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Asia

Coral Reefs in Bali Endangered Species

In Nusa Dua, a luxury holiday resort in the south of Bali, everything seems just perfect but the region is suffering from the consequences of mass tourism as well as from the effects of global warming.

The effect of bleaching on corals is sometimes irreversible

The effect of bleaching on corals is sometimes irreversible

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) invited journalists at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bali to leave the tourist hotel resorts behind and spend a day diving and snorkelling.

It invited them to a coral reef in the north-west of the island. The reef, which is home to millions of unique coral species, is an endangered paradise.

Climate change and the fishing industry have had an extremely detrimental impact.

No alternative to fishing

Linda Pet-Soede from the WWF says West Bali was particularly badly hit and coral bleaching had had extremely negative effects.

“Some of the fish will die,” she said “and that’s very serious for people who live near the coast and don’t have anything to do but fish for a living.”

The last major instant of coral bleaching happened in 1998. It was so hot that the corals could not cope with the intense ultra-violet rays. They became a pale grey as a result.

Diving paradise

Diving tourism on Bali’s coral reefs is still an important source of income for the island.

But those who were here before 1998, such as Naneng Setiaseh, remember how much better it was before.

The young Indonesian has a passion for diving: “The best diving I’ve ever had was actually here. I couldn’t see -- not because visibility was bad but because there were so many fish! I came again in 1998 after the bleaching -- and everything’s gone, it’s grey. That’s why I started working with the WWF.“

Adapting to new circumstances

The local fishermen have also had to adapt to the new circumstances. Their fishing methods were only making the situation worse. Bomb fishing is particularly harmful -- the fishermen throw explosives into the water and wait for the dead fish to surface. And there are increasingly fewer fish species.

Sumber Kima is a small fishing village located in the national park. Around 60 fishermen have started making a living from seaweed. The seaweed is processed into crisps, soups or used as raw material for health products.

Linda Pet-Soede set up the project for WWF: “One of the things that we tried to change here with the communities, is the use of destructive fishing practices, particularly bomb fishing and cyanide fishing for the aquarium trades -- because if you reduce the stress on the corals they’re better able to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

“It was difficult at the beginning to change to seaweed but traditional fishing was getting more and more strenuous anyway,” explained 72-year-old fisherman Daeng Haya, who has 12 children and even more grandchildren. However, now the whole thing has proved to be worth it. The products are selling well -- the kids can all go to school now.”

Some hope

The coral paradise still has a chance of survival.

Although experts estimate that about half of the corals destroyed in the 1998 bleaching have been lost forever, the other half have a chance of regeneration.

However, for this, fishermen, climate experts and politicians all have to co-operate in the fight against global warming.

Author: Kateri Jochum
Editor: Kristin Zeier