These photos, taken by Torcuato Pulido Mantas in early July 2018, show typical examples of very healthy coral growth after just one month on new Biorock reefs in Cozumel, Mexico. The corals shown were naturally damaged and were rescued from dying when transplanted onto the Biorock reefs a month before. Around half the coral species now being grown are shown in these photos.
The growth and settlement of corals on the Biorock projects and control sites is now being studied by Torcuato Pulido Mantas, with the advice of Dr. German Mendez of the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program and Dr. Tom Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance.
The coral species shown below are: 1) Eusmillia fastigiata, 2) Porites astreoides, 3) Orbicella (Montastrea) annularis, 4) Agaricia agaricites, 5) Porites porites (front) with Agaricia tenuifolia (top), 6) Diploria labyrinthiformis, and 7) Meandrina meandrites.
More photos and video from these projects will be posted later as the project progresses.
Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
Biorock technology, first invented in 1976 in Grand Isle, Louisiana by the late Wolf Hilbertz, architecture professor at the University of Texas at Austin (Hilbertz, 1979; Goreau & Hilbertz 2005), provides the highest settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to extreme environmental stresses such as temperature, mud, and pollution for all marine organisms investigated (Goreau, 2014), including corals, oysters, salt marsh grass, and seagrass, the very ecosystem builders whose loss has caused massive global coastal erosion. The method is completely safe and uses very little power. Biorock materials, which can be grown in any size or shape, are up to 3 or more times harder than concrete, and are the only marine construction materials that grow stronger with age and are self-repairing if physically damaged (Goreau 2012). Biorock technology saves whole coral reefs when they would die from extreme high temperature bleaching. Biorock methods have grown thriving oyster, salt marsh, and sea grass ecosystems in places where they had died completely and failed to regenerate naturally (Goreau & Trench, 2012). Biorock reefs have grown back severely eroded beaches naturally in just months (Goreau & Prong, 2017). It is therefore the most powerful tool for restoring essential but vanishing marine ecosystem services including protection of the coast from erosion, maintenance of biodiversity, and restoration of essential juvenile fish habitat. It is also the most cost-effective marine regeneration method, providing vastly superior results at much lower cost than the methods that have been used previously. This GCRA White Paper outlines the results of previous relevant work (apart from coral reefs which have been discussed elsewhere), and suggests specific applications to restore rapidly retreating coastal ecosystems.
The first Biorock projects, done at Grand Isle, Louisiana, aimed to produce building materials via seawater electrolysis, by precipitating hard limestone minerals from sea water on top of steel frames. The steel was entirely protected from corrosion and hard white minerals grew over it. The first projects were powered by photovoltaic panels, and when Wolf Hilbertz came back three months later the limestone was completely overgrown with adult sized oysters that had spontaneously settled and grown all over it (Hilbertz, 1979). Oyster covered material from Louisiana is the Biorock in the upper left of the image below.
Figure 1. Spontaneously oyster covered Biorock material after three months growth in Louisiana (upper left) contrasted with Biorock material grown in the Maldives. Photo by Wolf Hilbertz.
A wire mesh basket, 9 inches across, was wired up for growth of materials, a few months later it was packed completely full with oysters that had spontaneously settled and grown (Goreau, 2012). The basket was then taken out of the water, and sat outdoors for around 25 years exposed to rain in a backyard in British Columbia. When it was removed from the ocean there was no rust visible and the metal was shiny, all the rusting in the photo took place in this period of exposure on land.
Figure 2. Oysters that spontaneously settled in a metal basket and grew to adult size in months. Grand Isle, Louisiana. Photo by Eric Vanderzee.
Similar intense spontaneous settlement of mussels was observed in an experiment in the Straits of Georgia, British Columbia (Goreau, 2012). The photo below shows a mesh wired up to a trickle charge in the center, on with a smaller charge on the left, and one with no charge on the right.
