Resorts can adopt coral gardening: Dr Austin

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Luisa Sumasofu (front right) with other participants prepare the corals for planting during the coral sustainability workshop at the Plantation Island resort on Malolo Island. Picture: REINAL CHAND

CORAL gardening is a concept many resorts around the country can adopt to help people respect coral ecosystems and develop the activity as a profession.

This was one of the points highlighted during a coral sustainability workshop organised at Plantation Island Resort last week.

Facilitated by Dr Austin Bowden-Kerby from Corals for Conservation, more than 23 volunteers from various resorts and NGOs across the country attended.

Mr Bowden-Kerby said the activity could also help boost jobs for students studying marine science.

“I had a concept years ago to create a new profession for resorts called coral gardening. I started teaching people to do coral planting and I started in 1987,” he said, adding he moved from Micronesia and Puerto Rico among other countries.

“I developed methods in the Caribbean that we’re now using in Fiji to bring back corals that were very rare.

“I started doing coral gardening in Fiji and it caught on, everybody started doing it but there were no standards and a lot of people did not have training.

“So I think it caused as much harm as it did good.

“My understanding became that people needed more training and they weren’t getting that kind of training.

“One thing that came to my attention was University of the South Pacific (USP) was graduating 10 or 15 students every year or even more in marine studies and they weren’t getting jobs.

“I thought, why in a country that has so many tourists and so much tourism, why can’t they find jobs?

“There is a need for the resorts to have people who know about corals.

“There was no one taking care of the ocean, so the concept is to create coral gardening as a profession.”