A Hopeful Future for Bali’s Reefs

Coral reefs are a hot topic these days. They’re all over the news—coral bleaching, constructing islands on top of reefs, and sunscreen pollution. Even the Washington Post has been running a series of articles on coral reefs. I’ve worked with corals for more than 10 years and I can’t remember a time when they’ve ever been so mainstream and popular. But here’s the problem: it’s all doom and gloom. All of the news that’s coming out is bad news. Where’s the optimism? Where’s the hope? Where are the success stories?

That’s one of the things I love about CORAL. We know we CAN save coral reefs, and with the right amount of support, we WILL. And that’s why I enjoyed my most recent trip to Bali, Indonesia.

Together, we CAN and we WILL save coral reefs.
Together, we CAN and we WILL save coral reefs.

I strategically aligned my trip so I could attend the first-ever Buleleng Bali Dive Festival, which was held in Pemuteran. Some of you may remember hearing about it at our 2014 Gala, when the Indonesian Minister of Fisheries and Affairs announced the festival for the first time. The festival was a huge success—complete with a parade, traditional ceremony, educational talks, and of course, unforgettable diving.

But, what really hit home on this trip was seeing how motivated and impassioned the local communities are about protecting coral reefs. It was the success stories that really stood out.

Take Nyoman Suastika for example. Nyoman lives in the community of Tulamben, a small fishing village in Bali known for one of the best wreck dives in the world. Divers and dive operators consistently dive in this area, but the increase in tourism was damaging the coral and harming the ecosystem. Dive operators from out of the area accompanied visiting divers, which meant a lot of the benefits of tourism weren’t staying within the community. As a result, the community didn’t have the resources to protect the environment. Nyoman took notice and started talking to his community about the issue. His community had a no-take conservation area, and he attended trainings to learn how to turn it into a formalized Marine Protected Area—a conservation area that is formally recognized and supported by the national government—and to ensure it is effectively managed. With the help of CORAL and our local partners, Nyoman organized his community to take action.

Nyoman is spearheading efforts in Tulamben, Bali to save coral reefs.
Nyoman is spearheading efforts in Tulamben, Bali to save coral reefs.

Together, they established a local group of dive guides called Organisasi Dive Guide Tulamben. Dive operators from outside of Tulamben now call on the local group to lead their trips, instead of sending in guides from outside the area. As a result, more of the tourism fees stay within the community. This enables the community to oversee and manage how their local coral reefs are utilized.

CORAL is helping Nyoman and his community protect and manage the local coral reefs in a variety of ways. This includes:

  • Setting up a voluntary dive fee—this will help the community raise money to support day-to-day management of the local MPA.
  • Developing a management plan that the community fully supports.
  • Assisting in advocacy efforts so government officials will help enforce MPA regulations.
  • Aligning them alongside local partners who can support their efforts. For example, Reef Check is helping them setup regular reef monitoring surveys that will track changes to the health of their coral reefs.

Nyoman is an incredibly humble and down-to-earth individual. His motivating driver is simple: his goal is to improve Tulamben’s reefs. He envisions a future where his community understands that conservation is beneficial and leads to a healthy reef and community. He envisions a community that prioritizes sustainable land-use practices. And he envisions an ocean without trash and with an abundant array of fish and wildlife.

There is so much incredible work happening in Bali, and around the world, to protect coral reefs. THIS is the kind of ground-up work that we should see in the news. I hope Nyoman’s story inspires you as much as it inspires me. Together we CAN and we WILL continue to protect coral reefs for generations to come.

Nyoman envisions a future where his community understands that conservation is beneficial and leads to a healthy reef and community.
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