The Coral Gardener's Innovative Idea for Restoring Reefs in Fiji (Video)

coral in fiji photo
Fiji soft coral.

Migrated Image / Barry Peters / Flickr / All rights reserved

The first-ever San Francisco Green Film Festival launched this past weekend and while the crowd was as small as one might expect for a brand new niche film event, the quality of the films presented were of the highest caliber. Among the first I got to watch was The Coral Gardener, a 10-minute film about a truly amazing man named Austin Bowden-Kerby. Dr. Bowden-Kerby is a marine biologist living in Fiji, who has come up with an incredibly simple but effective way to restore corals in reefs -- start gardening them. He's taught his method to coastal communities and has already seen success in improving the health of local reefs. Check out the video after the jump.

The idea is simple -- the best way to save reefs is carefully manage human impact and interaction with reefs, and let local people who know the reefs best take ownership of the cultivation of the flora and fauna, "planting" missing key species of coral, fish or shellfish to ensure the reef's survival as an ecosystem.

As One Country reports, "To some environmentalists, such interventionist tactics are an extension of the human meddling that has sent major portions of coral reefs worldwide into decline. But Dr. Bowden-Kerby firmly believes that in many cases the reefs are so far gone that only activist approaches can save them."

"If you dynamite a coral reef, it cannot repair itself," explained Dr. Bowden-Kerby, taking the most extreme case of reef damage. "The coral larvae can't settle on the rubble. But my research has found that if you mimic a hurricane by scattering broken branches of live corals onto the rubble, the corals often attach to the rubble and begin reestablishing themselves. So what we have to do is learn to work with nature to help it recover."

As the short documentary describes, this gardening of corals is already proving itself as a system. It has won several important grants and awards, and the method has been accepted and successfully practiced by eight villages in the Cuvu and Tuva districts of Fiji.

The film is wonderful and will also be showing at the Ocean Film Festival that starts its eighth year this week in San Francisco.