Figure 3. Spontaneous mussel settlement on steel mesh with very low (left), low (center), and zero trickle charge. Photo by Eric Vanderzee.
In a Superfund toxic waste site in New York City harbor where all the oysters had died from pollution, oysters (Crassostrea virginica) were grown with low, very low, and zero Biorock charges. The Biorock charges greatly increased growth rates over the entire growing season. Note that only length figures were measured, Biorock oysters also grew wider and thicker, so their volume increase was hundreds of times higher than controls (Shorr et al., 2012).
Figure 4. Growth in length of oysters with various trickle charges at a Superfund site in New York City over a summer growing season. Figure from Shorr et al., 2012.
At the same site oysters were measured over the winter dormant season. Biorock oysters continued to grow all winter long, without a dormant season, their shells were shiny and bright, and there was no mortality. Ninety-three per cent of control oysters died over the winter, and the surviving oyster shells had shrunk in size. The shells were chalky and crumbling, dissolving from high CO2 and acidity in water at freezing temperatures (Shorr et al., 2012).
Figure 5. Growth in length of oysters with various trickle charges at a Superfund site in New York City over a winter dormant season. Figure from Shorr et al., 2012.
Similar results of higher growth rate and survival of the Eastern Oyster with Biorock electrical currents were found in flow through tank experiments in downtown Manhattan (Berger et al., 2012), and other sites. Only Atlantic Oyster results are summarized here, but we have also found greatly accelerated settlement, growth, and survival of many species of wild tropical oysters on Biorock projects around the world, including mangrove oysters, coral reef oysters, and pearl oysters, as well as Giant Clams.
Salt Marsh Grass, Spartina alterniflora, was restored at a Superfund toxic waste site in New York City where it had been killed by pollution a century before. Salt marsh grass growth in the mid intertidal under low, very low, and zero trickle charge from a solar panel was measured. The growth rate, as measured by clump height, was proportional to electrical charge (Cervino et al., 2012). The electrically charged grass was also observed to have more plants per clump and darker green leaves as well as greater height when compared to controls, but biomass measurements were not made as they required sacrificing the grass.
Figure 6. Growth rate of Salt Marsh Grass under zero, very low, and low trickle charge. Solar panel charging project is seen in the background (Photograph by James Cervino).
Salt marsh grass was also planted with and without solar trickle charge in the low intertidal, lower than the lower limit of the seagrass naturally in the area. Salt marsh grass growth is limited in the low intertidal because they are mostly submerged, getting little light in the muddy water, and are more exposed to storm wave erosion than plants higher up. All controls died at the end of the year. Biorock salt marsh grass in this hostile site has grown vigorously, sprung up anew every spring with more plants, which have increased more than 20-fold over 10 years (Cervino et al., 2012).
Figure 7. Biorock Salt Marsh Grass growing vigorously below the local lower limit for this plant. (Photograph by Tom Goreau)
Most salt marsh planting projects fail because plants are washed away by waves before the roots can grow. These results show that with Biorock, root growth, and underground plant runner spreading is greatly accelerated, so salt marshes can be extended seawards in places where they are now retreating inland due to the erosion caused by global sea level rise and intensified storm waves caused by global warming (Goreau, 2012).
Seagrasses are being devastated worldwide by dredging and increased turbidity and pollution in coastal waters. Seagrasses (Posidonia oceanica) were grown in southern Italy with and without trickle charge from a solar panel. The wire mesh used for both was attached to hard bare limestone rock bottom. The Biorock seagrass grew vigorously, with the roots rapidly attaching to the rock bottom, and large numbers of mussels, clams, oysters, shrimps, crabs, and fish settled in the sea grass habitat. The controls all died (Vaccarella & Goreau, 2012). What is most astonishing about these results is that the sea grass was grown on bare rock, where it is normally impossible for seagrass to grow, as growth of roots requires about 5-10 centimeters of sandy or muddy sediment.
