By James Blake
Team Gallagher set ourselves two rather ambitious goals for 2011/2012. We have ticked one off with the completion of the Tasman row. Now we need to focus on the second and accomplish our goal of building the worlds largest ‘live’ artificial reef.
Coral reefs form a vital part of our marine ecosystem. They make up less than 1% of the oceans but provide homes to 25% of all marine species. Without them our planet would be a very different place and globally, they are in deep trouble.
They are are being over-exploited through increased fishing pressure and highly damaging techniques such as blast fishing - fishing with explosives which can create large craters on coral reefs that take decades to recover.
One of the most important and endangered coral reef areas in the world is the ‘Coral Triangle' - the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.
This triangle hosts the highest marine diversity on the planet - more than 2,230 species of reef fish or 76% of all coral species worldwide. Some endangered fish species are even on the brink of extinction because of over-fishing.
An estimated 120 million people live within the Coral Triangle, of which approximately 2.25 million are fishers who depend on healthy seas to make a living.
While it may seem that this location is far away from New Zealand and therefore irrelevant to New Zealanders, this is wrong. We are affected by everything that goes on up there.
Something must be done to protect and develop this vitally important area, and we are going to do our bit.
The first step is to build the reef out of ceramic modules. They are eco-friendly & provide a perfect substrate for the coral to grow. To start, clippings of sustainably grown coral will be planted onto the modules by local coral gardeners, with the help of the surrounding community and visiting divers.
Donors who give money to the Coral Reef Garden will effectively own one of the modules.
The reef will be designed by renowned environmental artist Virginia King, who has special interests in raising awareness about ocean acidification Borneo & the destruction of coral reefs.
Step two - build a digital replica of the reef. This will be used as an educational tool and users will 'virtually' fly around the reef and, if they donated, see how their bit of coral is doing or what fish have started to inhabit the reef in as-close-to-real-time as possible.
In total, we need to raise, NZ$500,000 so every $5 or $10 donation counts. Please contribute online and we will add you to our database so we can watch the development of this project over the next 12 months as we aim to make a difference to the health of our oceans.