Most coral reefs off north coast damaged

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Some 60 percent of the coral reefs off the northern coast of the province are categorized as damaged, a study conducted by the East Java Maritime and Fisheries Agency has showed.

Most of the damage is attributed to human activity, such as fishermen using illegal fishing methods, for example poison and fish bombs, and natural causes such as sedimentation.

Office head Kardani said last week that a large part of the damage was detected in the eastern coast of the province, in Gresik, Lamongan and Tuban, where the coasts were characterized as sandy. There are not as many coral reefs in the southern part of East Java because of its steep coasts and extensive cliffs.

The limited number of provincial administration officials assigned to monitor the coral reefs has also exacerbated the extent of the damage.

As part of its conservation drive, the office will continue its cultivation program by grafting coral reefs, as it has already done in Paiton, Probolinggo. However, results so far have been underwhelming due to a lack of adequately trained staff and time-consuming graft cultivation techniques.

“The coral reefs could only grow at only 1 centimeter per year despite us giving it all our attention,” said Erjono, head of coastal and cultivation observation affairs at the provincial fisheries and maritime affairs office.

The cultivation project is also aimed at reproducing coral for export, despite the government imposing a very strict policy toward coral exports.

Besides setting an export quota, the government only allows corals from the third generation to be exported, while the first and second generation corals must be returned to their natural habitat.

“At the time being, we are not focusing on exports but discouraging them because the profits *from exporting* do not cover the cost of fixing the damaged coral reefs,” said Erjono.

According to head of the East Java Coastal Operators Association Daniel Rasyid, to prevent further damage to coral reefs, the provincial administration should immediately issue an ordinance regulating coastal areas, which would later be categorized as fishing zones, coral areas and mangrove areas.

“The spatial ordinance should not only regulate inland areas, but also coastal areas,” said Rasyid.

To save the coral reefs, the government must do more than just chose a public figure like Nadine Candrawinata as a coral reef envoy, Rasyid said. It should also think about preventive measures, including raising fishermen’s sense of ownership of the coral as a valuable maritime resource for the sustainability of the marine ecosystem, he added.

Source: Jakarta Post