Dear members, partners, supporters, and friends of the Coral Sea Foundation.
Welcome to the August 2021 edition of Coral Sea News. The last 4 months have been an exciting and busy period for the Foundation, and we have lots of positive news to share, which is summarised below.
Naomi Longa, Director of the Sea Women of Melanesia program, was the winner of the Local hero category of the 2021 Ocean Awards, presented by the Blue Marine Foundation in early May. A fantastic achievement and very important recognition of the Sea Women of Melanesia program in Europe.
We thank Mr Peter Lürssen of Lürssen Yachts for his acknowledgement of the Ocean Award win with a donation to the SWoM program to support the ongoing reef survey and training work that our teams of women are doing in Papua New Guinea.
The Sea Women of Melanesia teams have been continually improving their effectiveness this year and have completed numerous reef surveys and training operations in the last 4 months, as well as distributing substantial amounts of humanitarian aid to our partner communities.
We have been progressively boosting the operational capacity of the SWoM teams, and we now have functioning offices and safe accommodation for women in Port Moresby, Kimbe, and Alotau, as well as delivering funding for laptops, cameras, vessel hire, dive gear, medical aid, and internet data so that these women can do their work properly.
Lorie Pipiga has completed another full round of surveys of the reefs of the Nua Marine Reserve Network at Ferguson Island, along with delivering water tanks and medical aid to most of our partner villages.
Coral cover is still excellent at these sites, and Lorie has been training a new cohort of local women in our reef survey techniques.
Milne Bay team leader Martha Eimba has completed two survey trips to the Engineer Island group in the last month, and she is working with our local SWoM reps and landowners Roselyn Elijah and Lila Rubin to survey new and existing marine reserve sites at Tube-tube, Skelton, Wealoki, and Tewa-tewa islands.
The local women are keen to re-invigorate the community enthusiasm for marine conservation projects, and our recent assessment of reef condition and ongoing training and first aid clinics will assist in that process.
In conjunction with the Manta Trust UK, Martha and her team have also been awarded funding to further their research on the local manta ray populations in the Louisiades, and this research will be ongoing through the remainder of 2021.
Our Port Moresby team of Evangelista Apelis and Israelah Atua have been doing a great job keeping the Sea Women of Melanesia program moving forward in the National capitol, as well as conducting their own community engagement and reef survey work with the Kouderika community on the outskirts of the city.
Both ladies also formally graduated with B.Sc degrees from UPNG last week, and we congratulate them on this excellent achievement!
At Kimbe, Naomi Longa has moved her team into their new office space, and has been running reef survey training programs almost every week for young women from the local area.
Naomi has made great progress with engagement of the coastal communities to the east of Kimbe, and we are working up the submission documents for the Pelelua Reefs LMMA on behalf of the Buluma and Mai village communities, which will be a great milestone.
Naomi is also the star of a short documentary about the Sea Women of Melanesia program which was filmed by ABC TV in Kimbe last June. The piece should be going to air in the next couple of months, and we have seen a sneak preview of the footage and it looks amazing, so stay tuned for that!
We completed two Citizen Science expeditions to Lizard Island in June and July, which were just sensational! Thanks to donations of TG6 geotagging cameras from Olympus Australia, we were able to train our expedition participants in advanced reef survey techniques, and then deploy multiple cameras at each survey site to collect a great suite of high-resolution digital survey imagery (see video from North Reef here and Palfrey Island here).
Over the course of the two trips, our teams surveyed 13 sites and collected 4840 geotagged survey images, which will provide a valuable record of the recovery of the Lizard Island reefs after the cyclone and bleaching impacts of 2014-2017. (We will be making this data freely available to researchers and management agencies so please get in touch if you would like access).
The recovery at some sites around the island has been nothing short of phenomenal, with some places going from bare reef pavement back to lush coral gardens in just 5 years, which was so heart-warming to see.
As is typical for the Great Barrier Reef, the recovery has been driven by the re-establishment of a diverse community of fast-growing branching (Acroporid) corals, and while they look sensational, it is important to note that these types of corals are easily damaged by cyclones and Crown of Thorns Seastars, and they remain susceptible to future bleaching events. With the release of the latest IPCC AR6 Climate Change Report it is clear that the GBR remains in considerable danger from increasing global temperatures, however we are very glad to see that Lizard Island and many other parts of the far northern section of the GBR still retain the capability to begin recovery from severe disturbance (see the latest AIMS Reef Condition Report here). The mission objectives of the Coral Sea Foundation remain unchanged, and we will continue to support pragmatic marine conservation action in our region while pushing for the necessary reductions in carbon emissions that are needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Big thanks to our CSF field teams, the staff at Lizard Island Research Station, Hinterland Aviation, Melanesian Luxury Yachts, and to all the wonderful people that took part in the expeditions, it was a great effort and we can’t wait to do it again!
Trip 3 is booked for September 18-25th 2021, please let us know if you would like to be involved?
The Coral Sea Foundation receives no government support - all our work is funded by our fantastic network of partner organisations and eco-conscious individuals like yourself, and we couldn’t do it without you – so thank you very much!
I particularly want to acknowledge the significant support provided by the Jock Clough Marine Foundation and the Unico Conservation Foundation, as the backing of these organisations has been tremendously helpful in keeping our programs running and expanding across Melanesia this year. We are also very pleased to welcome Mr B. Wayne Hughes Jr and Mrs Molly Hughes, the patrons of the Hughes Charitable Foundation USA, to our supporter network and we thank them for their donation in support of the Sea Women of Melanesia program in Papua New Guinea over the next 12 months.
Whether you are a regular donor or a new supporter, please consider a small donation to keep the Coral Sea Foundation’s vital reef conservation work and community aid programs going through this year. One of our greatest needs is small, reliable dinghies to allow our teams of Sea Women to continue their work safely and effectively around the islands of Melanesia, and these can be bought for about A$25,000 in country. We would welcome corporate support to purchase a dinghy and have it repainted with the corporate brand and the Sea Women of Melanesia logo, so please get in touch if you would like to explore that option further.
Our Donation Portal is here, and we are grateful for all support, no matter how small. We also have the capacity to accept tax-deductible donations from both Australian and USA donors, so please contact us for more information if you would like to support in that way.
On behalf of the whole Coral Sea Foundation team, thanks for your support, stay safe, and please message us with any questions or queries you have – we love to hear from you!
Dr Andy Lewis