Government of Philippines to shut down Boracay, the country’s top tourist attraction, due to pollution

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.

Read GCRA 2007 paper Boracay Environmental Restoration, Water Quality, and Sustainable Energy: Current Situation and Future Prospects

Read GCRA 1997 paper  Water Quality and Coral Reef Health In Boracay, El Nido, Isla Verde, and Balicasag, Philippines

 

Watch BBC News Video – Boracay: Paradise islanders fear tourist shutdown

 

Article published on April 5th 2018 in the BBC News site
Original article @ bbc.com/news.

Philippines to temporarily close popular tourist island Boracay

5 April 2018

Image: REUTERS
Boracay is popular with foreign and local tourists
 

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.

Damage fears

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
A mountain of trash sits on a hillside on Boracay

“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.”

 


Biorock electrical fields inhibit shark biting

Article by Diana Crow published on April 5th 2018 in the Sierra Club magazine
Original article @ sierraclub.org.

Electric Shark Boogaloo

Is there such a thing as an electric fence, but for sharks?

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.”


Restoring Coral Reefs Is Possible and Surprisingly Fast

Written By Dr. Mercola
Origianl posting on www.mercola.com

Coral reefs make up less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the Earth’s surface,1 yet supply resources worth an estimated $375 billion annually, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).2 More than 500 million people around the world depend on coral reefs for protection from storms, food, jobs and recreation, and they provide a home to more than 25 percent of fish species and 800 hard coral species.

As for their importance to their surrounding ecosystems, it is immense, and the sheer diversity of species that depend on coral reefs for spawning, breeding and feeding is equally impressive. There are 34 recognized animal phyla, for instance, and 32 of them are found on coral reefs (even rain forests count only nine different phyla among their midst).3

Sometimes referred to as “rain forests of the sea,” it’s estimated that coral reefs may support up to 2 million different species and act as essential nurseries for one-quarter of fish species.

Coral reefs also serve as carbon sinks, helping to absorb carbon dioxide from the environment, and represent an irreplaceable source of protection for coastal cities. Their importance as a food source is also considerable, as healthy coral reefs can provide about 15 tons of fish and other seafood per square kilometer (.38 square mile) per year.4

Unfortunately, corals are in severe decline. According to conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF), two-thirds of coral reefs worldwide are under serious threat and another one-quarter are considered damaged beyond repair.5 There may, however, be hope, even for damaged reefs, as new technology offers a chance for reefs to regrow at a surprisingly fast pace.

Biorock Technology Restores Coral Reefs

In 2000, it was stated at the International Coral Reef Symposium that about 94 percent of Indonesia’s coral reefs were severely damaged. This included Pemuteran Bay, where the once-thriving coral reef was largely barren. Biorock technology proved to be the answer, restoring the reef in just over a decade:

“Pemuteran formerly had the richest reef fisheries in Bali. The large sheltered bay was surrounded by reefs teeming with fish. The natural population increase was greatly augmented by migration of fishermen from Java and Madura, where inshore fisheries had been wiped out by destructive over-exploitation.

Destructive methods, like use of bombs and cyanide followed their use in other islands, and steadily spread until most of the reefs had been destroyed. The offshore bank reefs that had been dense thickets of coral packed with swarms of fishes, were turned into piles of broken rubble, nearly barren of fish.”6

The Karang Lesteri Project, highlighted in the video above, began in June 2000, when the first “coral nursery” was built at the site. Ultimately, 70 Biorock coral reef structures of different sizes and shapes were planted in the area, restoring the area’s diversity and ecosystem. Formerly known as Seament and Seacrete, Biorock was developed by the late professor Wolf Hilbertz and scientist Thomas Goreau, president of the nonprofit organization the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA).

Projects are now being operated in Indonesia, Bali, Jamaica, the Republic of Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Phuket, Thailand and elsewhere. The technology starts with metal structures that are planted into the reef. Transplanted fragments of live coral (that have been damaged by storms, anchors or other mishaps) are attached and the structure is fed low-voltage electricity to accelerate the growth process. GCRA explains:7

“The Biorock® process … is a new method that uses low voltage direct current electricity to grow solid limestone rock structures in the sea and accelerate the growth of corals providing homes for reef fish and protecting the shoreline. The electrical current causes minerals that are naturally dissolved in seawater to precipitate and adhere to a metal structure. The result is a composite of limestone and brucite with mechanical strength similar to concrete.

