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 Post subject: Bali Tourism Struggling As Reef Declines
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 8:48 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2006 8:31 pm
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Location: Bali
By Olivia Rondonuwu

Source: CourierMail.com.au

06/05/07

As it struggles to recover from the effects of two terrorist bombings, Bali's tourism industry is facing a new threat - global warming.

Experts say climate change is hitting Bali's coral reefs hard, turning once vibrant diving locations into bleached shadows of their former glory.

The situation has been compounded by the widespread, but illegal, use of cyanide and bombs by local fishermen.

In the West Bali National Park, the once common sight of brightly-coloured clown fish swimming among healthy pink anemones is becoming rare. And larger fish are increasingly uncommon.

On Menjangan Island, a popular dive spot within the park, once-vibrant cliffs of underwater colour now look washed out and brittle, with rising sea temperatures aiding the bleaching process.

"Climate change is a major threat to the Bali's coral reef ecosystem," says Ketut Sudiarta, a lecturer at Bali's Warmadewa University.

"The prediction of more frequent El Nino phenomena and increasing sea surface temperatures due to climate change is worrying."

Foreign tourist numbers to the park have fallen dramatically, but no-one can say whether terrorism or the changing seascape is to blame. Just 3206 foreign tourists went there last year, compared to 20,168 in 2000 - before the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.

Indonesia, along with Malaysia and the Philippines, has the most diverse marine life in the world, while Australia's Great Barrier Reef sits on the second ring.

But coral bleaching has intensified over the past 20 years - a severe El Nino event in 1998 was blamed for the most extensive bleaching to coral reefs in Bali, as sea surface temperatures climbed.

El Nino is a powerful phenomenon in which ocean surface temperatures fluctuate and warmer currents replace cooler ones, and experts warn global warming will generate more frequent El Nino events in the future.

"The bleaching doesn't mean the coral is dead, but it makes the corals become transparent," says Reef Check Indonesia's Naneng Setiasih.

"If it stays like that for along time, it will die.

"If it isn't exposed to the (warmer) temperature for a long time, and the stress is not too big, it can return back to normal."

Greenpeace activists in Bali's busy Kuta tourist precinct this week staged a protest, urging greater action to tackle the problem of climate change.

"Ultimately, the survival of the reefs in Bali and other tropical regions depends on halting the catastrophic phenomenon of climate change," Greenpeace South East Asia climate and energy campaigner Nur Hidayati said.

"And the only way to do that is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, especially burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil that are responsible for the bulk of emissions."

Reef Check said other illegal practices were compounding problems in the West Bali National Park.

Despite a government ban, fisherman are continuing to use potassium cyanide to catch fish. They spray the highly toxic compound into holes in the coral to flush out fish, which are then scooped up.

Reef Check is also alarmed about the ongoing use of bombs by fishermen, with the devices used killing everything within a four metre radius.

"Sedimentation, bombing, cyanide, coastal development unfriendly to the environment must be stopped, if not the corals will not have a chance to survive," Reef Check's Setiasih said.

In some parts of the park's marine protected zone, such as Banyu Wedang, dead coral is scattered like rubble on the sea floor.

Sudiarta says the amount of coral has fallen significantly since 1997, when it covered 43.5 per cent of the marine area off Menjangan Island.

After 2001, it was about 30.1 per cent, but has recovered slightly to be about 35 per cent currently.

Despite the problems, Sudiarta said awareness is low. Unless that changes, the marine ecosystem in West Bali is firmly on the endangered list.

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