Figure 8. Excellent growth of seagrass on Biorock over three months in the Mediterranean. All control seagrass died. Photograph by Raffaele Vaccarella.
Figure 9. Dense root growth of seagrass on Biorock in the Mediterranean, colonized by a wide variety of invertebrates and fishes. Photograph by Raffaele Vaccarella.
Caribbean seagrasses, Thalassia testudinum and Syringodium filiforme, were observed to grow much taller under and next to Biorock projects in the Bahamas and Panama. Many species of Indo Pacific seagrasses were observed to do the same in Indonesia.
Figure 10. Vigorous sea grass growth around a Biorock project in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photograph by Paulus Prong.
Most seagrass, salt marsh, and mangrove planting projects fail because the plants are washed away by waves before the roots can grow. These results show that with Biorock, marine plant root growth and underground spread is greatly accelerated, so that sea grass can be grown even on bare rock. Restoring mangroves as well as sea grasses, salt marsh grasses, and coral and oyster reefs will provide the strongest natural shore protection against erosion from global climate change, and the most cost-effective carbon sinks.
Biorock coral reefs grown in front of severely eroding beaches with erosion cliffs, where the sand was mostly gone, trees were falling into the sea, and buildings being moved inland before they could collapse, grew back the beach sand naturally at record rates in just months, increasing beach height up to 1.5-2 meters, beach width by up to 20 meters, and beach length up to 150 meters. Rapid regeneration of severely eroded beaches was first done in the Maldives (Goreau and Hilbertz, 2005), Lombok, Indonesia (Goreau et al., 2012), and Sulawesi, Indonesia (Goreau & Prong, 2017). Concave eroding beaches became convex and growing in a few months, and have continued to steadily grow even under heavy wave and current conditions that should erode them. Biorock reefs cause sand growth by dissipating wave energy through refraction and diffraction without the reflection that causes scour and erosion, by driving wave fronts out of coherence, and by greatly increasing production of sand by calcareous algae and other organisms. Corals, beach sand-producing algae, seagrass, and all forms of reef life are attracted and grow rapidly.
Figure 11. Before: severely eroding Maldives beach. Photograph by Wolf Hilbertz
Figure 12. After, 15 meters (50 feet) of rapid new beach growth behind Biorock reef, in front of a building that had been about to collapse into the sea. Photograph by Azeez Hakeem.
Figure 13. Before, December 2015, Pulau Gangga, Sulawesi, Indonesia beach largely gone, erosion cliff, trees collapsing into the ocean and building about to fall into the sea. Photograph by Paulus Prong.
Figure 14. After, rapid growth of new beach in front of same collapsed tree and cabana that had been about to fall into the ocean. Most of this growth took place in just 3 months. Photograph by Paulus Prong.
Biorock reefs, if properly designed, have proven to withstand the most severe hurricane. The Biorock reefs cement themselves to hard ground, and cement sediment around their bases. Biorock reefs in Grand Turk, the Turks and Caicos Islands, withstood direct hits by the two worst hurricanes in their history, which occurred three days apart, and damaged or destroyed around 90% of the buildings. There was little damage to Biorock structures or thousands of corals growing on them, although electrical cables were sandblasted and ripped out. Sand accumulated under them, while at the same time concrete artificial reefs nearby caused so much scour around and under them that they sank beneath the surface (Wells et al, 2010).
Figure 15a. Biorock reef just before the two worst hurricanes in Grand Turk history.
Figure 15b. Biorock reef in Grand Turk shortly after the two worst hurricanes in their history. Sand built up under the structures while sand was scoured around the cement blocks in the center, and half of the blocks were washed away by the waves, while there was no damage to Biorock structure or corals. The structures were not welded, only hand wired together, nor were they attached to the bottom except through their own cementation. Photographs by Fernando Perez.
