Reef project in Indonesia

Prof Black's reef at Heaven on the Planet Resort, Lombok, is completed. You can read more on Facebook at “Ekas Reef Sanctuary in Lombok”. Built with assistance and funding from the “Wildlife Conservation Society” and “Sanctuary in Lombok”, the reef is a first in Indonesia. Constructed of local limestone rocks, the reef consists of 22 modules, each 3 m long, 2 m wide and 1 m high.


We are encouraging donors or environmentalists who want to assist or donate to help the community build more modules. Students are welcome to undertake monitoring. The cost for each module is not large, but the benefit to the locals is immense. Donors or participants may contact Moira Healey on moirahealey@y7mail.com.



Indonesia has globally-important coral reef eco-systems. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) along with other NGOs, is working with the Ministry of Marine affairs and local community institutions to develop marine protected areas to protect bio-diverse ecosystems. Communities outside these protected areas often have little incentive to comply with MPA regulations. In Lombok, communities outside the newly-developed Bumbang Bay MPA are involved in mariculture and tourism based enterprises. A local resort on EkasBay, lying about 15km from the Bumbang MPA has promoted the conservation of Ekas Bay, its marine waters and employs many local community members as staff.

Ekas Bay has a coral reef in the centre of the bay which is locally enforced as a no-take area for fisheries. Coral reefs in proximity to these communities have been depleted of fish due to overfishing during the past 20 years, and the reef in the centre of the bay is one of the best fish sources. The Bay is a natural sink for both coral and lobster larve, coming with oceanographic currents entering the bay from the Straits to the east, bringing a rich abundance of larvae that attempt to settle in the area.

Heaven on the Planet Resort, as part of its work to build awareness of the value of coral reefs in Ekas Bay, proposed to build the reef from locally-sourced limestone and so they constructed a pilot reef. This proved to be highly successful, colonized by corals and is now teeming with reef fish. The goals of the reef projects are:

Provide a source of reef fish for local communities,
Create awareness of the ongoing need to protect nearby marine critical habitats from destructive and over-fishing
Provide communities with ownership of the reef for their use
Allow tourists to visit the reef on snorkeling tours to fund the development of more reefs in the bay

to educate about the importance of reefs in marine systems






Marine Issues being confronted

While aquaculture is expanding globally, the natural marine system still provides the biggest output of food. However, like all developing nations, Indonesia is struggling to meet the demands of increased population. In the marine environment, resources are becoming scarcer. Fish numbers are down and average captured fish sizes in coastal communities are rapidly decreasing.

Indonesia currently exports some $US700 million of tropical species for the aquarium trade worldwide. While sustaining livelihoods, fish capturing has a negative impact on the environment. Moreover, intensive fishing, poor nets and spear-fishing are taking their toll on stocks. Controlled harvesting and methods to replace these stocks are urgently needed.

In early 2010, Indonesia suffered a terrible disaster. Exceptionally high water temperatures in the archipelago for several months led to mass death of corals (known as "coral bleaching"). The temperatures may be associated with Global Warming, but the impact will be felt by poor coastal dwellers. The marine eco-system is substantially disturbed by bleaching and there is a high risk of continued bleaching events. Ornamentals are substantially harmed.

The depleted natural marine environment needs human help to be able to provide sufficient food for the population of Indonesia. Accordingly, fish farming is being promoted. However, for many villagers, the cost of fish food and the cost of cages/nets are insurmountable. Moreover, other options such as small-scale coastal prawn farming has failed in much of Indonesia due to disease, food costs and lack of management skills within the poor village populations.

Another alternative is coral transplanting. This is commonly adopted in small regions, particularly tourist sites, to replenish coral lost by bombing or natural and man-made disasters. However, the cost and slow growth makes transplantation impractical over large areas. Moreover, the benefits in relation to fish numbers are relatively small compared to the cost of establishment and the daily fish intake of Indonesians.

In Ekas Bay, fishers are currently capturing juvenile lobster on artificial raft structures, with settlement plates below. The juvenile lobsters are being sold to foreign buyers who transport them live to their own countries for fattening. While the short term income is good, the long term effects on the Indonesian lobster population are unknown, noting that there are over 300 fishers in Ekas Bay alone. Unfortunately, the lobsters are mostly unable to recruit successfully in Ekas Bay due to a lack of suitable substrate. And fishing pressure is removing breeding adults from the Bay.

Shallow reef in the centre of Ekas Bay is ideal for zoning (about 1 km by 400 m). Government and surrounding tourist operators supported this with strong arguments about tourism and benefits for the future of the Bay's ecology. However, some villagers are skeptical about the benefits being promised, and to demonstrate the unique importance of reef structures while enhancing fish/lobster stocks, a new reef in the bay was built from coral stone (limestone).



Thus, this project aims to enhance the natural marine systems by supplementing marine habitat, which is an essential requirement for optimal growth of marine species.

By providing habitat and hiding spaces, fish, lobsters, etc. are able to develop with greatly reduced threat of mortality or capture, thereby allowing them to reach maturity and breed. Moreover, the substrate allows juveniles to find suitable habitat rather than succumbing in open water.






The new reef then becomes a natural classroom ... to educate about fish growth and the taking of fish. This is especially powerful when people can watch the reef as it evolves. Tourists will be charged USD5 for each visit and the funds will be used for enlarging the reef in the future.


The reefs can be nurtured and harvested like a villager's home garden. Stakeholder ownership and participation enables local governance for a sustainable future. The Habitat for Fish sea garden is very similar to a farm on land, and acceptable within the local social and cultural context.

Moreover, by blending the village benefits with tourist operations, the reef provides fish for the communities as well as activities for tourist operators to promote conservation and governance. The engagement of "Sanctuary in Lombok Resorts" in this project adds an additional layer of substantial benefits.
At the same time, the younger generations from the surrounding villages can be educated about the marine environment, and better associated with the sea through activities on and around the reef. School visits to the site are being promoted.



The "Habitat for Fish" Reef consists of:

Quarried limestone rocks placed in shallow water (3-6 m deep). The reef modules are 3 m long by 2 m wide and 1.0-1.5 m high.

Lombok is ideally suited as it has a ready supply of fossilised coral building material (soft limestones) in its village quarries. This material is ideal for reef construction and for marine habitat and recruitment, as already proven by the trial reef project at Ekas Bay. The limestone is inexpensive and can be broken into blocks of many sizes so that habitat in the rock crannies for many different species is created.


Project support

The project was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society, with financial help from Heaven on the Planet Resort. The local fishing village of Ekas was already familiar with fish caging, seaweed harvesting and they run a successful village fisher cooperative. The village welcomed and assisted with the project.

The project has strong support from East Lombok government (Tourism, Fisheries, Planning, Police, Military etc.), having already held group meetings at Sanctuary in Lombok to engage them in the vision. The project extends historical NZAID initiatives in Ekas Bay.

There are many places in Indonesia, Phillipines, Pacific etc. that would greatly benefit from this style of aquaculture, which operates in harmony with the environment and is sustainable. 



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