Reef Gardeners of Pemuteran
By early 2000 the reefs of the Pemuteran Bay reached a critical state. Uncontrolled bomb and cyanide fishing had seriously damaged the reefs and drastically reduced the number of fish; dramatic for a community relying so heavily on fishing for survival. By repairing, protecting and maintaining these reefs, since the beginning of the project the number of fish has steadily grown, showing the success of the Reef Gardeners actions. The project creates a win-win situation for all parties involved: The villagers, fishermen, tourism businesses and tourists. Healthy corals provide prosperous fishing grounds. An increased number of fish and growing biodiversity create attractive sites for divers and snorkellers. The local tourism enterprises in turn provide employment.
In 2006, The Reef Gardeners project was accepted for funding through the Bali Rehabilation Fund set up by the Australian Government after the Bali Bombs to help create new jobs for the local people. It is now one of the few such programs that have continued on long after the initial funds were used up. The idea and name of the Reef Gardeners came about many years ago when a visiting journalist nicknamed the reef in front of our dive centre "Kebun Chris" - Chris's Garden - writing that the owner of this dive centre looked after this area of reef as if it was his own front garden. The name stuck and so was born a new era of "using and maintaining the reefs" as against "using and abusing the reefs" as unfortunately happens in so many dive locations.
The Reef Gardeners are a team of young people recruited from the various fishing organizations in Pemuteran and trained to maintain and protect the reefs of Pemuteran Bay. The young men, all with a passed down knowledge of the sea by previous generations, were trained as scuba divers up to PADI Rescue Diver. They were then taught methods of protecting the reefs of the area by the removal of the coral destroying menaces of the Crown of Thorn Starfish (acanthaster planci) and the Drupella Shell (Drupella cornus). At the same time they learnt how to repair broken corals that had been damaged, either by careless boat anchoring, nets, divers as well as natural causes like storms and waves etc. Between 1996 and 1998, over 75,000 Crown of Thorns starfish were removed from the Pemuteran Reefs coupled with the repair of broken corals, effectively hundreds of years of coral growth was saved. Much like regular gardeners on land, the Reef Gardeners help the "Underwater Gardens" here to grow better.
The Reef Gardeners are also responsible for monitoring some of the bio-rock installations, as well as assisting in the construction and maintenance of our famous Underwater Temple Garden, creating a dramatic and atmospheric dive by a 15-30m rock wall, and the newer Garden of the Gods statue installation.
The work done here with the Reef Gardeners is not the start, nor the end, of the efforts to protect the reefs of Pemuteran. Since dive centres started here in 1991, they and the villagers have worked hard to protect the reefs and educate the local villagers as to why, and how, they need to protect the reefs for their own survival. This work is designed to be simple and although needing lots of man hours in and out of the water, is effective. As well as maintaining their own "workplace" they are also better positioned to educate all around so the community can prosper. It is hoped to be a shining example for other dive locations and communities, not just in Bali, but around the world.
How you can help us? Don't miss the chance to buy a souvenir tag or t-shirt, support the dive centres that support us but more importantly please be careful of the reefs when you are diving or snorkeling - look but don't take, use but don't abuse!