Derived from seawater, this material is similar to the composition of natural coral reefs and tropical sand beaches … This patented process increases the growth rate of corals well above normal, giving them extra energy that allows them to survive in conditions that would otherwise kill them. At the same time these structures attract huge numbers of fish, and also provide breakwaters that get stronger with age.”

GCRA states that Biorock reefs grow at a rate of 1 to several centimeters of new rock per year, which is about three to five times faster than normal. While artificial reefs, which are sometimes made by sinking ships, planes, cars, concrete or other man-made materials, will sometimes attract fish and sponges that settle on their surface, the Biorock reefs ultimately turn into true, living coral reefs, courtesy of the growth of limestone. According to GCRA:8

“Coral larvae, which are millimeter-sized freely-swimming baby corals, will only settle and grow on clean limestone rock. This is why conventional artificial reefs made of tires or concrete rarely exhibit hard coral growth. But, when these coral larvae find a limestone surface, they attach themselves and start to grow skeletons. Mineral accretion is exactly what they are searching for. As a result, there are very high rates of natural coral settlement on Biorock structures.”

Is Biorock Sustainable, and Does It Withstand Hurricanes?

Funding to take Biorock to the next level is limited, with most projects so far acting as pilot projects to demonstrate how the process works. And some coral reef experts, such as Rod Salm, senior adviser emeritus with the Nature Conservancy, have suggested the process is too cost prohibitive to work on a large scale.9 Others have pointed out that its dependence on electricity could also be problematic environmentally, although some of the structures are powered via solar panels.

Further, GCRA evaluated damage to the structures in the Caribbean after hurricanes Hanna, Ike and Irma and found them to be remarkably unfazed. While even large shipwrecks in South Florida were damaged or moved during hurricane Andrew, for instance, the Biorocks’ open frameworks allowed water to flow through the structures, sparing them the brunt of the damage.

“For growing corals, we make open frameworks, so the corals can benefit from the water flow through the structure, just as they do in coral reef,” GCRA notes. “As a result of their low cross section to waves, they dissipate energy by surface friction as waves pass through them, refracting and diffracting waves rather than reflecting them. Their low drag coefficient means that they survive waves that would move or rip apart a solid object of the same size.”10

In research published in the journal Revista de Biologia Tropical by Goreau and colleagues, it’s noted that artificial reefs are often discouraged in shallow waters because of concerns that they could damage surrounding habitat during storms. However, in the case of the Biorock restorations, “the waves passed straight through with little damage,” and the researchers said the “high coral survival and low structural damage” after hurricanes suggests the process is effective even in areas that may be hit by storms.11

Another study by Goreau, published in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, suggests Biorock electric reefs are able to grow back severely eroded beaches in just a few months. The study noted:12

“Biorock reefs stimulate settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to the environmental stress of all forms of marine life, restoring coral reefs, sea grasses, biological sand production, and fisheries habitat. Biorock reefs can grow back eroded beaches and islands faster than the rate of sea level rise, and are the most cost-effective method of shore protection and adaptation to global sea level rise for low lying islands and coasts”

What’s Causing Coral Reefs to Die?

Coral reefs are facing numerous threats, including rising water temperatures that lead to coral bleaching, in which coral reject symbiotic algae, turn white, and are at increased risk of dying. Overfishing, which disrupts the ecological balance in the reef, as well as destructive fishing practices, such as the use of cyanide, dynamite, bottom trawling or muro-ami (which involves the use of nets and banging the reef with sticks), are also threats, WWF notes.13

Reefs are also harmed by tourism via boating, anchor drops and people diving, snorkeling around and touching the reefs (or collecting coral), as well as construction, mining and logging, which send excess sediment into rivers and the ocean, where it blocks precious sunlight from reaching the coral reefs. There’s even a live rock trade, in which coral is mined for building materials or to sell as souvenirs, with no regard for the destruction it causes to the planet.14

Pollution is another major threat, including that from industrial farm runoff, which is fueling the growth of marine algae blooms, which alter the food chain and deplete oxygen, leading to sometimes-massive dead zones. Even the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone is known to kill off coral reefs. It’s estimated that between 6,000 and 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reef areas worldwide every year.

