Recipe for FAD’s

Unfortunately many people still dump garbage
in the sea, which then washes up on the beaches.
We recycle the plastic bottles.

Ingredients & tools
-          Plastic bottles
-          Rope
-          Scissors

Collect bags full of plastic bottles. Take off the caps and plastic label. Tie them up in bundles of 8, and attach a line to them of about a meter. 

-- That's it! Ever seen such an easy recipe? ;-)

The British Council was at Pom Pom; they collected
all these bottles in around 30 minutes. Thanks!

 Tying up the bottles in bundles.
Bottle-bundles ready to become FAD's!

After this it’s the divers job to find the FAD lines and attach the bottle-bundles. 
-- Which is a much bigger challenge, read about it here!

Are you up for the challenge? Come join us!

By Sylvia Looijestijn


Plastic bottle recycling for FAD's

The idea is simple, attract more pelagic fish close to Pom pom Island using fish aggregation devices.  The design and science behind FAD's is on the main website.  Our FAD's use recycled plastic water bottles rescued from the high tide line of the island.  Lots of plastic bottles litter the worlds oceans and many eventually drift onto beaches.  Many volunteers including the British Council Teachers have helped,  A short walk around the island helps clean the beaches for the turtles and gives us a large supply of bottles.  They were trash and we give them a use and a purpose.  To see how we made the bottles lines - click here.

Untangling the rope for the FAD.
With some short pieces of string tied to the bottle neck and organised into groups of 6 or 8 the bottles are the centre core of the FAD.  A recycled 20 litre drum from a construction job provides the major lift required. The first step was the most experienced divers in our volunteer group went to 40 metres to search for suitable sized rocks to tie the FAD lines too.  The FAD lines are white rope in the pictures.
With air in the yellow drums, the line is as tight as a guitar string.  Our job underwater is to attach the plastic water bottles at 3 m intervals.  We have discovered that a group of more than 8 bottles in each hand is a mistake!  They twist and wrap and before you know it you have a ball of bottles, each wrapped around the other. 
The next challenge is to find the FAD lines,  should be simple, swim along the reef at about 15m deep and 25-30m offshore so you can see the bottom and just see the reef slope.  (The water clarity here is excellent normally 30m but sometimes as bad as 20m visibility.)  The FAD lines will be vertical white rope with a big yellow buoy at the top.  There are four of these at the moment and on our first dive - WE MISSED THEM COMPLETELY.  We all know you don't get Narcosis at 15-20m and none of us are that blind so perhaps they were tied badly and drifted away.  Discussions about bad knots and blind people led to the next dive trip.
The bottles with no air are almost uncontrollable
and twist in lots of different ways.

The first set of bottles with air.

The next dive trip would have another disaster if it wasn't for the sharp eyes of Sylvia.  The barrel was spotted below us with the line almost horizontal.  On the previous dive we simply swam over the top of the FAD and didn't see it.
Filling the bottles with air turned out to be tricky, hold on with one hand so the current doesn't wash you away.  Hold the bottle with the other hand, manoeuvre the  funnel under the bottle mouth with a third hand and then use the spare regulator, or Octopus with a fourth hand.  Since we don't have four hands this was a tricky exercise and our photographer was clearly laughing at our struggles.  Eventually, we managed to fill many of the bottles with air, the rest will wait for another dive.
Divers filling the bottles with Air.


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

Recipe for 150 cement coral cupcakes

 Ingredients & tools
-          3 buckets of cement
-          9 buckets of sand
-          Fresh water
-          150 straws
-          Plastic bags
-          Plastic cups
-          Coral fragments
-          Rope
-          Scissors

Making the cup cakes
Mix the cement with sand and water. Spread out some plastic as your baking tray. Put dollops of cementmix on it, and put a straw on every one of them. Next, fill up a plastic cup with cementmix, and place it upside-down on top of the straw. Just like when you were making sandcastles on the beach some years ago… Take off the plastic cup to fill it again. Continue till the mix is finished and you have a huge bakingtray with cement cakes with straws sticking out! Try not to make them look too pretty as you would with your sandcastle. You’ll find out why later.
Let them set for half an hour. Then poke in some holes on the top, or put small pieces of straw in each of them. Leave them to dry up for 24 hours, which gives you time to go and find your corals!

Coral shopping
Box with collected
soft corals
So how do you go shopping for coral fragments? You won't find it in the supermarket, although we did find an underwater shop that has a good assortment, we call it our garden shop as coral replanting is a bit like gardening! At the places where there is a lot of one type of coral, we take small –if possible broken off – pieces of them and put them in a box. The remaining coral will now have more space and grow back. Every coral gets its own box, otherwise they’ll fight on the way home from the shop! Coral will die if it’s out of the water for too long (not more than a few minutes preferably), so they’re put in a box of seawater on the way back to the resort, and then temporarily left in the shallow water under the jetty.

Cakes with attached soft corals
When you cement cakes are ready, you can get back into the water. Bring a rope, scissors and go back to where you left your corals. Depending on the type of corals, there’s different ways to plant them. But the end is the same: the cement cakes will be tied up together with a piece of string (you must have wondered why you needed the straw in them?), with the coral fragments in them. They can be tied up, put into the straws or cemented into the holes. Every type of coral got its own preference depending on their shape and needs for growth. Some are even just tied up to a piece of string, without a coral block. 

