Indonesian Coral Reefs in Danger

It has reached crisis levels for Indonesia as it appeals to the Western world for assistance in saving its coral reefs. The largest archipelago in the world has seen half of its coral reefs die totally and the other half are now in imminent danger, Indonesia is home to 14% of the worlds coral reefs.

Indonesian Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri addressed the ninth symposium on coral reefs recently and has asked for cooperation instead of aid to help solve the problem. Indonesia has 65,000 square kilometers of coral reef, or close to one eighth of all the coral reefs on the planet the situation has reached a state that borders on a global natural disaster.

Whilst the decline in the health of the coral in the area has been blamed on the effects of global warming and the resulting increases of water temperatures, other factors also loom large in the causes of reef destruction. Unsustainable fishing practices for decades have included dynamiting reefs and the continued use of poisons such as cyanide have taken their toll along with the loss of mangrove swamps, reclamation of land and massive sea erosion.

The island of Bali, a popular tourist destination that up to now has boasted great diving on its reefs is facing the dilemma of dealing with land based pollution. Recently scientists carried out a survey and found that the local Balinese rice farmers are using increased amounts of phosphorous and potassium which are running off and making there way onto the reefs and killing them. The economics of waste management it is hoped will stop the farmers from wasting money on fertilizers that are running off the land they are trying to cultivate.

The nutrient rich runoff has been linked to algae blooms and also an increase in the numbers of Crown of Thorn starfish which destroy the reefs.

Indonesia is facing many economic along with law and order problems, and the health of the reefs does not rate highly, so it up to the international community to provide non binding assistance to help Indonesia save its reefs, according to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri. However given the problems of government in Indonesia in relation top managing its finances the likelihood of massive injections of support are unlikely.

However it is important that as divers and friends of the sea we try to help, remember the oceans of the world are made up of drops of water, not oceans of water. Every bit we do helps, the World Wildlife Fund is setting up projects in diving areas of Indonesia including Bali Barat National Park and near Manado in North Sulawesi. Hopefully success in these pilot programs may lead to other projects being taken on a wider scale throughout Indonesia.

Contact the Friends of the Reef Project and find out more about the WWF marine conservation programs by visiting www.wallacea.org