Much of this sunscreen contains oxybenzone, which research found to be damaging at minute levels — just 62 parts per trillion, or the equivalent of one drop of water in 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools.15 Aside from entering the water on swimmers, oxybenzone gets washed down the drain when you shower, entering sewage systems. Once in the environment, as a study published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology revealed, there are four key ways oxybenzone is damaging coral reefs:16

  • Exacerbates coral bleaching
  • Damages coral DNA, making them unable to reproduce and triggering widespread declines in coral populations
  • Acts as an endocrine disrupter, causing baby coral to encase themselves in their own skeletons and die
  • Causes gross deformities in coral, such as coral mouths that expand five times larger than normal

Other Techniques Restoring Coral Reefs

Numerous innovative programs are underway with the goal of restoring the world’s coral reefs. The Coral Restoration Foundation is using a program called the coral tree nursery, which is based on the fact that coral are able to grow and reproduce via fragmentation. That is, if a piece breaks off, it can reattach and grow again, forming a new colony.

Their program involves PVC “trees” that are tethered to the ocean floor. Coral fragments are then hung from the “branches.” The fragments come from their coral nurseries, where coral are nursed for up to nine months until they’re read to be attached to the tree. They’ve already produced tens of thousands of corals in their South Florida nurseries.17

In addition, the organization is working to create “healthy thickets of genetically diverse coral that can sexually reproduce and encourage natural recovery.” An estimated 22,000 corals have been “outplanted” in the Florida Keys, in part by volunteer divers, for this purpose.18

Other experts have suggested that releasing natural viruses, known as phages — short for bacteriophage — onto coral with bacterial disease could essentially wipe out the disease, saving the coral.19 Of course, prevention is even better than a cure, and this means taking steps to curb coral declines in the first place.

Changes to industrial agriculture that limit chemical runoff and help sequester carbon into the soil could have meaningful benefits to coral reefs. It’s estimated that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land-management processes that contribute to the loss of carbon, as carbon dioxide, from farmlands. This, in turn, contributes to ocean acidification that harms coral, according to Defenders of Wildlife.

“Seawater absorbs some of the excess CO2 from the atmosphere, causing the oceans to become more acidic. As a result, the oceans’ acidity has increased by 25 percent over the past 200 years. These acidic conditions dissolve coral skeletons, which make up the structure of the reef, and make it more difficult for corals to grow.”20

So, in addition to being a responsible swimmer or diver — and not touching or breaking coral — as well as using only natural, reef-friendly sunscreen, support farmers who are using diverse cropping methods, such as planting of cover crops, raising animals on pasture and other methods of regenerative agriculture. This, in addition to the innovative methods like Biorock being used to restore barren reefs, can help protect the ocean’s reefs from further damage.

Sources and References

 


Frankencorals – In Science Magazine

The Frankenword glossary (Science: 359:154, 2018) omits Frankencorals! It covers death-dealing Frankentechnologies that alarm the public, but life-giving electrical technologies are completely excluded. We’re shocked: none of your examples involves electricity like the Global Coral Reef Alliance’s Biorock electrolysis technology, the sine qua non for genuine membership in the Frankenclub!

Despite widespread electrophobia, Biorock’s electrifying results are entirely beneficial: greatly increased settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to stress of all marine organisms examined, plants and animals, mobile or sessile (T. J. Goreau, 2014, Electrical stimulation greatly increases settlement, growth, survival, and stress resistance of marine organisms, Natural Resources, 5:527-537 http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/nr.2014.510048). Instead of convulsions and rigor mortis, Biorock corals uniquely survive severe high temperature bleaching events that kill more than 95% of corals around them, and quickly smile back at us because the low currents used are in the natural range and show no negative effects, except for predatory sharks, which get confused and won’t bite food right in front of them (M. P. Uchoa, C. C. O’Connell, & T. J. Goreau, 2017, The effects of Biorock-associated electric fields on the Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezi) and the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), Animal Biology, DOI 10.1163/15707563-00002531).

