Bondalem, Bali (Sept. 8, 2014) — Nyoman Sugiarta, a fisherman from Bali, has been selected by the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) as the inaugural 2014 CORAL Conservation Prize winner.
Sugiarta will receive $20,000 for his leadership and dedication protecting coral reefs, and will travel to the United States later this month to collect his prize.
“The CORAL Conservation Prize celebrates some of the most remarkable coral reef conservation leaders and provides them with necessary resources to continue their important work,” says CORAL’s Executive Director Michael Webster. “We’re excited to have Nyoman as the inaugural winner, and hope his successful conservation program can offer guidance and inspiration to other leaders around the world.”
Sugiarta was chosen for his work protecting and monitoring coral reefs off the coast of Bondalem, Bali. With the support of Reef Check Indonesia, Sugiarta and his team have built a strong network of support for reef protection and have created a marine protected area (MPA).
“At first, I didn’t know much about coral reefs and didn’t know why Reef Check Indonesia was coming to my village. They kept trying to tell us corals were important for the fish and for providing protection against waves,” says Sugiarta. “But now I understand what corals are, and how important they are.”
Sugiarta volunteers his time monitoring reefs with Reef Check Indonesia, and is the leader of the MPA’s citizen enforcement team. He and his team have set up a successful monitoring program for their MPA, and patrol the beach regularly. They also conduct regular underwater cleanups.
Sugiarta is dedicated to supporting fishermen, and encourages more sustainable fishing practices. “The reef looks much better now than it did before we created the MPA because we stopped fisherman from neighboring villages from using cyanide poison on the reef,” says Sugiarta. “We also stopped fishermen from using bottom nets, which, as far as I know, damage the reef and the environment permanently.”
The area currently has two fish aggravating devices (FADs), designed to decrease the local fishing pressure on reef fish. The FADs, built by Sugiarta and his team, attract pelagic fish; research has found them to be very successful in providing more fishing opportunities for fishermen, while simultaneously taking pressure off near-shore reef fish populations.
Sugiarta has big plans to put his prize money back into his program. “I want to buy mooring buoys to mark the MPA boundaries, and I want to buy a patrol boat complete with an outboard machine. I also want to develop a program for elementary schools to be able to come to the area and learn about conservation.” Additionally, he hopes to use part of his new funds to build four more FADs and continue supporting the Bondalem fishing community.
CORAL will present Sugiarta with his award on September 20, 2014 at the CORAL 20th Anniversary Gala at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. It will be Sugiarta’s first trip to the United States, and he couldn’t be more excited. “I can’t sleep at night because I know I’m coming to the big country,” says Sugiarta. “I still feel like I’m dreaming.”
To learn more about Sugiarta and the CORAL 20th Anniversary Gala, visit www.coral.org/20thgala.
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) unites communities to save coral reefs. Working with people around the world—from fishermen to government leaders, divers to scientists, Californians to Fijians—CORAL protects one of the most valuable and threatened ecosystems.
Their international team leads holistic conservation programs that improve coral reef health and resilience and are replicated across the globe. For more information about CORAL or to make a donation to protect coral reefs, visit www.coral.org.