Biorock reefs in Saint Barthelemy withstood the eye wall waves of Category 5 Hurricane Irma without any damage to structure, corals, or the electrical cable. This site, about 2-3 feet deep on top of the reef crest, had waves at least 30 feet high breaking directly on it, and all the houses and hotels on the beach behind the reef were destroyed: http://www.globalcoral.org/biorock-electric-coral-reefs-survive-severe-hurricanes-little-no-damage/.
Biorock is ideal to grow:
Coral reefs in the subtidal
Seagrass in the subtidal
Salt marshes, in the intertidal
Oyster reefs in the intertidal
Offshore subtidal or intertidal Biorock porous shore protection reefs and fish habitat to grow back beaches
Offshore artificial islands above high tide
Floating reefs for open ocean fisheries
Specific designs require on-site assessment of many physical, chemical, biological, geological, oceanographic, meteorological, and infrastructural parameters to design for the specific needs and problems of each site.
Please contact email@example.com for more information on how Biorock is the most-cost effective solution to a vast range of marine resource management problems.
The Global Coral Reef Alliance is a non-profit environmental research organization that works with local partners around the globe to assess and reverse the causes killing their reefs.
N. Berger, M. Haseltine, J. T. Boehm, & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Increased oyster growth and survival using Biorock Technology, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
J. Cervino, D. Gjoza, C. Lin, R. Weeks, & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Electrical fields increase salt marsh survival and growth and speed restoration in adverse conditions, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
T. J. Goreau, 2012, Marine electrolysis for building materials and environmental restoration, p. 273-290 in Electrolysis, J. Kleperis & V. Linkov (Eds.), InTech Publishing, Rijeka, Croatia
T. J. Goreau, 2012, Marine ecosystem electrotherapy: practice and theory, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
T. J. Goreau, 2014, Electrical stimulation greatly increases settlement, growth, survival, and stress resistance of marine organisms, Natural Resources, 5:527-537
T. J. Goreau & W. Hilbertz, 2005, Marine ecosystem restoration: costs and benefits for coral reefs, WORLD RESOURCE REVIEW, 17: 375-409
T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), 2012, Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
T. J. Goreau, W. Hilbertz, A. Azeez A. Hakeem, T. Sarkisian, F. Gutzeit, & A. Spenhoff, 2012, Restoring reefs to grow back beaches and protect coasts from erosion and global sea level rise, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
T. J. F. Goreau & P. Prong, 2017, Biorock reefs grow back severely eroded beaches in months, Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, Special Issue on Coastal Sea Levels, Impacts, and Adaptation, J. Mar. Sci. Eng., 5(4), 48; doi:10.3390/jmse5040048
W. Hilbertz, 1979, Electrodeposition of minerals in sea water: Experiments and Applications, IEEE Journal on Ocean Engineering, OE4: 1-19
J. Shorr, J. Cervino. C. Lin, R. Weeks, & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Electrical stimulation increases oyster growth and survival in restoration projects, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
R. Vaccarella & T. J. Goreau, 2012, Restoration of seagrass mats (Posidonia oceanica) with electrical stimulation, in T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press
L. Wells, F. Perez, M. Hibbert, L. Clervaux, J. Johnson, & T. Goreau, 2010, Effect of severe hurricanes on Biorock coral reef restoration projects in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, Revista Biologia Tropical, 58: 141-149
Biorock mariculture technology is a novel application of marine electrolysis, which grows solid limestone reefs of any size or shape in seawater, that get stronger with age and are self-repairing. Biorock reefs can be designed to provide habitat speciﬁc to needs of hard and soft corals, sponges, seagrass, ﬁshes, lobsters, oysters, giant clams, sea cucumbers, mussels, and other marine organisms of economic value, or grow back severly eroded beaches at record rates. Biorock reefs, and surronding areas, have greatly increased settlement, growth rate, survival, and resistance to severe environmental stress from high temperatures, sedimentation, and pollution for all marine organisms observed. This allows marine ecosystems to survive otherwise lethal conditions and be regenerated at record rates even in places with no natural recovery. These remarkable ﬁndings seem to result from weak electrical ﬁelds poising the membrane voltage gradients all forms of life use to generate biochemical energy (ATP and NADP), causing enhanced growth of all species. Biorock technology provides a new paradigm for whole-ecosystem sustainable mariculture that generates its own food supplies, the antithesis of conventional mono-species mariculture dependent on external food inputs, whose wastes cause eutrophication that kills off surrounding subsistence ﬁsheries. Potential applications include ﬁsh, crustacean, and bivalve mariculture, algae mariculture, pharmaceutical producing species, and ﬂoating reefs for pelagic ﬁshes. The power requirements are small and can be provided by solar, wind, ocean current, and wave energy. The techniques are ideally suited for community—managed mariculture, if investment funding were available to subsistence ﬁshing communities.