Biorock is the only marine material construction material that grows solid self-repairing structures 2-3 times harder than concrete (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), and regenerates severely eroded beaches at record rates (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), rapidly grow beach sand from calcareous algae, restore seagrasses and salt marshes under severe stress where all other methods fail, keep whole coral and oyster reef ecosystems alive when they would die, and grow them back at record rates where there is no natural regeneration (T. J. Goreau & R. K. Trench (Editors), 2012, Innovative Technologies for Marine Ecosystem Restoration, CRC Press). Biorock Indonesia and our partners are about to start Biorock mangrove and Nipa palm restoration of illegally deforested Borneo mangroves for orang utan sanctuaries and to sequester atmospheric CO2 as peat in what we expect to be the single most cost-effective carbon sink.

The reason marine life gets a charge from the Biorock method is that we operate in the beneficial range that galvanizes natural biophysical membrane voltage gradients all forms of life use to make biochemical energy, so they don’t need to use up to half their energy pumping protons and electrons backwards to maintain membrane voltage gradients, whose collapse means death (as caused by high voltages and currents). That’s why we call it electro-tickling, the antithesis of electrocuting high voltage currents everybody is monstrously terrified of!

Published in Science Magazine eLetter 359:154 


Panama Canal Port Dredging That Damages Coral Reefs Stopped By Legal Action

The lawsuit by Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM) against dredging that would damage coral reefs in front of the Panama Canal (based on GCRA reef surveys with the Galeta Marine Laboratory) was admitted by Panamanian Courts on 8 January 2018. This means that the construction works in the port must be suspended while the Court provides a final merits decision. Because we filed an amparo de garantías action, we argued infringement of the constitutional rights to a healthy environment, sustainable development and health. Because of these arguments, once this type of lawsuit is admitted it immediately suspends the legal effects of the resolution that approved the project’s EIA until a final decision is made by the Supreme Court.

Please read more on the news that was published on January 29 in Panama’s leading newspaper, La Prensa: 


Managing Ornamental Coral Trade in Indonesia

A Case Study in Bali Province during the last seven years, a thesis dissertation at Xiamen University, Fujian, China by Sandhi Raditya Bejo Maryoto, Biorock Indonesia Maluku Project Officer, covers the rapid expansion of coral exports for the aquarium trade in Indonesia in general, and Bali in particular.

Indonesia plans to end export of wild corals and switch to 100% export of verifiably cultured corals by 2020. With the banning of coral exports by the Philippines, and most recently by Fiji (BBC Article), Indonesia now has a near-complete monopoly on global aquarium coral exports, so now would be a good time for Indonesia to accelerate the phase-out of wild coral exports.

Abstract

The world ornamental coral trade continues to grow as the result of increasing demand for aquarium industries. Indonesia as a major exporter has distributed corals worldwide with the USA as the biggest market, followed by 87 other importing countries. Ditjen KSDAE (Directorate General for Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystem) of MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forestry) and P2O-LIPI (Research Center of Oceanography – The Indonesian Science Institution) was mandated as a management and scientific authority, respectively, in this curio trade management in Indonesia which is highly referred to CITES provisions. The trade entangles numbers of fishermen, middlemen, wholesalers, and coral companies in advance of exportation. As reported by CITES, a total of 25,569,984 corals were traded from Indonesia in 1985 until 2014. More than 49% (12,719,104 pieces) of all corals were exported to the USA in the same period. As the trade directed to be more sustainable, cultured corals grew steadily during the last decade. BKSDA Bali (Conservation and Natural Resources Agency of Bali Province) also reported similar results in regional coral exportation from Bali. There were 9,583,821 pieces of ornamental corals, mostly were cultured corals, traded by coral companies based in Bali during 2010 – 2016, with annual growth rate of 19.06%. It constituted almost 60% of total Indonesia exportation and was carried out by 25 coral companies. Existing management measures e.g. quotas, licensing system, and spatial management through no-take zones have been put into effects despite still requires various improvements. More comprehensive studies and scientific data are therefore essential in decision making process to set out adaptive management strategies and thus ensuring sustainable coral trade.

