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Home / Science / The destiny of man is in balance … when corals die New Straits Times

The destiny of man is in balance … when corals die New Straits Times

Marine biologist Dr. Andaman Langkawi Gerry Goeden. Photos by Elena Koshy

"This is my playground!" Chuckles Gerry Goeden, the corners of his friendly eyes curling with delight. It was several years ago that I met with the marine biologist Andaman Langkawi for the last time and for some reason did not expect to meet him again. At least not here.

But no, as he keeps saying, this hand, which sweeps the serene views of the Andaman waters ahead of us, is where he plays. The reefs, the corals, the fish and the fishermen here are his world, the elements that make his existence through the golden years of his retirement.

The ingenious American who emigrated to Australia at the age of 21

, worked at the Great Barrier Reef in fisheries research and marine park management, came to the Fair Isle of Langkawi more than 10 years ago through the program "Malaysia My Second Home" Pensioner. His first plan was "… to learn more about the area, and then things happened, and I started the coral conservation project with the Andaman Langkawi." Goeden became a consultant marine biologist in the resort's sustainability project, Coral Nursery. to feed and grow new colonies.

The marine ecologist spent his formative years in Florida Keys, a coral-cay archipelago off the south coast of Florida, actually remembering the first time we met – much to my surprise. "It was during the full launch of the Artificial Reef Module System (ARMS) near Datai Bay of Lafarge Malaysia and the resort, yes' at the end of 2014," he notes rather objectively.

I nod in delight before I trust him, that until today we have not forgotten the expression of despair in his face as we both looked at the water. At the end of the event he spoke so desperately about the desperate fate of the coral reefs here and around the world.

Fish can be seen returning to the bay due to the growing corals.

"The coral reefs cover the Earth's most diverse ecosystem, but now they are threatened with destruction," I recall when he said resignation laced his words. According to Goeden, they occupy just over 0.15 percent of the world's oceans, but they harbor an estimated 25 percent of all marine life. "They are the" engine room "of the sea and their loss will paralyze the marine environment on a global scale."

The Southeast Asian coral reefs, according to Goeden, have the highest biodiversity of marine ecosystems in the world; maybe even the highest biodiversity since the beginning of life on earth. Unfortunately, the Southeast Asian coral reefs today are the most endangered in the world and are influenced by human activities. What he does in Langkawi may be considered small, but it is very visible, and this will make a big contribution to highlighting the plight of coral reefs around the world.

Coral reefs resemble abandoned underwater cities, and there are a plethora of intricate formations and all sorts of wonderful marine life. But, as Goeden said, coral reefs are more than just "pretty"; They play a very important role in everything, from water filtration and fish reproduction to coastal protection and erosion prevention.

Visitors Learn Marine Life at the Marine Life Laboratory

"We are really lucky here in this part of the island because we have about 400 species of corals – about two thirds of all coral species in the Andaman Sea and around the world the Malacca strait, "says Goeden. His words bring me back to the present where we are Sitting in the rustic reception area of ​​the resort. he weighs his elixir – a glass of iced coffee – and me, my watermelon juice. "There are more species here on one square kilometer than anywhere else on the planet, so we have a responsibility to protect them."

Without coral reefs, people in this part of the world will be very hungry, warns Goeden. "Our children will grow up in a world where food is going to be a big problem, the affluent countries will buy the food from the poorer countries, and fish will be at the center of what we are going to do.


The Andaman Langkawi, nestled between a 10 million year old rainforest in the peaceful Datai Bay and an 8000 year old The Old Coral Reef, marks a milestone on June 8 last year when it celebrated World Oceans Day 2017 by launching its own Coral Garden as the next phase of its ongoing coral conservation project.

During the launch, Goeden said, "This is not the Andaman project, this is your project, this is not the Andaman ocean, it's our ocean, so it's important that we work together to protect our ocean and rebuild our reef. "

The Andaman Quranic Surgeon oversaw her transplanted corals.

Coral transplants have been organized and children and adults have been encouraged to put in their hands -Activate and transplant baby corals onto special substrates, called mini-ARM (Artificial Reef Modules), after several months of care in the Coral Nursery (Built in 2012) will be brought to the newly introduced Coral Garden

"When we started with Coral Nursery, things were a bit arbitrary," says Goeden. "We put in a few pieces here and there, and then we decided that we should try to focus our efforts on one place, a place people could go to, and that's how the idea for the Coral Garden came about." [19659003] This is in line with the resort's 10-year plan to rebuild the reef. The vision is to have a coral garden in the ocean, where they can eventually move the newly grown coral and begin rebuilding the fringing reef along the bay, which was damaged after the 2004 tsunami.

Asked if the "Garden" It's all you can see at the Great Barrier Reef, "chuckles Goeden." Do not expect a beautiful garden to be built. The reality is that these corals are growing incredibly slowly. What you actually see, are many cement lumps on which many corals are stuck! "

(At the time of writing, the Coral Garden, with a diameter of about 100 meters, contained 50 mini-ARMs with about 300 corals. There are plans to expand the radius and move 5,000 baby corals into the garden throughout the year.

"I essentially use the" garden "as a model to educate the more than 20,000 guests who come to And the Andaman annual and tell them that they can make a difference," adds Goeden, before joining announces that Coral Nursery is also expanding with the installation of three Hatchery Tanks, which are special circulation tanks designed for coral replication, corals from the coral spawn are transplanted to the mini-ARMs, which are then kept in the nursery for several months to guarantee their success before their journey into the coral garden.