Thomas J.F Goreau was educated in Jamaican schools and hold degrees from MIT, Caltech, and Harvard. President and founder of The Global Coral Reef Alliance, he has dived on coral reefs across the Caribbean, Paciﬁc, Indian Ocean, and SouthEast Asia for more than 60 years. He has published more than 150 papers and written and edited books on scientiﬁc photography, marine ecosystem restoration, and soil fertility restoration. He is co-inventor of the HotSpot method for predicting coral bleaching from satellite data and of the Biorock method for regenerating marine ecoystems and eroding coastlines.
The reef structures, in shapes ranging from tunnels, domes, and a starfish, were built by Gouyave fishermen and students following a GCRA Biorock Training Workshop. They were installed on bare sandy areas on the reef north of the Gouyave Fishing Pier.
Corals naturally broken by waves or by anchor damage, which would mostly die rolling around on sand or rock, will be rescued and transplanted onto them, and the area declared a national Fish Sanctuary and Marine Protected Area by the Grenada Government Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The project, managed by local non-profit organizations, is expected to restore the inshore coral reef fisheries and create a new tourism snorkeling, diving, and glass bottom boat attraction.
The Grenada Coral Reef Foundation plans to use the site for expanded future projects and as a training center to hold workshops on superior methods of reef restoration for Grenada, the Grenadines, and the Eastern Caribbean.
The project follows a detailed assessment of sites for coral reef restoration in Grenada and Carriacou by Dr. Thomas Goreau of GCRA, Roland Baldeo, then Chief Fisheries Officer of the Grenada Department of Fisheries, and Olando Harvey of the Grenada Marine Protected Areas program. It took two more years before funding could be found to implement the first advanced ecosystem-based, community-managed coral reef fisheries restoration projects in Grenada and Carriacou.
Biorock reef regeneration techniques were invented and developed in Jamaica in the 1980s by the late architecture professor Wolf Hilbertz, and Dr. Thomas J. F. Goreau of the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, Jamaica. It is the only method of marine habitat restoration that greatly speeds up settlement, growth, survival, and resistance of corals and all marine organisms to severe environmental stresses (like high temperature, mud, and pollution). Biorock reefs survive when all around them die from severe environmental stress events, and reefs are restored and severely eroded beaches regenerated at record rates even where there is no natural recovery.
Funding for the Gouyave and Carriacou Biorock reef regeneration projects was provided by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC, the 5 Cs). Management of the projects will be done by the Gouyave and Sandy Cay/Oyster Bay marine protected areas, the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA), the Grenada Organic Agriculture Movement (GOAM), and local fishing communities.
Please find the local press releases posted in NOW Grenada site in the links below:
Roland A. Baldeo, Executive Director, Grenada Coral Reef Foundation
Tel: 473 534 5796 (Mobile)
The new projects are a short swim from Sand Dollar Sports, and are illuminated at night with blue and cyan LED lighting for night time divers and snorkelers. Thousands of people swim at this site every day, located on the west shore of Cozumel, between the cruise ship piers.