Managing Ornamental Coral Trade Indonesia – Sandhi


Dredging threatens exceptional coral reefs in front of Panama Canal

An exceptionally healthy coral reef directly in front of the Panama Canal breakwater is threatened by dredging for the new Isla Margarita Port Terminal. Unless strict measures are taken to prevent mud from getting out of the Eastern Channel onto the adjacent coral reef, Panamanians stand to lose this habitat that is part of their national heritage.

Environmental impact assessments made for the port development only considered dead previously dredged areas inside the breakwater, and completely ignored the healthy coral reefs less than a hundred meters away, connected by an open channel to the dredging and landfill sites.

A survey by the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) and the Galeta Marine Laboratory of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI), at the request of Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), found a healthy coral reef with high living coral cover right in front of Isla Margarita and the eastern end of the Panama Canal breakwater. These reefs are not mentioned anywhere in the port’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): the EIA mentions only dead habitat in the area, which would not be affected from dredging nearby. The living coral reefs are only about 100 meters away from the Port dredge and filling operations.

This reef is close to the Isla Galeta Protected Area, and strong measures are needed to protect the highly vulnerable corals from suspended sediments.

This report, and the photos and video attached to it, describes the health status of this extraordinary reef (figures below) and the measures needed to monitor and protect it.

Proposed dredging plans at Isla Margarita, Panama Canal
Port plans. (Image courtesy of the EIA.) Diagonal striped area will become part of the port facility. Seafloor habitat to be filled in and turned into land is shown in stipple.
Proposed port lies right next to healthy coral reef in front of Isla Margarita, just outside the Panama Canal entrance.
The port lies right next to healthy coral reef in front of Isla Margarita. The photos and video in this report were all taken inside the coral reef area shown in blue, just across the breakwater from the area that will filled in for the expanded port.

The full report, with photographic and video documentation can be seen below.

Isla Margarita, Panama image compilation

Isla Margarita, Panama GCRA survey video

After the survey of Isla Margarita reef was done, the project proponents announced without warning that they had made a mistake: they needed 16 times more dredging material to complete the project than they had projected, and most of the required sand for the filling operations would be dredged in Nombre de Dios. Unfortunately, Nombre de Dios represents the center of the best shallow fringing coral reef flats in the entire Caribbean and is a site of global biodiversity importance.

Nombre de Dios Bay. The shallow reef flat of this bay is the best developed in the entire Caribbean.
Port plans. (Image courtesy of the EIA.) Diagonal striped area will become part of the port facility. Seafloor habitat to be filled in and turned into land is shown in stipple.

 


Planetary Pact with Mother Earth still overdue in 2018

 
Comments on the following article: Regenerating soil and biomass carbon can reverse global climate change posted on the Soil Carbon Alliance website.

 

Coral reefs are already the first victims, we exceeded the global bleaching temperature tipping point threshold in the 1980s, there is now very little time left to save them. 
— Tom Goreau
 
Stephen Jay Gould (my advisor at Harvard), The Golden Rule, 1993 , phrases in brackets inserted for clarity.
 
“By what argument could we [humanity], arising just a geological microsecond ago, become responsible for the affairs of a world 4.5 billion years old, teeming with life that has been evolving and diversifying……Nature does not exist for us, had no idea we were coming, and doesn’t give a damn about us…..
 
We can surely destroy ourselves, and take many other species with us…..On geological scales our planet will take good care of itself and let time clear the impact of any human malfeasance [but it will take several million years]……
 
If we all treated others as we wish to be treated ourselves, then decency and stability would have to prevail. I suggest we execute such a pact with our planet. 
 
She holds all the cards, and has immense power over us – so such a compact, which we desperately need but she does not at her timescale, would be a blessing for us and an indulgence for her. 
 
