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Mars Coral Reef Restoration Empowers Indonesian Islanders


Multinational food, drink and confectionery company Mars, Inc. recently announced the completion of one of the world's largest coral reef restoration projects off the southern coast of the island of Pulau Badi in southern Indonesia. Located just 20 kilometers (~12.5 miles) from a Mars cocoa processing factory on the neighboring Indonesian island of Sulawesi, Mars' project also includes the establishment of a new marine protected area and development of a local industry in which ornamental tropical fish are raised.

Part of the Coral Triangle, the tropical coral reefs and eastern Pacific Ocean waters surrounding Pulau Badi and Sulawesi are recognized worldwide as being home to the richest marine biodiversity on the planet. Unsustainable fishing practices, such as the use of dynamite and cyanide, have devastated large tracts of coral reef and associated fish populations -- robbing local residents and communities of food and nutrition, as well as livelihoods.

Spanning an area of 7,000 square meters (~75,347 square feet), the project entailed installation of over 3,000 “specially-constructed, innovative structures on which coral fragments grow to rehabilitate and re-establish native fish populations,” Mars Symbioscience elaborates in a press release. Realizing the multi-faceted project was a collaborative effort on the part of the island community, Mars Sustainable Solutions, itself a part of Mars Symbioscience, and employees participating in the Mars Ambassador Program.

Restoring coral reefs and local livelihoods

Fish and fishing have long been mainstays of life on Indonesia's islands, providing essential food, nutrition and livelihoods. Destructive fishing practices, such as fish bombing with dynamite and cyanide fishing, decimated Pulau Badi's coral reef and associated fish populations and led to erosion of the island itself.

Mars' Pulau Badi project rebuilds and revives what had long been the ecological foundation of islanders' lives and livelihoods. In addition to the installation of underwater structures for the rehabilitation of the coral reef, Mars Sustainable Solutions' staff and participants in the Mars Ambassador Program worked hand-in-hand with islanders and the local community to replace destructive fishing practices with sustainable ones and develop alternative business models. These include seahorse farming for the global aquarium trade and abalone farming for local consumption.

Combining coral reef restoration, marine conservation and sustainable development, the project's completion “will help meet the long-term security needs of the people of Pulau Badi and provide income opportunities, allowing them to catch fish for lucrative local and international markets,” Mars highlights.

Commenting on the project, Dr. Susan Williams, professor at the University of California, Davis and its Bodega Marine Laboratory, said: "I have watched this Mars project over the years and am not aware of anything of this scale.

"The beauty is that the technology is more easily transferable than other reef projects I've seen. The corals expand very quickly, possibly because the technology is based on a simple structure that does not shade the corals very much or impede water flow around them, enabling them to thrive.

"Rebuilding the coral reef ecosystem is needed by the local people, but also offers promise to improve the ecological and economic sustainability for the future of the region."

Added Muhammad Natsir Sulaiman, head of the Pangkep Fish and Marine Affairs Department:

"This work has literally brought back life to the island community and the Badi people, which can serve as a role model for other islands. It is critical to keep the all-important coral reef sustainable and the fish that inhabit it, for food and the livelihoods of our people.

"We thank the Mars team who has been an invaluable partner to the people of Sulawesi and we will work hard to ensure the future of the reef not only survives but flourishes."

Check out the Mars Symbioscience website for more on the company's efforts to promote and foster ecological sustainability and sustainable local livelihoods, as well as 3p's coverage of Mars' investment in a utility-scale Mesquite Creek wind farm in Texas.

Image credits: 1) & 3) Mars; 2) The Coral Triangle Atlas

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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