The six new Biorock projects were funded by Minecraft, one of the world’s most popular computer games, in conjunction of their launch of new “Minecraft Underwater Worlds”.
Biorock reefs can be built in any size or shape, and greatly increase the settlement, growth, survival, and resistance of corals and all marine life to severe environmental stresses such as high temperature, sediment, and pollution. Biorock reefs survive when all around them die during severe stress events, and they grow back reefs and severely eroded beaches at record rates even where there is no natural recovery. They are therefore the last and only hope to save coral reefs from runaway global warming, global sea level rise, pollution, and human greed.
The six new Biorock reefs in Cozumel are being planted with broken coral fragments rescued from dying by the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program.
These reefs are shaped like Minecraft game characters, turtles, turtle eggs, and an Axolotl, Mexico’s most iconic wildlife species, a giant salamander that is nearly extinct from pollution and overharvesting for the aquarium trade and traditional purported medical uses. This was designed by high school students from Monterrey, Mexico.
Each structure is surrounded by Biorock coral reefs on all sides onto which the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Program is transplanting severely injured broken corals rescued from tourist diving reefs.
Cozumel is the most popular diving destination in the world, but the coral reefs there, like those all around the world, have been steadily dying back because of global warming, algae overgrowth caused by sewage pollution, new diseases, physical damage caused by divers, and cruise ship propellers stirring up sediments.
The new Cozumel Biorock coral reef regeneration projects are a first step to bring back Mexico’s vanishing corals and fish populations and build a better and more sustainable future.
As the corals grow at exceptional rates, fishes and all forms of marine life will swarm around them. Coral transplantation has already started and will continue over the years to come. They will be spectacular at night, lit by blue and cyan LEDs, which attract swarms of fish and plankton.
GCRA, CCRRP, and Sand Dollar Sports will be posting many spectacular photographs and videos of these projects over the years to come. Please look at them on our web sites and better yet, come to Cozumel and see them for yourself! People who don’t see our spectacular coral reef restoration projects simply can’t believe that they are possible!
The Global Coral Reef Alliance is deeply saddened to report the loss of our great friend and leading Balinese partner, Agung Prana.
Bapak Agung Prana’s constant support for Biorock projects over 20 years made Bali the world center of coral reef regeneration.
The photo below shows a photo of Agung Prana held by his son, Bagus Mantra, surrounded by the leaders of the Biorock Bali team.
(translated by Sandhi Raditya)
I Gusti Agung Prana, age 70, passed away Friday, July 6th, 2018 at the Wing International Sanglah Hospital Bali, after a long illness of cancer. Mr. Agung Prana, our beloved father was born July 12th, 1948 in Mengwi, Bali. He is survived by his wife, I Gusti Ayu Arini, one daughter, I Gusti Agung Desi Pertiwi, and two sons, I Gusti Bagus Mantra and I Gusti Ngurah Kertiasa.
He was a dedicated man who served his life for Bali Tourism since the late 60s. He has had a chance as Vice President of Bali Tourism Board and Chairman of the Association of Indonesia Travel Agencies (Bali Chapter). His last 3 decades was devoted to sustainable eco-tourism in Pemuteran, North Bali restoring degraded marine ecosystems through biorock reefs method. He was a founder of Karang Lestari Foundation and worked together with the spirit and culture of the local people, changing poor areas into a high visited tourist destination. This brought Pemuteran gained many international and national awards such as Tourism for Tomorrow Awards – Finalist (2018), The Equator Prize of UNDP (2017), Best Sustainable Tourism Development of Indonesia Tourism Ministry (2012), Tri Hita Karana Award (2011), PATA Gold Award (2005), and Best Underwater Ecotourism Project of SKAL International (2002).
On behalf of family members, Mr. Bagus Mantra apologized for all the mistakes of his father. He conveyed that funeral services (Plebon ceremony) will be conducted on Saturday, July 21st, 2018 at the Jero Gede Bakungan, Umabian, Peken Blayu Marga, Tabanan Regency. Friends may call at the funeral home Saturday morning from 7 to 9 a.m. or one hour prior to the services.