We had better sign the papers while she is still willing to make a deal. If we treat her nicely she will keep us going for a while. If we scratch her, she will bleed, kick us out, bandage up, and go about her business at her own scale…..
 
The Earth is kinder than human agents in “the art of the deal”. She will uphold her end; we must now go and do likewise.”

2017 GCRA Activities

 

GCRA Wishes a

Happy New Year 2018

Please support the GCRA Year-End
Fund Raising Campaign

2017 GCRA Yearly Report

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Corals continued dying around the world in 2017 from global warming, pollution, and disease, and GCRA continued to show policymakers and the public the severity of the damage and to pioneer regenerative solutions. GCRA will accelerate its efforts in 2018.

GCRA’s Indonesia coral reef restoration projects continued to lead the world in 2017. Our Balinese partner, Yayasan Karang Lestari, recipient of the 2012 United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development, was selected for special honors at the 2017 World Ocean Day Event at the UN Oceans Conference for turning their village from the poorest in Bali to one of the most prosperous by restoring their coral reef. Last year, corals on Biorock reefs in Indonesia survived when severe bleaching killed almost all the corals around them, and Biorock reefs grew back a severely eroded Sulawesi beach in just a few months by growing corals and seagrasses in front of Pulau Gangga Dive Resort. Biorock Indonesia teams continued to manage around 300 Biorock reefs, start many new ones, and train new teams to start projects all across Indonesia. See 2017 Biorock Indonesia training workshop clips below:

Biorock coral restoration projects were maintained at several locations in the Panama Caribbean. One of the finest coral reefs left in the Caribbean, with exceptionally large ancient corals, was studied in the Guna Comarca (Indigenous Territories). Another reef with high live coral cover was found right in front of the Panama Canal breakwaters, and efforts are underway with local environmental groups to save this reef from being killed soon by dredging for a container port.

The first new Biorock reef restoration projects in Jamaica in 25 years were started near the last ones. A coral nursery growing elkhorn coral was established. This coral used to form huge forests at this site, but all vanished decades ago. The project is very small because of the tiny amount of coral now available to propagate, but will expand quickly as it grows rapidly. The best reef left in Jamaica was filmed, and efforts re-started with the local community to get it protected and managed locally.

New coral reef restoration projects were developed for early 2018 with local partners in Grenada, Mexico, Indonesia, Panama, Bahamas, and Vanuatu. These will incorporate new advances in Biorock Technology, and feature use of CCell wave energy devices to protect eroding shores and grow beaches back. See announcement

GCRA researchers published a paper in the Journal of Animal Behavior showing electrical fields around Biorock structures inhibit sharks from biting but have no effect on other fishes. Available here. The tiny electrical field confuses sharks so they don’t bite. Biorock coral reef restoration projects can help protect people and sharks from harming each other.

Biorock oyster and saltmarsh restoration projects in cold waters continued at our toxic waste sites in New York City, and a short experiment was done to test applicability in San Francisco Bay.

Research projects were started with the University of Aalborg in Denmark, and the University of the Basque Country in Spain focusing on the chemistry, physics, and engineering properties of the materials produced by the Biorock process.

Tom Goreau spoke on large-scale community-managed marine ecosystem restoration at the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York, and at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn. His paper on the factors controlling the rate of CO2 drawdown to reverse climate change was published in the Proceedings of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Conference on Soil Organic Carbon in Rome. He also participated in international conferences on agricultural regeneration in Mexico, on regenerative development to reverse climate change in London, and on re-greening of the Sinai Desert in the Netherlands.

GCRA filmed an interview by Tom Goreau with Professor Robert Kent Trench, the world’s top expert on coral symbiosis, looking at the oldest coral reef photographs from Belize and discussing the changes. Tom Goreau featured in two full-length documentary films that are now in final production stages for release in 2018. One film directed by Marcy Cravat will be on soil carbon and reversing climate change, the other by Andrew Nisker will be on environmental impacts of golf course chemicals. A new documentary was funded to start filming in 2018 on the historic GCRA Coral Reef Photograph Collection, the world’s largest from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and the long-term changes they document.

