22nd February 2019
Coral gardening techniques are being implemented to restore Fiji's reefs after severe damage caused by mass coral bleaching.
If nothing is done now to restore the reef, it could completely disappear in the coming decades.
Marine Biologist, Austin Bowden-Kirby has been developing the coral gardening system over the last 40 years and believes it will be the best solution.
While rising temperatures and coral bleaching great concerns, Dr Bowden-Kirby has also noticed an increase in human-induced threats.
"Now people are overfishing the reef, adding fertiliser from the cane fields, so things are unbalanced. It’s a really dangerous situation", he said.
Similar to gardening on land, coral gardening works by gathering healthy coral and raising it in a nursery before transporting it to damaged reefs.
Dr Bowden-Kerby has partnered with tourism graduates and Fiji resorts to employ coral gardeners. They will work together to save local reefs and also educate local communities and tourists about reef restoration.
Sarah Makutu, 22, and Mere Tinai, 23 are recent Fiji marine science graduates who are among 100 others working with and learning from Dr Bowden-Kerby.
"I look at it as being part of the traditions. Growing up we were always looking after our land, so this is also a way of looking after reefs, and taking care of our waters and resources, Ms Makutu said.
Dr Bowden-Kerby is hoping that his techniques will be adopted across the world, including regions in the Pacific, particularly the Great Barrier Reef.
"If every resort, if every island, if every dive boat had a restoration site, if they had a coral gardener on duty, that was certified and trained… can you imagine? Thousands of sites, all over the Great Barrier Reef," he said.
Dr Bowden-Kerby is building a coral restoration site in Fiji that will be the location for international training workshops targeting marine conservationists from Australia and beyond.