More details to follow.
Spectacular coral growth on Biorock is seen in the three videos linked below.
This video shows Biorock reef growth in Pemuteran, Bali at a site that had been almost barren of corals and fishes when the Biorock projects began 15 years earlier.
This video shows the installation of a new Biorock reef in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, and the growth of corals on it one year later:
This video shows phenomenal growth of staghorn corals in Curaçao shown by time lapse photos:
To see Biorock results for longer time scales (11 years) please look at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx8TV9Kd0ns
GCRA assessed coral health, algae, and water quality all around Boracay in 1997 and 2007, and made recommendations on tertiary sewage treatment to recycle waste nutrients on land and keep them off the reef. The first report was banned by the Minister of Tourism, and both were ignored.
Article published on April 5th 2018 in the BBC News site
Original article @ bbc.com/news.
5 April 2018
The Philippine island of Boracay will be closed to tourists for six months following concerns of damage to its once pristine shores.
A spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte said the closure would begin on 26 April.
Earlier this year Mr Duterte said Boracay was turning into a “cesspool” and threatened to shut it down.
The island, known for its white-sand beaches, attracted nearly 2 million visitors last year.
The decision has prompted concern for the thousands of people employed in Boracay’s busy tourist trade.
The island is home to around 500 tourism-related businesses, which drew in annual revenue of $1.07bn (£760m) last year. The government said affected companies will receive financial aid.
It’s not clear how the shutdown will be implemented, though the department of trade and industry had earlier proposed closing the island down in phases, saying a total shutdown would be detrimental to businesses and livelihoods.
The move follows growing concern over the island’s environmental health.
Officials had warned businesses had been releasing wastewater into the surrounding waters.
In February, Mr Duterte condemned the island’s hotels, restaurants and other tourist businesses, accusing them of dumping sewage directly into the sea.
Image: GETTY IMAGES
“I will charge you for serious neglect of duty [for] making Boracay a fishpond or a sewer pool,” Mr Duterte said at the time.
“Either [you] clean it up or I will close it permanently. There will be a time that no more foreigners will go there.”
Article by Diana Crow published on April 5th 2018 in the Sierra Club magazine
Original article @ sierraclub.org.
PHOTO BY ISTOCK | WHITCOMB RD
BY DIANA CROW | APR 5 2018
Marine biologist Marcella Pomárico Uchôa stood at the edge of a small boat in the Bimini region in the Bahamas, watching a floating piece of white PVC pipe, rigged with wires and a bag of minced meat, bob up and down with the waves. It wasn’t long before the sharks arrived.
The sharks weren’t shy about their interest in the minced meat. They charged toward it at full-speed, only to swerve away at the last moment. In contrast, the Bermuda chubs and bar jacks swam right up to the rig and grabbed a snack without hesitation. Something was changing the sharks’ behavior.
The two species Uchôa’s study focused on—bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi)—can sense electric fields in the water. Their electrosensory organs—called the ampullae of lorenzini—are sensitive enough to detect the electric activity in their prey’s nervous systems, allowing sharks to lunge at their prey blind.
As Uchôa and her colleagues reported in the journal Animal Biology last year, the wire and PVC rig emitted a low voltage electric current that seemed to befuddle the two species of shark. Ordinary fish—without an electromagnetic sixth sense—didn’t seem to notice the electricity at all.
As far as the observers on the boat could tell, the sharks weren’t hurt by the electric field. “Sharks just avoid them because it’s confusing,” explains the study’s co-author Thomas Goreau of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, an organization that restores coral reefs by building artificial electric reefs.
