Dear members, partners, supporters, and friends of the Coral Sea Foundation.
Welcome to the Christmas 2021 edition of Coral Sea News! There have been lots of exciting developments over the last couple of months, which are summarised below.
The annual Champions of the Earth award is the UN’s highest environmental honour. Since inception in 2005 it has been awarded to some of the world’s most dynamic environmental visionaries, including 25 world leaders, 62 individuals and only14 organizations.
We are honoured that the Sea Women of Melanesia have joined this esteemed group of laureates and that the hard work and effort of our whole team has been recognised at the international level. This award will be a massive boost to the empowerment of indigenous women in Melanesia and all around the world, especially those involved in the conservation of our marine environment. We look forward to continuing to expand the scope and effectiveness of the program in the years ahead, and we would love your participation and support!
We wish to extend our thanks to our huge network of partners and supporters which have believed in the SWoM program and facilitated its growth over the last 5 years, in particular the Hughes Charitable Foundation, the Jock Clough Marine Foundation, the Unico Conservation Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and Lürssen Yachts, all of which have made significant contributions to support our operations. Thank you all!
We dedicate the award to one of our original members and a a true champion of women's role in conservation in Papua New Guinea, the late Maxine Anjiga, former Director of the PNG Centre for Locally Managed Areas, who passed away last month in the pandemic. She will be sorely missed by all of us.
Balimo Chief Grounding
The big news from Kimbe was the grounding of the 45m / 500 tonne Balimo Chief on the Mangana Reefs on the evening of November 2nd, about 2.4km offshore from Kimbe town. The container vessel is owned by Consort Shipping and had just departed Kimbe bound for Lae when a navigation error resulted in the ship grounding on the south east Mangana Reefs.
Local SWoM leader and reef landowner Naomi Longa was onsite early the following day with her team and collected an incredible suite of geotagged survey images which allowed an accurate assessment of the damage to the reef, both before and after the ship was refloated.
Luckily the hull was not breached and there was no oil or fuel spilled, however there was significant coral damage at the impact site as recorded here by Naomi's photographs.
The geotagged imagery was use to prepare a detailed damage assessment report for the PNG National Maritime Safety Authority and the Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority of PNG, and Naomi has been liasing closely with the Ruango landowners and the government representatives to make sure that information about the grounding and the reef condition is clearly communicated.
This event, while regrettable, has clearly illustrated the increasingly important role that the Sea Women of Melanesia are playing in marine science and marine conservation in PNG. The training that the women have received in diving and marine surveys using the awesome TG6 geotagging cameras from Olympus Australia makes this type of work possible, and accordingly we anticipate a larger role for the SWoM organisation in future marine consultancy work in PNG after this demonstration of competency.
Pelelua Reefs Survey
In late November, Naomi and her team also completed a comprehensive survey of the proposed Pelelua Reefs Locally Managed Marine Area, along with the SWoM trainees from the Mai and Buluma communities, the landowners of Pelelua. The team returned 300 geotagged images using the TG6 cameras supplied by Olympus Australia, and we were thrilled to see the excellent condition of the corals in this biodiversity hotspot. The information will be included in the Pelelua LMMA Management Plan currently being finalised.
ABC Short film - Pandemic Warriors
In another great boost for recognition of the SWoM program, Naomi was featured in short film story about the work of the Sea Women of Melanesia teams earlier in the year when they documented the Eastern Coral Triangle bleaching event. Please check out the YouTube link below, as it gives an excellent insight into the realities of life and work for the women on the ground in Melanesia. Big thanks to Nigel Hiller-Garvey and Lisa Hiller from Small World Stories who arranged the shoot and did a great job on the edit.
Our Milne Bay SWoM team led by Martha Eimba and joined by Lorie Pipiga and Gabriella Nemani completed their second manta research trip to Gona Bala-bala Island in the western Louisiade Archipelago in early October, as part of a collaborative project with the Manta Trust. The expedition was very successful, with 9 new individuals added to the manta database for the area and more community conservation awareness work completed.
