This week in Lembongan. Starting on the 1st of June, the Lembongan Marine Association meet to prepare for the annual reef check survey. Along with the Coral Triangle Centre and the Nusa Penida Marine Park Association and volunteers from the dive ships on the island, got together to preform this years reef check.
The morning of the first day was spent training in the techniques that would be used during the survey and then over the next 3 days the survey was completed. Not all dive sites were surveyed due to the conditions and we are still waiting on the full results of the survey.
While we wait for the results of how our reef in doing here in Lembongan and Penida, there is something to think about, next time you go diving. Sunscreen has an impact on the coral’s life, so to help protecting it, only use sunscreen after your dives.
Latest news from the coral ecosystems worldwide are not that good – aside from physical destruction due to human interaction, the coral is suffering from water temperature rise. This results in stress for the zooxanthellae, the algae that lives in symbiosis with the coral polyps and provide them with nutrients from photosynthesis, in exchange of protection. And when the zooxanthellae is too stressed, it leaves the coral, which becomes fully white: it bleaches.
This process is reversible on the early stages (few days to few weeks, depending on the type of coral) but at some point the coral polyps die and only the white skeleton remains.
In Lembongan we are lucky as the coral population seems to be quite stable (less than 5% decline) compared to the catastrophic situation of both the Great Barrier and the western reefs of Australia, where 93% of its reef has been touched by bleaching in the last 2 years. Global ocean temperature rising is known to be the main responsible for this bleaching, specially with the extreme El Nino phenomenon of 2015: Pacific oceans temper
ature raised far more than the usual seasonal variation, provoking coral stress.
Another factor seems to have an impact in coral bleaching: some chemical substances in sunscreen prevent the coral growing to adulthood, as well as disturbing the symbiosis relationship with the algae. To prevent this threat and protect the coral reefs, Thailand recently closed the famous Koh Tachai island to tourism (diving is still allowed) – no need to illustrate how important can be the effect of sunscreen.
As divers, we have responsibilities towards the ocean, and on this topic our actions can easily have an impact: avoid spreading sunscreen on your skin before entering in the water – put a rashguard on instead. And if you really need protection, for snorkeling for example, use one of these reef-safe sunscreens: http://scubadiverlife.com/2016/01/01/top-four-reef-safe-sunscreens/
A colourful coral reef will thank you for this!