This confusion could open up new markets for Goreau’s coral reef restoration business. Back in 1987, Goureau was writing coastal zone management plans for hotels and fisheries in Jamaica when he met an architect and inventor named Wolf Hilbertz. Hilbertz had been developing construction materials for underwater buildings when he found that electrically charged metal attracts dissolved minerals in seawater. Over time, these minerals build up, forming a material similar to concrete–or to the calcium carbonate of coral reefs.
The two began designing synthetic electric reefs—which they called “Biorocks”—meant to slow coastal erosion and provide habitat for coral reef species in areas that had seen massive coral reef damage. About 400 were installed in over a dozen countries including off the coast of Panama, the Saya de Malha bank near the island nation of Seychelles, and Gili Trawangan in Indonesia. Most are close to shorelines and draw from the nearby islands’ power grids, but Goreau and his colleagues have been experimenting with using renewable power sources such as solar panels and wave power generation.
In thirty years, Goreau had never seen a predatory shark hanging out near a Biorock reef. Then, while giving a talk at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, he met Uchôa, who was a marine science grad student at the time. The two began looking into whether Goreau’s experience could be backed up by real-world experiments, and whether Biorocks could function sort of like underwater electric fences, steering sharks away from popular diving areas.
Shark bait experiment in progress. Photo courtesy of Marcella Pomárico Uchôa.
Using sharks’ electromagnetic sense to direct shark traffic away from humans isn’t a new idea. Several electricity-emitting “shark-repelling”products–most of them wearable or attachable to surf boards—are already on the market. Whether these electromagnetic shark deterrents actually work is another question. “It depends on what you mean by working,” says marine biologist Charlie Huveneers of Flinders University in Australia. “If you’re asking whether they would stop or protect people all of the time in 100% of situations, then no, they don’t work. If you’re asking whether they have an effect on the behavior of sharks, then yes, they do work.”
Shark deterrent field tests by academic marine biologists—who are independent of the deterrent-making companies—have found that those effects can vary quite a bit. Sometimes, the sharks seem to hesitate in the presence of an electric field but go in for the kill anyway. Sometimes, they don’t go for the bait but stay within a few meters of the boat. The effects differ between species, and a few people have even been bitten while wearing electromagnetic shark “deterrents”.
Ideally, says says shark biologist Ryan Kempster of the University of Western Australia, the electrical field produced by a shark deterrent should be tailored specifically to the size and species of the shark in question, because every species detects and responds differently to electric fields of varying strengths and frequencies.
“The problem with shark deterrents,” adds says Huveneers, “is that there’s no real regulation in terms of what the deterrents need to be able to do to be called ‘deterrent’. And manufacturers can make a lot of claims about the device that they’re selling without ensuring the veracity of those claims,”
If Biorocks work to keep sharks away from beaches that are popular with divers, such a scenario could be beneficial to sharks, since they are more likely to be hurt or killed by humans than the other way around. But Goreau freely admits that more research is needed. The PVC pipe rig in Uchôa’s experiment emitted an electric field very similar to that of a Biorock reef but not identical. In the majority of the experiments, sharks didn’t swerve from the PVC pipe rig until they were just a few feet away from the reef, which could mean that Biorock placement would have to be strategic to prevent sharks from swimming through areas that the field doesn’t reach to.
Goreau admits that it’s possible that no one has seen large predatory sharks swimming around Biorock reefs simply because there are so few large sharks left worldwide. Rays and nurse sharks, which can also sense electricity, live on and near Biorocks and do not appear to be affected by the Biorocks’ electric fields. It is possible, though, that the electrical field could have some effect on the behavior of sharks, rays, and skates that is not readily apparent. That alone is reason to be cautious, according to Uchôa.
In the meantime, Goreau remains excited. Students monitoring the Biorock reefs in Indonesia have noticed large numbers of young fish swimming around the artificial reefs. Because sharks, rays, and skates are the only fish known to have electrosense, this raises the question of what is bringing them there. “We do get enormous recruitment of larval fish when the power is on, much more so than when the power is off,” says Goreau. “There’s an enormous need to expand this work.”