GCRA researchers looked at a major collection of nearly a thousand corals from the Great Barrier Reef, made 50 years ago in 1967, but packed away in a museum without ever being identified or studied, and is assisting getting the corals documented and identified, along with the major taxonomic collections of Caribbean corals.

GCRA proudly announces the GCRA Coral Classics Series, with the first volume to be posted in early 2018 being A STUDY OF THE BIOLOGY AND HISTOCHEMISTRY OF CORALS, the foundational work of coral biology and coral reef ecology. This masterpiece by Thomas F. Goreau, the world’s first diving marine scientist and founder of modern coral reef science, was his 1956 Yale University Ph.D. thesis. Although it is the essential starting point for all serious students of corals and coral reefs, it has long been unavailable. The GCRA publication includes all the original figures and photographic plates from the classic study of coral anatomy, ecology, and physiology available, newly re-edited individually for clarity.


Governments can’t say they weren’t warned that coral reefs can take no further warming!

Not 2 degrees, not 1.5 degrees, not even 1 degree!
 
That’s why the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where I will speak tomorrow about large-scale regeneration of marine ecosystems to reverse global climate change, is a death sentence for coral reefs as it now stands, because governments have chosen to sacrifice coral reefs, despite the scientific evidence that they are the most climatically vulnerable ecosystem!
 
The documents below show that the UNFCCC was fatally flawed from its conception, and needs to be strengthened if it is not to prevent global warming-caused extinction of coral reefs and flood low lands where billions of people now live.
 

TECHNICAL BRIEFING FOB INTERGOVERNMENTAL NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE MEETINGS UNITED NATIONS.
NEW YORK. MAY 7 1992

MEMORANDUM: CAN WE AVOID ECOSYSTEM DAMAGE FROM CLIMATE CHANGE?

TO: INC NEGOTIATORS
FROM: Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, President, GCRA

1. IPCC projections for future climate change are based on assumed sensitivities of temperature and sea level to carbon dioxide increase that are 1O times less, and 1250 times less respectively, than have actually taken place in the past. The last time global temperatures were 1-2 degrees C above today’s values, sea level was 5-8 meters higher, compared to the 0.1 to 0.3 meters projected by IPCC. These observed changes imply that current projections may seriously underestimate potential long-term rises in sea level and temperature.

2. Coral reefs around the world are bleaching from heat shock stress and corals are increasingly dying as episodes increase in frequency and intensity. Bleaching took place after “hot spots”, regions of ocean temperature 1 degree C above normal, hit reef areas during the hottest months. Mass bleaching was unknown before the 1980s. Reefs which have escaped hot spots by luck are certain to be damaged if they continue. Major components of tropical marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shore protection are at serious risk from global warming.

3. Halting global warming requires stabilization of C02 concentrations in the atmosphere, not just stabilizing emissions. This requires both reduced supply of C02 to the atmosphere from fossil fuels and increased removal of C02 by protecting remaining forests and reforesting currently degraded areas. Simultaneous supply and demand-side measures are needed. Rapid global increase in biomass is essential because this is the only practical measure which can significantly reduce C02 concentrations within decades. Even drastic emissions reductions require over a century to have major impacts on C02 levels. Reforestation and increased energy efficiency together can affordably stabilize C02, providing an interim measure until non C02-producing energy sources replace fossil fuels.

4. Forest protection is not a sectoral issue. Boreal forests are the most efficient carbon sinks because they hold on to carbon for the longest in wood and soil. Tropical forests are inefficient, they hold on to carbon for a short time before returning it to the atmosphere. However, increased tropical forest cover is also critical because it is the most important ecosystem for reducing the atmospheric lifetime of C02 and the total heat each additional molecule adds to the atmosphere. Global warming will make all forests less efficient carbon sinks. Oceans are an extremely inefficient sink, unless they are dangerously polluted.

5. The Convention at present Is Inadequate to protect coral reefs from climate change. It requires stronger commitments to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Global, long-term, wholistic thinking Is needed on all sides now before it is too late to save and restore reefs and forests.