Dear members, partners, supporters, and friends of the Coral Sea Foundation.
Welcome to our April 2021 newsletter! On behalf of our Directors, I hope that this message finds you and your families safe and well. There has been plenty of action over the last 6 months since our last newsletter, which is summarised below.
We are very excited to announce that the Sea Women of Melanesia has been officially incorporated as a not-for-profit association in PNG!!
This makes it the newest marine conservation organisation in the country and the first with an all female team of Directors and a specific constitutional charter to empower Papua New Guinean women with the skills and resources they need to take an active role in marine conservation projects. A great milestone and one that the whole team can be very proud of.
I want to extend our sincere thanks to Evangelista and Israelah from our Port Moresby team for doing the hard yards dealing with the Government bureaucracy to get the application through the registration process during a pandemic, and of course we are super grateful to our fantastic network of partners, philanthropic donors, and supporters which have kept the SWoM Program growing strongly since 2017, especially the Unico Conservation Foundation, the Jock Clough Marine Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Hines Family, the Dearnley Family, the Wei Family, and the Salisbury Family.
As a result of the Coral Sea Foundation team's participation in the 2020 Great Reef Census, we received many requests from keen scuba divers to join our Great Barrier Reef expeditions this year. Accordingly, we have developed two fantastic outer reef itineraries for the October to December calm weather window, one in the Cairns to Townsville sector, and one in the Townsville to Whitsundays sector.
These expeditions will be visiting some of the best reefs in the whole GBR, as confirmed by reconnaissance voyages completed by our scientific team in the last few months. We will be exploring rarely dived reefs that are well off the beaten track, and we can guarantee outstanding coral cover, visibility and marine life. The Coral Sea Foundation marine scientists will lead the dive program as we document reef biodiversity and collect a new suite of digital imagery for the Great Reef Census project.
Our first Whitsunday outer reef trip aboard Kiana in early December has already sold out, and we are pleased to now offer spaces aboard a second voyage in mid-November. Please follow this link for more information and bookings.
We also have access to several high-end luxury vessels that are suitable for bespoke, small group charters to any part of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, so please contact us directly if you would like to explore that option.
Proceeds from these expeditions will support the work of the Coral Sea Foundation and our @SeaWomenofMelanesia teams in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
The La Nina during the summer of 2020-21 caused thermal stress right across the eastern Coral Triangle, leading to the first region-wide coral bleaching event in at least the last 15 years.
Our Sea Women of Melanesia teams have deployed at 7 different locations in the last 6 weeks and were able to collect valuable data on the extent and severity of the bleaching across the region using the geotagging digital cameras provided by the Foundation and partners.
Bleaching was moderate at most sites, with generally 30-40% of corals showing loss of colour, and a small amount of colony mortality evident. The worst affected areas were in the southern part of the Louisiade archipelago where extensive coral mortality was recorded. Examples of the coral community responses are shown below, along with links to the image archives.
West Manus - Harengan Island
Location: 1° 57.386'S 146° 34.550'E
SWoM Team Leader: Naomi Longa
Stetin Bay - Kimbe
Location: 5° 29.200'S 150° 11.982'E
SWoM Team Leader: Naomi Longa
Gona balabala Island - Louisiades
Location: 10° 42.919'S 150° 38.143'E
SWoM Team Leader: Martha Eimba
Nua Marine Reserve Reefs - Ferguson Island
Location: 9° 35.357'S 150° 52.960'E
SWoM Team Leader: Lorie Pipiga
Madang Fringing Reefs
Location: 5° 10.816'S 145° 49.689'E
SWoM Team Leader: Evangelista Apelis
Parara Island - Munda, Solomon Islands
Location: 8° 19.000'S 157° 6.204'E
SWoM Team Leader: Georgina Alenge
This is an absolutely outstanding effort by the Sea Women of Melanesia teams to collect such a comprehensive dataset in a number of very remote locations across the eastern Coral Triangle, and it reinforces the outstanding marine science work that these indigenous women are capable of delivering with the appropriate support, funding, training and resources.
We are thrilled that Naomi Longa, Director of the Sea Women of Melanesia program, is a finalist in the Local hero category of the 2021 Ocean Awards, to be awarded early May by the Blue Marine Foundation.
Naomi has a B.Sc Degree in Biology from the University of Papua New Guinea and is one of only three female scuba diving instructors to be certified in PNG. She has been involved in our SWoM training programs in both PNG and Solomon Islands and has been active in the field for the last year, conducting numerous reef survey expeditions across the Bismarck Sea and holding several community awareness meetings. An outstanding effort and we hope the Ocean Award Judges agree - good luck Naomi!
The Coral Sea Foundation receives no government support - all our work is funded by our fantastic network of partner organisations and eco-conscious individuals like yourself, and we couldn’t do it without you – so thank you very much!
Whether you are a regular donor or a new supporter, please consider a small donation to keep the Coral Sea Foundation’s vital reef conservation work and community aid programs going through 2021. Our Donation Portal is here, and we are grateful for all support, no matter how small. We also have the capacity to accept tax-deductible donations from both Australian and USA donors, so please contact us for more information if you would like to support in that way.
On behalf of the whole Coral Sea Foundation team, thanks for your support, stay safe, and please message us with any questions or queries you have – we love to hear from you!
Dr Andy Lewis