A busy week of conservation at TRACC

This past week has been a busy one for conservation. We have had a lot of volunteers coming through with a huge amount of passion for undertaking conservation diving each day. The energy has been incredible and I am feeling very sad that my time at TRACC is so near to ending. But enough of that. I thought I would give an overview of the conservation we have been undertaking recently and how it is helping our reefs at Pom Pom.

To begin, last week we spent some time out snorkelling along our house reef, surveying the number and state of all of our bottle reefs. We split house reef into four segments so that we can rotate our conservation dives through each section to keep better track of our work over time. This information was then collated onto our data base.

We have done a lot of bottle reef maintenance this week. This involves snorkelling and collecting baskets of broken, but living coral from the sea floor. This is coral that has broken off due to stormy waters, or by tourists that have knocked coral and broken it. After collection we get kitted up in our dive gear and go back into the ocean. We take the coral and attach them with wire to the bottles on the bottle reef.  Between six of us we attach about 60 pieces of coral in 30 minutes at a depth of about three metres. The idea behind the reef is that the bottles provide a stable base for the coral to grow from, rather than just dying on the sea floor. Having more coral helps the ecosystem in so many ways- providing new habitat for marine animals, and stability for the reef.
A time lapse photo showing the growth of branching coral on the bottle reef over three months

We also went twice to an area of the island called lobster wall to collect some soft coral. Here, there is an area where there is a lot of soft coral growing naturally. We collect pieces from this area that are loose and attached to rubble. We fill up the bottom of two crates with the coral. This only takes about 15 minutes and gives us the chance to go on a fun dive to see the beautiful wall (and our lobster friends!). We then take the soft coral to an area on our house reef where we have dropped some nets. We place the coral under the net. The coral will grow and create a new carpet of soft coral along the slope- an area that is otherwise made up of broken dead coral.

Our net of soft coral growing on the slope

We spent one morning at the wreck dive site collecting gorgonian sea fans. We cut off small branches of the fans, or broken pieces that are on the ground. The fans are beautiful and delicate, and when you see it above the water it has the most incredibly vibrant colours. We took them down to the igloo shaped reefs we have in house reef. We attach the pieces with zip ties to the structure. The fans grow well on this structure, and we even discovered one fan that had attached on its own.
Gorgonian sea fans growing on our igloo reef

Apart from these projects, we made and dropped about 24 bottle reefs, and did some mad jetty jumping! It was a really satisfying, busy week. I find it absolutely incredible how much I have learnt about different ways of creating reefs in the past two months and how much we have achieved. Planting corals has also been so awesome for my buoyancy in the water.

Dropping bottle reefs

Loading up the bottle reefs into the kayak