Dear members, partners, supporters, and friends of the Coral Sea Foundation.
Welcome to the July 2022 edition of Coral Sea News! Our teams in Australia and Papua New Guinea have been super busy over the last 6 months and kicking goal after goal in their marine conservation work, and we are thrilled to share some of those great outcomes with you here.
The site gives the Sea Women of Melanesia a fresh new platform from which to tell their stories to the world - check it out!
We are very excited to announced the next phase of the Sea Women initiative, with the creation of the Sea Women Great Barrier Reef program. This training program, initially based from Yunbenun (Magnetic Island), will provide First Nations women from Australia, the Kulkalgal Nation of Zenadth Kes (Torres Straits), and Papua New Guinea with advanced training in scuba diving, maritime operations, and marine conservation science, as well as facilitating collaboration, networking and cultural exchange between Indigenous women from the Sea Country around the Coral Sea arc.
Three early leaders from the program, Laure Senor, Zillah Midire, and Tishiko King, recently joined us on Jiigurru (Lizard Island) on our most recent expedition, and we made good progress in setting out the aims of the program while delivering the women ongoing training in marine science and discussing their hopes for the development of Sea Women Great Barrier Reef.
We thank our program partners the Jock Clough Marine Foundation, the Hughes Charitable Foundation, the Good Beer Company and Sobah Brewing for their kick-starter funding support of the program, and we anticipate commencing the first 6 week intensive training residency in early September.
SWoM Training and Reef Surveys
The Kimbe Sea Women team, led by Naomi Longa, has had a very busy 6 months, completing numerous reef survey training sessions on the Mangana Reefs in Stetin Bay, hosting Government representatives, responding to a palm oil spill on the shoreline, and working with the landowners from Buluma and Mai villages on the development of the Pelelua Reefs LMMA Management Plan.
We thank Daughters of the Deep for their ongoing support of the Kimbe Sea Women training program, which also now includes freediving!
Community Development Workshops at Lavongai
During June, Naomi also took part in a 10-day Community Development and Training workshop at Tunnung, which was organised by our partner Angela Pennefather from Melanesian Luxury Yachts. This workshop was the first of its kind in the New Ireland Province, and aimed to stimulate sustainability initiatives within the Lavongai Community.
290 women and 100 men took part, and workshop programs included permaculture gardening, solar panel installation, sewing, cooking for market, and outboard motor maintenance. Naomi delivered lectures on marine conservation and the benefit of Locally Managed Marine Areas, and also distributed 150 sustainable period pad kits to the local women, as part of our collaboration with Days for Girls. This workshop was a fantastic success, with the benefits directly or indirectly impacting 12 villages and 830 households, and we will be supporting Angela in her efforts to replicate this work in other areas of PNG.
The Milne Bay SWoM team has been active across all our marine reserve areas over the last 6 months. Thanks to a generous donation from the Hughes Charitable Foundation, Lorie Pipiga and the team at Ferguson Island are in the process of constructing a new Sea Women office and training house at Sebutuia Bay to service the needs of our flagship Nua Marine Reserve Network.
This building will provide a secure storage for our equipment and a safe location for the local women to come and take part in the reef survey training that Lorie is running, which is critical for building capacity of the program in this important conservation area.
At the Engineer Island group, local landowner and SWoM leader Roselyn Elijah has been doing great work with her community engagement activities, with significant medical aid delivered to the villages and a new Locally Managed Marine Area or "gwala" created at her home of Tewa-tewa Island. Milne Bay Sea Women team leader Martha Eimba and Roselyn have just completed another week-long visit to the Engineer Island group, with surveys of the LMMA's at Tewa Tewa and Skelton Island completed, and materials purchased for the repair of several 9,000 litre community water tanks which have become dysfunctional. She also brought another 6 local women into the Sea Women training program.
Reef Survey Training at Gabagaba
Our PoM team have been working with the community at Gabagaba Village, 50km south-east of the national capitol, to survey local coral reefs as part of our ongoing training and capacity building program. Coral cover was high, especially on the reefs close to the coast, and the women have collected hundreds of geotagged survey images to support the community conservation efforts.
MOU signed with CEPA
An official Memorandum of Understanding between the Sea Women of Melanesia Inc. & the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) of Papua New Guinea was signed on 17th May, 2022. This MoU commits us to work together more closely towards our common goal, the pursuit of marine conservation through the establishment & management of locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) in selected maritime provinces across Papua New Guinea.
SWoM Directors Evangelista Apelis and Isrealah Atua both have clan connections to the Madang province of PNG, and both women completed community engagement and reef survey expeditions here in the last few months, with visits to schools, coastal communities and also Karkar and Bagabag Island. There was also a distribution of sustainable period pad kits to the local women, as part of our collaboration with Days for Girls.
MARST Program at Yunbenun
The first 6 months of our Magnetic Island Advanced Reef Survey Training (MARST) program have been a great success, with 5 fantastic people joining our island team for 2-8 week residencies at Nelly Bay's famous Jungle Club. Together, we collected thousands of geotagged reef survey images from most of the major coral reef bays on the island, and we have made excellent progress in setting up our Natural Feature Reef Monitoring Project which will help citizen scientists and the general public contribute meaningful data on the condition of the corals and reefs around Yunbenun.
We also collected detailed information on the responses of the corals around the island to last summer's heat stress and bleaching event, and we are happy to report that bleaching mortality has been generally quite low and all corals have now made a full recovery.
Big thanks our participants Jimmy Tarte, Dr Andrew Coates, Marta Arroyo-Zufia, Nicole McMahon and Emily Horton for their hard work and positive energy while they were here with us - we miss you all!
Lizard Island Expeditions
The Coral Sea Foundation team have made two expeditions to Jiigurru (Lizard Island) already this year. The first trip in April was to deliver the Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour in partnership with the Lizard Island Research Station and the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation. This program took 16 high-achieving young people from the NSW public high-school system and immersed them in a 9-day reef ecology education program at the station. The program was an outstanding success (see LIRRF blog post here) and has laid the groundwork for the LICRST to become an annual event. Video highlights below.
Our second expedition was completed in late June, with several of our members and three of our Sea Women Great Barrier Reef team taking part. Despite some inclement weather, this trip was also very successful, with our participants learning our digital reef survey methods and seeing the awesome recovery of the Lizard Island reefs first-hand. A close encounter with a pair of octopus on the last day was a real highlight!
As a result of our Sea Women of Melanesia program winning the United Nations Champions of the Earth Award last year, we received an invitation to attend the UN Oceans conference in Lisbon, Portugal in June.
Our European team members Barbara Lainz-Quintana and Lucie Guirkinger attended the event, and did a fantastic job of spreading the word about the Coral Sea Foundation and the Sea Women of Melanesia program at this important global conference.
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!
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 coming year.
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 donors in the USA, so please contact us for more information if you would like to support in that way.
We would like to acknowledge recent funding support by the Marine Conservation Action Fund of the New England Aquarium, the Pacific Community Development Trust, Kristin Lindblad, Christine & Dennis McConnell, Tens, Jock Clough & Roger Swainston, and the Hughes Charitable Foundation.
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