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Seaweed Farming - The Sustainable Saviour

INDONESIA - As countries from around the world met in Bali, Indonesia recently to thrash out a new framework on fighting global warming, the fishing community here is already adapting to the looming impact of climate change.

Sustainable practice: A woman harvesting seaweed at her farm in Nusa Dua, Bali.

Many are turning away from fishing to a small but innovative scheme aimed at reviving the tropical island’s coral reef, which is threatened by rising temperatures and over-exploitation.

The scheme, run by environment group WWF, encourages people to give up damaging fishing practices and turn instead to the more sustainable – and lucrative – practice of seaweed farming.

The algae farms, launched in 2001 in the village of Sumber Kima and the surrounding coast, support 200 households. This year, the fishermen will harvest 29 tonnes of seaweed, mostly to be sold to the United States and Japan.

WWF coral expert Lida Pet-Soede said the project was aimed at “reducing human pressure on this reef, which is so rich in biodiversity and in its variety of fish.”

“The local population who live here on fishing and tourism can continue to benefit from it in the future while at the same time being less dependent,” she said.

Bombs to bouquets

Many of the tiny bouquets of brownish algae being harvested from the reef come from the nets of fishermen who, in the past, used grenades to blast fish to the surface or captured fish for the lucrative foreign trade in tropical aquariums. Both practices have been hugely destructive on both the coral and populations of rare fish species.

Ria Fitriana, who runs the programme for the WWF, said the scheme offered fishermen the chance to earn about 750,000 rupiah (RM300) a month, almost double what they made before.

“For the first time I have enough money for my family. One day I’ll send my children on to higher education,” said Khairiyah, a 30-year-old woman who is part of the project and whose husband has now given up fishing.

“He had to go off for longer distances and longer times and petrol is getting more and more costly,” she said.

A warming of the seas caused by a severe El Nino in 1998 ravaged Bali’s coral reef. Some 16% of the ornate undersea flora was killed off and the remainder is still suffering a decade later. Scientists anticipate that temperatures are rising in Indonesia by 0.3°C per decade, raising fears that the reef’s rich biodiversity will be wrecked for future generations.

Women in particular have cashed in on the new business, using the protein-rich seaweed to make sweets, chips and crackers that they can sell.

The project receives small amounts of funding from the local government and from Australia, which contributed about US$2,000 (RM6,800).

 

Ellen Hardy

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