Dear members, partners, supporters, and friends of the Coral Sea Foundation.
Welcome to the December 2022 edition of Coral Sea News! We have had another busy and productive half-year, characterised by the development of some significant new collaborations which will expand the scope and effectiveness of our operations both in Australia and Papua New Guinea. I hope you enjoy this newsletter – please scroll down for more details.
This year we have had a great collaboration with the Good Beer Company, First Nations brewers Sobah Beverages, and graphic design wizards Art Disrupt, to create a brand new zero-alcohol lager we’ve named the “Tropical Lager Coral’ation“. The new beer was released in early October, and a percentage of sale proceeds are supporting our new Sea Women Great Barrier Reef training program.
I’m very happy to report it not only looks good but is also an exceptionally tasty brew, with great reviews from beer connoisseurs across Australia. This was backed by an awesome marketing campaign for the launch, which already raised over $25,000 for the Sea Women GBR program! Huge thanks to Good Beer Co. CEO James Grudgeon, Clinton & Lozen Schultz from Sobah, head brewer Luke Cooper, and Matt Bray from Art Disrupt for all the hard work they put into bringing this product to market.
Both companies have beautiful products, and sustainable supply chains, and are founded and managed by keen female divers who have a deep interest in marine conservation and the education and empowerment of Indigenous women. Sale proceeds will help support our Sea Women training programs in PNG and Australia, so please check their websites, you may well find the perfect Christmas gift there for yourself or a loved one!
Sea Women Great Barrier Reef
We are very grateful to have the approval and support of the traditional owners of Yunbenun, the Wulgurukaba people, to conduct the training program on their sea country, and we look forward to welcoming Wulgurukaba women into the first program intake. We recently held a half-day workshop on Yunbenun for the traditional owners where we outlined the mission of the Coral Sea Foundation, the evolution of our Sea Women programs, and the current status of the reefs around the island. It was a very fruitful discussion and helped deepen the understanding and scope for collaboration between our organisation and the Wulgurukaba First Nations people in caring for sea country.
We thank our long-term program partners the Jock Clough Marine Foundation and the Hughes Charitable Foundation for their support, and we appreciate the recent input from First Nations women Joyrah Newman, Shanice Havili, and Tishiko King around program development and delivery.
Catamaran – Matching Grant Challenge
Our partners at Hughes Charitable Foundation (USA) have been significant supporters of our Sea Women programs over the last 18 months and their contributions have enabled us to advance our marine conservation and humanitarian aid delivery operations through some very remote parts of Papua New Guinea.
Recognising that efficient sailing vessels are the most practical means of reaching many of our research sites and partner communities around the Coral Sea arc, the Hughes Charitable Foundation has extended a US$400,000 matching grant challenge to the Coral Sea Foundation for purchase and deployment of a modern sailing catamaran. Our organisation has until September 2023 to raise the matching $400K and meet the grant challenge, and we welcome expressions of interest from potential partners in this exciting opportunity! More details are here.
Papua New Guinea
Marine Conservation Operations Update
Backpacker Medics Collaboration
Medical aid is one of the most requested assistance items by our partner communities in Papua New Guinea, and so we were thrilled to develop a collaboration with the awesome human beings at Backpacker Medics and help them deliver a 10-day expedition into the Engineer Islands in the western Louisiade Archipelago last November. The BPM paramedics and doctors worked in conjunction with our Milne Bay Sea Women team (Leader Jacinta Jonathan, landowner Roselyn Elijah and nurse Tracey Awalomwai) to deliver first aid training, pop-up medical clinics, Days for Girls International period pad kits, and medical supplies to our remote partner villages in the Engineer Island group.
Hundreds of traditional owners benefited from this work, and the trip forged new links between the Louisiade people, the Sea Women of Melanesia, the Backpacker Medics, and the Milne Bay Provincial Health Authorities, as well as boosting community support for our marine conservation activities in the area. Huge thanks to our amazing Milne Bay Sea Women and the incredibly skilled nurses, doctors, and paramedics in the Backpacker medics team for their tireless efforts. We hope this will be the first of a series of ongoing collaborative expeditions with the Backpacker Medics into PNG, and we welcome all donations that will assist us to continue this important work.
Sea Women team leaders Jacinta and Roselyn have made a number of trips out to the Engineer islands in the last 6 months, helping the landowners survey and look after their Locally Managed Marine Areas on Tewa-tewa and Skelton Islands. They have also delivered materials to repair water tanks on the islands which greatly assists the health and hygiene of the community.
Marine Conservation and Training at Gabagaba
Our PoM team has been continuing their work 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 collected hundreds of geotagged survey images to support the community conservation efforts.
