Gouyave Biorock Pilot Project to combat coral reef degradation

Biorock. Photo: Global Coral Reef Alliance

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • Biorock pilot project promises to breathe new life into coral reefs off Gouyave
  • Electrified reefs grow from 2 to 6 times faster than untreated reefs, and survive high temperatures better
  • Initiative in Gouyave driven by GRENCODA

The Gouyave Biorock Pilot Project promises to breathe new life into coral reefs off the fishing capital. The technology pioneered by German-born architect Wolf Hilbertz (d 2007) is now being implemented by Thomas Goreau, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA).

The initiative in Gouyave is being driven by the Grenada Community Development Agency (GRENCODA) through the 5Cs Project in collaboration with the Gouyave Fishermen Cooperative Society with assistance from the Fisheries Division.

The system allows for the restoration of coral reefs damaged by the rise in sea surface temperature due to climate change and by the excessive build-up of waste in the ocean from improper waste disposal.

Thomas Goreau – President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA)

According to Goreau, Biorock uses low voltage electricity passed through a conducive steel frame anchored to the seabed. The electrolytic reaction causes mineral crystals such as calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide found in seawater to grow on the structure which provides a perfect breeding ground for new coral formation. Corals can also be mounted upon the structure.

At a 1-day workshop at the Gouyave Fish Market, Goreau enlightened stakeholders and officials from the Fisheries Division on the success rate of this project in other countries. He referred to one of his most recent successes on Gili Trawangan, the largest of an archipelago of 3 small islands (Gili island triplets) just off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia. 130 Biorock structures submerged in the ocean are described as the most advance BioRock centre in the world.

BIOROCK installation and coral replanting in Vanuatu in South Pacific Ocean. Photo: Global Coral Reef Alliance

Goreau said funding to sustain projects of this magnitude is sometimes quite difficult. “Two years ago, we came to Grenada and looked at a number of sites around Grenada, specifically here in Gouyave, Moliniere, Grand Anse and Carriacou. We looked at places where we can try to set up potential projects, but a lot depended upon the fishing communities being organised and serious about their future, and that why we are beginning here in Gouyave. So, 2 years ago we looked at these sites and it was very difficult to find the funding. It took several years, and I can say that 99% of people approaching us to learn this new method give up because they can’t find funding.”

Goreau reminded stakeholders that they must take ownership of this project in order to ensure its success. “Electrified reefs grow from 2 to 6 times faster than untreated reefs, and survive high temperatures better, therefore, this makes it the best method. Because of ignorance and greed worldwide, we are just used to destroying the environment, so our technology is about mass ecosystem restoration, to grow back what we have lost, but like every technology, we have to maintain things so it’s up to the people to take care and maintain the concept of coral reef restoration.”

Programme Manager of GRENCODA, Benny Langaigne said this project will have tremendous benefits for the community as it is being held by primary benefactors, the fishermen themselves. “It is extremely important that an entity like the Gouyave Fishermen Cooperative Society which largely represents the primary stakeholder is involved in a project of this magnitude and not only involved but is at the helm of the project. GRENCODA see the installation of the artificial Biorock as bringing necessary technology to this rural town thus allowing the protection of our besieged coral reefs.”

Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Climate Resilience, Forestry, Fisheries, Disaster management, and Information, Merina Jessamy says the ministry welcomes the involvement of volunteers to assist in the project as it speaks to the level of commitment to the restoration of Gouyave coral reef. “I am so happy to see the people selected to become the volunteers for this coral restoration are young people because there must be a generation that is cognisant of the importance of coral reef protection, because during my generation coral reef restoration and marine biology was not a popular subject but if we think about the long-term sustainable development of Grenada where do you think we should go? Grenada’s potential in the marine sector is 75 times larger than what we have on land so if we are thinking of long-term sustainable development we must give the marine sector an opportunity to develop.”

Fabrication of BIOROCK steel structure at the Gouyave Fish Market

Seven local participants have volunteered to assist in the fabrication of the Biorock steel structure at the Gouyave Fish Market and will help deploy the structure out to sea once its completed.

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