The makeshift incubator before the great marine action. 19659002] There is also egg n Marine Life Laboratory at a hidden angle on the sprawling grounds of the resort, which happens to be Goeden's haven. Launched in 2015, it serves as a research laboratory for marine science and biology students to improve their understanding of coral reef ecosystems and the effective management of artificial reefs.


The coral reefs in the waters of the Andaman are heavily fished and hard-worked, shares Goeden with his lost expression. "They had a double strike, which was accompanied by a growing human population on the island and an increased demand for seafood and traditional products, such as the gamat (sea cucumber)."

In the last 50 years since World War II The forest clearing is widespread and the amount of mud entering the sea has greatly increased. "It's like a blizzard landing on the coral, there's no way they can get all the stuff."

Hence the urgency to create these artificial reefs. But, Goeden warns, it's not cheap to develop an artificial reef and many factors have to be taken into account. Building an artificial reef, he adds, is akin to choosing the right house. "We need a space to retreat and feel safe in. This is human nature, and the same is true of animals, their home must be of the right shape to match body and size."

The peaceful Coral Nursery is popular with visitors to the resort.

In the quiet solitude of his laboratory Goeden, whose passion includes photography, spends a lot of time observing fish behavior, among other things. And the knowledge he acquires, he refers to his reef designs. "We need to make these artificial reefs from carbon-neutral or CO2-negative substances, if that is possible." Concrete produces five percent of the world's CO2. "The idea is to make things with a minimum of concrete and more natural materials."

Concrete, he continues, lasts 50 to 100 years in the sea. Ideally, he wants his artificial reef modules to last 250 to 500 years. "So, whatever we put up there becomes a real reef, and whatever we do is somewhere among us."

So, what's the best kind of design? Goeden considers the question before answering that the emphasis should not be on what is best for the species. "If we have a Malaysian coral reef, we know the fish species we want to catch, let's say we want to catch many small garoupas (which is pretty much the market demand on this island), then we have to analyze the space, the fish of that And considering that they will reproduce. "

What they have done so far is a filter that keeps the little ones safe while the larger ones are exposed to commercial fishing. "Everybody wins, the fish reproduces to its optimal size, the fishermen catch them in their largest size, and they make a lot of money, that's the idea, so if you want different types of fish, like snapper and so on, then design accordingly They can not simply have a "one size fits all" approach.

The shape that is currently in place is described by Goeden as a tapering cube. "A bit like the base of a strategically placed pyramid Holes to ensure the circulation of the water inside. I have many of them out there (about 54). What I have learned is that we need to change the holes a bit to make the circulation better. This is a muddy place and there is a problem of mud flooding the artificial reefs.

The brilliant colors are captivating.

The fish are not too fussy, Goeden says, before adding quickly, if we are serious about preserving biodiversity and the ocean (the loss of biodiversity is the biggest problem that the planet now faces), then we have to make much more effort to build artificial reefs and protect corals from global warming.

"We lose something like a coral species a week between today and mid-century. Global warming and the destruction of the reefs are the cause, "says Goeden. When you start to change the atmosphere of the planet, many things start. It's complicated because humans exploit coral reefs and use chemicals such as cyanide and dynamite to catch fish. They pulverize the reefs and turn them into gravel. It is almost impossible for species in this area to survive the fishing pressure. "


Without noticing, we both stare out at the darkening canvas, and a flood of thought flows through us, thinking about what will happen to us as a species is Goeden, who breaks the silence first.

"I try to understand that everything on this planet has a place and deserves to be here. We are the ones who have a conscience, so we have to take responsibility. We need the ocean; Without it we will die. I do not want to believe that our species has come so far as to walk on the moon and stupidly cut our own life support system. Goeden, who comes closer when his voice falls, says, "If you are on a boat and the boat sinks, you have two options. They can, as they say, rearrange the loungers on the Titanic, or you can get a bucket and bail. The choice is easy. I would get bail. In fact, 80 percent of the coral reefs in the world will disappear by 2050. If we do not change the way we do business on the planet by 2100 – and that's not too far off – then all the coral in the world will be gone.

Goeden explains what happens in the coral nursery.

Coral reefs, he adds, support 25 percent of ocean species. "It's like picking up your phone and pulling out some of these microprocessors. It might still light up its little blue light, but I doubt your phone will work anymore. And we do that with the ocean. We throw away the good pieces; the stuff you need to do it all. To be honest, I am more pessimistic than optimistic. But if we all say that it is a lost cause, then it will be lost. We will change the loungers at the pace we walk. "

Artificial reefs, Goeden believes, are a step in the right direction." If I build over there and it's full of fish, the fishermen will go there. They will no longer lay their boats on the coral at low tide and walk around with spears to catch fish or sea cucumbers. This will help to reduce the pressure for a while. In return, the survival of the coral will be better, the numbers of sea cucumbers will increase and the fish will multiply even more. If this artificial reef reaches the horizon, we could actually produce more fish than we need. "

Ultimately, Goeden says with finality, we must turn to the ocean." We can no longer create farmland because we only use everything there is. In fact, it is in decline thanks to over-farming. If we plan to bail, then we have to look to the ocean.


Coral Protection Project Details at www.theandaman.com

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