Marine Reserve Creation
The Milne Bay SWoM team has been active across all our marine reserve areas over the last 4 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 Engineering 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.
At Sewa Bay on Normanby Island, local landowner and SWoM trainee Gabriella Nemani working with Annette Gele completed another round of reef surveys in the bay, as well as delivering medical aid to the health outpost and academic prizes for the top students at the local school.
The Coral Sea Foundation and the Sea Women of Melanesia have joined forces with Days for Girls International to deliver Sustainable Period Pads to women in our partner communities in Papua New Guinea. Period pads are one of the items most commonly requested by the women in the remote island villages where we work, and we wanted to supply a product that could improve female menstrual health, but we didn't want to be contributing more plastic and non-biodegradable waste to the area. We are thrilled with the collaboration with Days for Girls (DfG) to supply and deliver their totally sustainable and reusable period pad kits to women in our partner villages, and the first shipment of the kits has already arrived in the Milne Bay province.
The kits are hand made by volunteers in Australia, and we have committed to deliver 600 kits to PNG in 2022 which will cost around $15,000. We have setup a dedicated fundraising portal for this project which you can access here, and we appreciate all donations, large or small, because every one of them will help make a significant improvement to the quality of life of the indigenous women in these remote locations. Our member Barbara Lainz-Quintana took the initiative to develop this collaboration and she has worked very hard to get the project underway very quickly - thank you Barb!
I want to take this opportunity to thank our great team in Port Moresby, Evangelista Apelis and Israelah Atua, the Directors of Sea Women of Melanesia Inc. , for their tireless work during the year that keeps the organisation running in Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby is one of the most dangerous cities in the world at the best of times, and recent conditions have been even more difficult due to the pandemic.
The women have done an excellent job coping with these circumstances, moving into a new office, dealing with banking and organisational finance, creating links with Government agencies and other NGO's, organising aid delivery to partner villages and training programs for local women, as well as coordinating the documentary filming for the UN Champions of the Earth Award. Team work does indeed make the dream work, and we are super grateful for Eva, Israelah, and all the amazing women that make up our Sea Women groups across Papua New Guinea. Thank you ladies!
Our local Magnetic Island team was in the right place at the right time to document one of the first coral spawning events for the 2021 coral breeding season, just after the full moon in October. The event started at Geoffrey Bay just after dark at 6.45pm and was still going three hours later when we wrapped up the dive, exhausted but elated at having obtained some excellent video footage of the egg release.
2021 is the 40-year anniversary of the scientific documentation of synchronous coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef at this very same location, so it was fitting that we visited Geoffrey Bay again for the event.
We have completed two reef survey expeditions to the outer Great Barrier Reef over the last month in partnership with Citizens of the GBR. The first was to the reefs south east of Cairns aboard Rum Runner and the second was to the reefs offshore from Airlie Beach aboard Kiana Sail & Dive.
Over the course of the two trips, our teams surveyed 20 different reefs and collected 5,400 survey images, which will provide a valuable record of the condition of these sites which are outside the existing reef monitoring networks. A highlight was the drift dive along the sensational outer ridge of Elizabeth Reef, 125km offshore in the Whitsunday sector, which had outstanding coral and fish life!
Many thanks to our members Barbara Lainz and Sophie Rallings, the divers in the survey teams, the captains and crew of Rum Runner and Kiana, the Citizens GBR team, and Deb Dickson Smith from Dive PlanIt, for making it all come together. Olympus Australia supplied the TG6 survey cameras which we used.
Starting January 2022 we will be offering Foundation members the chance to join us at our home base on Magnetic Island (Yunbenun) for two-week residencies to take part in our new Natural Feature Reef Monitoring Project and develop their skills in advanced reef survey techniques based around our geotagging camera methodology.
Members will stay in the Green Room at the Jungle Club, the Island's newest and coolest co-working space in Nelly Bay, while working with our marine science team on the project and developing their skills in
Spaces are filling quickly with over the half the available weeks already booked, and we are looking forward to getting started on this exciting new project.
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 comingyear.
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, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year in 2022!
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