Protecting our coral reef from their natural predators and trying to grow and propagate certain species of coral is the focus of the Coral Reef Restoration project.
Three years ago, local dive operator Rami Oved of Magical Niue started this project to propagate coral and to deal with coral eating predators.
They started with a nursery 12 meters deep but Cyclone Tino in January this year, destroyed that nursery so they’ve rebuilt their another one this time, several meters deeper to 18 meters underwater. Propagating the coral is now much harder because they have to dive deeper but it is all worth it to help protect this near extinct type of fast-growing coral.
The corals growing in the nursery now are expected to start spawning this month and hopefully survive the next cyclone season. The propagation part of the project aims to bring these corals closer together so that when it’s spawning season, nature will do the rest.
Eradicating the natural predators of the coral is the second part of the project. A serious outbreak of the drupella snails (pictured above) or what is known locally as the fofouli has killed off many corals on the west coast around Alofi bay heading south.
Rami told BCN news that this outbreak of the drupella snails seemed to have started in 2017 and have since grown to the point where these snails have killed off a large part of the coral reef south of the main wharf Sir Roberts in Alofi.
The fear is that if they don’t stop this spread of the snails they will spread and kill off the coral further south of the island.
Rami said that last week while diving at Snake Gully further south of the island towards Avatele they picked up quite a few of these drupella snails. These snails attach in hundreds to the coral and eats it to death.
He said that there are a few people who think that these drupella snails are part of the eco-system and should be left alone. His response to those people “These people don’t see the destruction these snails cause because they don’t dive”.
The other predator is the crown of thorns starfish which is known to destroy and kill hundreds of corals and is a very fast-growing predator.
Rami said that with the advice of scientists from New Zealand they were able to pretty much eradicate the crown of thorns starfish from the waters off the Alofi coast.
Using a syringe, they injected vinegar, not your regular home-use, but a much stronger mixture into the thorns which kills it in a matter of days. His team is quite confident that they have successfully seen the last of the crown of thorns in Alofi bay.
This is not a short- term fix because the aim is to ensure the corals survive not just the cyclones that frequent the islands and also to eradicate the coral eating predators. According to Rami, it will be pointless to re-grow coral if the natural predators are still killing them off.