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GoPro for a Cause Spotlight: Restoring Coral Reefs with Sustainable Surf + SeaTrees


In recognition of Earth Month, were catching up with Sustainable Surf-a nonprofit that harnesses the power and appeal of surf culture to protect ocean health and reverse climate change. They combine the power of the surf community with science to support global environmental programs like SeaTrees and the ECOBOARD Project.

In 2021, we highlighted SeaTrees' kelp forest restoration project, which you can learn about here. Today, were sharing updates on the SeaTrees program. SeaTrees directly supports communities and scientists who protect and regenerate blue carbon coastal ecosystems by planting mangrove trees, restoring kelp forests, coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and conserving coastal watersheds.

SeaTrees leads projects in the United States, Mexico, Indonesia, Kenya, Australia, Cambodia, Colombia, Portugal and Guinea-Bissau-and their goal is to support 100 blue carbon projects by 2030.

In Bali, Indonesia, SeaTrees plants coral and restores the coral reef system around Nusa Penida Island-working alongside their project partner, Ocean Gardner, and local divers and community members.

Haley Haggerstone, Sustainable Surfs Partnerships Manager, takes us behind the scenes in Indonesia.

GoPro: Tell us about your work in Bali.

Haley: Were restoring the degraded coral reefs on Nusa Penida Island in Bali, Indonesia. The conservation of these ecosystems is essential to coastal protection, scientific research, fishing, eco-tourism and more. Restoring these reefs will provide habitat for more than 500 species of fish, many of which are currently considered vulnerable to extinction.

This work is vital because coral reefs are threatened globally, and weve already lost about half of the worlds coral reefs over the last 30 years. More than 60% of the remaining reefs are threatened by human activity, with Indonesia being one of the largest areas of vulnerability.

Known as the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs are the largest living structures on earth and support 25% of marine life.

How are you using GoPro cameras in this work?

Before using GoPro cameras in our coral reef restoration projects, we could not accurately monitor the progress of the restoration work and the long-term survival of the coral. Traditional photogrammetry requires neutrally-buoyant DSLR camera rigs, which are too expensive and technically challenging for the local restoration partners to operate and maintain.

Working with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, we developed a new technique to create 3D models of the coral reef. Using GoPro cameras mounted on an inexpensive, lightweight rig, its easy for our divers to swim along the reef and capture images of the restoration sites. Scientists at Scripps process these images to create a 3D model using 10 billion data points and use this model to remotely evaluate and monitor the success of the reef restoration project.

Using GoPro cameras in this way has the potential to revolutionize coral reef restoration science by unlocking coral reef mapping at scale around the world.

How do you restore coral reefs?

We grow coral fragments in the shallow waters of the Ped Acropora Coral Nursery. These fragments grow and bond to biodegradable ropes until they are large enough to be transplanted to the restoration sites. This innovative technique, adapted from a traditional Balinese method used to grow seaweed, ensures that the coral fragments will grow to be appropriately spaced and the ecosystem will thrive in the years to come.

When we cultivate the coral, a snorkeling team of Balinese men and women from the local fishing community transplants the newly grown fragments onto the reef, carefully dropping them at the restoration site on the ocean floor and securing them in place.

Next, divers prepare the restoration site by hammering stakes into the ground to secure the rope lines in place on the reef without the fragments touching the ocean floor until they grow large enough to withstand the harsh rubble environment below.

Planting these fragments amongst healthy reefs allows the ecosystem to thrive and helps marine life return to the area.

How is the local community involved in the project?

Ocean Gardener, our project partner, employs the local Balinese fishing community to restore the reef and monitor its regeneration until it can survive on its own. This work creates 26 jobs for local villagers and improves the livelihood of 100 people.

After divers and snorkelers plant the coral, the local community monitors the restoration and documents the reefs progress with GoPro cameras.

Is the program working?

Yes, the program is thriving. In 2021, we planted 6,000 fragments of coral, and in May 2022, we expanded the project to a new restoration site in Crystal Bay and are planting another 6,000 coral fragments.

How can the GoPro community help?

You can get involved with SeaTrees by going to our website and donating to plant a sea tree of your choice and taking direct action to plant a mangrove tree, a coral fragment, or restore kelp forests and coastal watersheds.

You can donate:

$25 to grow one piece of coral in Indonesia

$20 to restore 10 square feet of watershed in Hawaii

$10 to plant 10 mangrove trees in Kenya

$10 to plant 5 mangrove trees in Mexico

Follow SeaTrees on Sustainable Surfs social media channels: Instagram, facebook and Twitter.

GoPro for a Cause-our nonprofit partnership and donation program-supports eligible nonprofits to varying degrees with in-kind or cash donations and employee volunteer time. You can learn more about getting involved with GoPro for a Cause here.
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