On Zanzibar we first started our coral restoration activities in 2012. From 2012 until 2022 we collaborated with the NGO marinecultures.org who are situated in Jambiani.
We focused our coral restoration activities on the lagoon in the Southeast of Zanzibar i.e. the area between the shore and the barrier reef. The barrier is approximately 2 kilometers away. The lagoon has been hit hard by mostly climate change and overfishing.
From 2017 we had 40 coral tables at a depth of 8 meters. Each table holds about 500 coral juveniles. Weekly about 180 coral juveniles where out-planted during the last years of our collaboration, giving the area a significant supply with healthy new settlers. Over the years we developed a procedure together for coral farming and coral reef restoration that we both use in other regions as a guideline.
After almost 10 years of fruitful collaboration we ended the collaboration in order to to be able to initiate conservation projects elsewhere. But not after safeguarding marinecultures would be able to continue the operation. We left them with a completely renovated boat and an efficient organization and Marinecultures found durable funding by turning coral restoration training into a business model. For instance, income is now generated thru organizing training sessions in coral restoration with hotel staff in the area. A double win because the area of restoration is seriously expanded this way.
We are still in touch with the Jambiani team and will keep in touch the coming years to monitor the restoration project and see how our out-plants are doing.
How do we do coral farming and out-planting?
Corals are colonies of animals called ‘polyps’. Most ‘reef-building corals (i.e. hard corals) have polyps that live in a symbiosis with algae (i.e. plants) called the Zooxanthella. The algae live in the body of the polyp providing the polyp with food (see What are corals ). By using small fragments of a coral colony and planting these fragments somewhere else, we can give the colony a new living environment in which it can multiply and further grow. We have a special technique for this.
Coral farming and reforestation:
1st – on the reefs we look for pieces of coral that have broken off naturally by waves, storms, etc. These so-called ‘corals of opportunity’ we cut into smaller coral fragments.
2nd - a coral fragment is placed on a cement plug which is put on a nursery bed on the sea floor. We have about 40 beds, these coral nurseries we call the ‘coral farm’.
3rd - after approximately 3-8 months the corals in the nurseries have grown sufficiently. During the entire nursing process our coral divers regularly clean the Juvenile Corals and the nursery beds: removing algae, sediment and predators like the Drupella snail or Crown of Thorns starfish.
4rd – in the meantime we select substrate to plant the coral plugs. We either plant the coral in existing reefs that have (partly) lost its corals, or we use different materials to plant the plugs on e.g. limestone, Reef Balls, etc. Limestone we get from the land. We drill holes in the stones to fit the coral plugs. Reef balls are made of concrete and made by us locally in a special mold (Courtesy of the Reef Ball Foundation, see Friends & Sponsors). The balls have different diameters (we mostly use 80cm diameter), have different openings and are hollow inside so fish and other marine life can hide in it. The Reef Ball has several ‘plug inserts’ on the outside to plant the coral plugs with the Juvenile Corals. The advantage of the Reef Ball is that it does well on sandy areas where there is no basic substrate. This way we can make a new ‘artificial reef’.
5th - the Juvenile Corals are moved carefully to the area where we plan to reforest. The plugs with the Juvenile Corals are inserted in holes that we drilled in the substrate and they are firmly fixed with cement.
6th - we check the first weeks to see whether the plugs remain fixed on the substrate and clean the corals if necessary. After that it’s waiting for our new reef!
Some corals grow relatively fast, others slow. We try to make a natural reflection of the coral ecosystem in the area. The mix of planted corals is based on the example nature gives us. To farm and transplant genetic diversity within one coral species is of extreme importance. We safeguard this by our procedures that describe how to find corals and how to out-plant them. We keep abreast of new research on these issues to keep on fine-tuning the work method.
See for a more detailed description of this project: Coral reforestation procedure CRC, July 2020.