hawksbill turtles has grown dramatically over the past few years. As for sharks, the team buys the living ones in the market before the restaurants can put them on the menu and releases them into the sea. Thus, TRACC puts in practice its motto ‘one shark one turtle and one coral at a time.’”

To read to full article in French click here, for Dutch click here!

For more information, please check the TRACC website or e-mail info@tracc-borneo.org 

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