Tying the blocks and corals up to the line
Eventually all the cement/coral blocks and other corals will be lined up in about 8 meters deep water. They can’t be just put down on the seabed, since PomPom got a quite steep slope going down from 3 meters to somewhere deep, and we don’t want our corals ending up there, we won’t be able to see them! Guess the most likely animal to make them tumble down? Our beloved turtles! They will sit on them or push them around with their strong flippers. Obviously we won’t scare off the turtle, so we need to turtle-proof our young coral blocks!

Lined up coral blocks
After about 6 months the rope will start to disintegrate and there will only be corals and cement blocks left. I guess now you know why you don’t want the cement cakes to look too pretty, they should look as natural as possible! If the corals grow well, they will cover the blocks which then look like natural rocks with corals.
This could be your line to fill with corals!

So yes, replanting a coral reef takes a little longer than baking a cake, but the result will hopefully be long lasting, while eating a cake could even take shorter than baking it. ;-)

By Sylvia Looijestijn


Recycling plastic bottles - the TRACC way

Pom Pom has lots of pelagic fish but they pass by without stopping.  We saw some lovely schools of rainbow runners and spanish mackerel.  TRACC and the Celebes beach resort are trying to keep these pelagic fish here with a series of fish aggregating devices.
Nurul making a bottle bubble
So what do these high tech FAD's have to do with recycling.  We are making our FAD mostly from recycled materials.
Kathy & Nurul with the complete FAD
The FAO (Food & Agriculture organisation of the United Nations) diagram shows a really complex system but they work very well.  In the pacific, these are set adrift and they attract fish for the massive purse seines that supply you and I with tinned tuna.  These FAD's are so efficient that Greenpeace and others are trying to get open ocean FAO's prohibited.  We are using these FAD's as part of our protected area programme.

The FAD central rope is attached to a large rock on the seabed at 30-50 metres depth.  The top of the FAD is supposed to be at 5-10 metres but one of the first lines was a little long and actually reaches the surface at low tide.  To attract the fish and give some bulk and interest from the FAD we have added lots of plastic bottles.

So will this simple system work, Check back soon.
Bob tying on the bottles.


Muck diving in Seagrass

After the fantastic diving on Pom Pom, none of the vols were keen to go and explore a Kalapuan seagrass bed on a Sat morning which was our fun recreational diving day.  The boat stopped and we got out and stood on the bottom.  Which way is the deep water? Stupid question, the seabed was flat for about 2km.
Long leaf seagrass, grows to almost 2ft tall
This is a worm of some sort.
I will look it up when we get back

Seriously stinging burrowing Anemone
A few metres away we found our first patch of seagrass,  The visibility was good and when you are only looking 2 feet, you can really see the cool small stuff.  Several seahorses, pipefish and cuttlefish were seen as well as green camoflaged file fish.  Of course, I had the camera and didn't see any of these. I had chosen to use a tank not snorkell - easier to take photos except I hadn't realised the fact that my boobs were scraping the seabed and stiring up the muck was a major disadvantage. 
All the hard substrate we found was covered
with oysters and sponges
Fortunately the tide was coming in and the water was getting deeper so I got enough depth to wallow without touching the mud.  The other secret I learnt was that if you face the current the sediment washed behind you. Don't dive behind me.  Eat my muck cloud "sucker".

The biggest surprise was that this was fun and different.  We all spent 90-120min in wading depth water with people standing up and calling to each other about the critter they had seen.   Lots of different biodiversity here,  After the party tonight we will all have to study the books to find out just what we saw.


Muck diving on Pom Pom

The diving has been fun.  I can see why people travel across the world to go muck diving in Mabul or Kapali.  Personally I think Sipadan is overrated, watching out into the clear blue water for something that might be there on the deep reefs of pom pom is really exciting.
These banded pipe fish are some of my favorites,  They are always together and always in the same place.

The pom pom Volunteer project has offered me a lot I shall be sorry to leave.
Rebecca pom pom project volunteer sept 2011


Surveying the reefs

One of the first tasks of the volunteers is to create a map of the island so we know what is where.

Underwater surveying is fun

Turtles galore

The pom pom volunteer project run by TRACC is about seeing turtles.  They are - after all - why we are here.

But there are so many and they just hang around.  Our records so far are 21 on 1 dive and 8 on a snorkell. 

Turtles nesting

Do our turtles move between here and Sipadan - it is only 50km - we will be tagging the turtles to see if the populations are different or mixing.

Eagle ray point

The deep wall reef on Pom Pom is called lobster wall and its easy to see why.  Lots of lobsters hidden in caves with just their antennae sticking out.  However if you turn your back to the wall and drift with the current there are larger things out there.

Check out the eagle ray that we saw.  Wow!
The island has potential to be part of the Borneo Shark sanctuary

Welcome to Pom Pom Volunteer blog

We are volunteering on Pom Pom island near Sipadan to replant a coral reef, protect the turtles, rays & sharks.
The main website is at http://tracc-borneo.org
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