The Gabagaba community leaders and local fishermen have been working with the Sea Women to document fishing practices and define the boundaries of their first Locally Managed Marine Area, which covers 1000 hectares of the outer barrier reef, making it one of the most significant marine reserves in the Central Province.
We would like to thank Steamships PNG for their recent grant of K90,000 to support the Sea Women of Melanesia training and marine conservation operations in Papua New Guinea.
Two members of our PNG Sea Women teams have had the opportunity to travel overseas to further their marine science education in the last half of the year. Kerryanne Molai from our Port Moresby team attended the Pacific Coral Reef Monitoring Workshop in Samoa, which was jointly organized by the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program. The workshop brought together 31 participants from 14 organisations around the Pacific region to discuss frameworks for coral reef monitoring, and Kerryanne was able to provide first-hand information on the LMMA Reef Survey method we developed for the Sea Women of Melanesia teams.
Milne Bay team leader Martha Eimba has also just completed a 3-month internship in the USA as part of the Community Engagement Exchange Program, sponsored by the Marine Conservation Institute USA. This program delivers high-level leadership and mentoring training, and the skills that Martha has developed will bring a greater breadth to the capability of the Sea Women of Melanesia organisation.
Naomi Longa – Pride of PNG Award
Congratulations to our Sea Women of Melanesia Director Naomi Longa whose outstanding work in marine conservation was recognised with the Pride of PNG Award for Women’s Empowerment in the Environment Category last month.
The Award is presented biannually in the National Parliament State Function Room by the CPL Group – PNG, and there have been 64 winners since the inception of the award in 2007. This video by ABC Short Stories highlights the work Naomi has been doing in the traditional land and sea country near Kimbe in West New Britain Province.
Local Reef Surveys
Naomi Longa has been in Australia since early September working on the development of the Sea Women Great Barrier Reef training program, however, her team of trainees led by her niece Isabella Ivu have stepped up and commenced their own reef survey expeditions of the reefs in Stetin Bay, a testament to the quality of the SWoM training program. We thank Daughters of the Deep for their support of the Kimbe and Milne Bay Sea Women training programs.
The waters of PNG are currently under a Level 2 Bleaching alert and the women in the Kimbe team have been out in the last week to assess bleaching in their area, which we assess as moderate on the offshore reefs and minimal closer to shore.
Great Barrier Reef Operations Update
Reef Surveys at Yunbenun
Over the last 6 months, we have made good progress setting up our Natural Features 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 have established monitoring sites at 12 locations on the island and collected thousands of geotagged reef survey images over the last few months. These images are being uploaded to the AIMS ReefCloud system which uses artificial intelligence to help analyse the different types of corals in the pictures.
We have lots and lots of images to analyse in order to “train” the ReefCloud A.I. system, and if you would like to volunteer some time to help with this, it would be most appreciated! Please drop us a line via email coralseafoundation@csf_admin
The recent light wind summer weather has allowed visual surveys of reefs on the northern side of Yunbenun which are usually impossible due to high water turbidity. We were lucky to get unusually clear visibility at Bay Rock which allowed a good look at the coral community there, and I was astounded at the extent and quality of the coral community, as you can see in the video above. We saw similar lush coral growth in Wilson Cove and Maud Bay as shown below. Just goes to show, once again, that the high sediment loads in the water around Yunbenun are not necessarily an impediment to the growth of corals and the development of coral reefs in these near coastal parts of the Great Barrier Reef.
Lizard Island Expeditions
The Coral Sea Foundation team completed our third expedition to Jiigurru (Lizard Island) last September, delivering a reef ecology study program for students from Ascham School in Sydney. We had another chance to document the remarkable recovery of the coral community here, and I have assembled a time series of the changes at North Reef from 2006 to 2022 in the video below.
Thanks to our supporters
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. As the Foundation grows, our small management team has lots of work to do behind the scenes to keep the basic administrative functions of the organisation going, and grants for specific programs often do not include the administrative funding needed to keep the lights on!
Our Donation Portal is here, and we are grateful for all your support, no matter how small. We also have the capacity to accept tax-deductible donations from donors in Australia and the USA, so please contact us for more information if you would like to support us in that way.
We would like to acknowledge recent funding and logistic support by Hillary Buckman at Ocean magazine, and our members Carmel Davies, Christine & Dennis McConnell, Larry and Di Mitchell, and Hoyt Drake.
On behalf of the whole Coral Sea Foundation team, thanks for your support, have a great Christmas and New Year, stay safe, and please message us with any questions or queries you have – we love to hear from you!
Dr Andy Lewis