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Sustainability

Dr. Mac with Villagers from Marau

In 2006, Dr. Mac traveled to the Solomon Islands to revitalize coral farming in Marau Sound. From our facility on the Eastern Shore of Maryland it is a long and grueling journey to the Solomons, lasting over 48 hours. A coast to coast US flight to Los Angeles followed by a flight to Fiji and an overnight stay there, followed by an unannounced stopover in Vanuatu, and then the last leg of the trip to Honiara, the capital city of Guadalcanal, the largest island of the Solomon chain. While in Fiji Dr. Mac had the opportunity to visit Walt Smith and Tony Nehackey and tour their facilities.
Upon returning to the airport to board the flight to the Solomons it was announced that there was rioting in the streets of Honiara and although the flight would take place we were advised that we travel at our own risk. Having come this far he thought why not see what's up?!
Flying over Honiara while positioning to land at the airport it could clearly be seen that the flames of turmoil were once again raising their ugly head on the beleaguered people of the Solomons! The next morning the devastation could be clearly seen as many building were burned out and the already 60+% unemployment rate was destined to climb immediately higher. It was quickly determined that the best course of action was to get to our farming sites well away from the capital that was now patrolled by foreign military forces. Luckily that was the end of the immediate danger, but in the long term the instability of the government lead to the ultimate inability to export corals or any livestock from this chain of beautiful yet primitive islands.
During his trip, working with the native fisherman, Dr. Mac observed, photographed, and collected corals for our propagation efforts. The spectacular formations of corals on the reefs of the Solomon Islands were an amazing sight with all the colors and varieties of shapes growing together. You can see Acropora colonies growing within clusters of leather corals and assortments of many different types of corals growing in clusters together. Huge colonies of the original Purple Monster Acropora and Superman Montipora are a common site on many reefs. Gigantic Gigas clams are residents here as well as large swirling colonies of Turbinaria and many other exotic corals and huge numbers of colorful reef fishes that the average hobbyist sees only in photos. Zoanthids including the original blue Zoanthid are found in the Solomons and grow extensively in very shallow water near the shore were raw sewage empties into the ocean. Zoanthids like dirty water!
The Solomon Islands are the stereotype of primitive South Pacific islands surrounded by unimaginably lush reefs and a multitude of colorful corals. Relatively few of these fish and corals have every made their way to home aquariums due to the remoteness of these islands. This seemed like a good location to farm corals sustainably and bring the beautiful corals to so many hobbyists around the world.
The process Dr. Mac used to identify corals and propagate them was detailed, worked with the village chief, that controls the local reef, to find suitable parent colonies. Once the perfect colonies were identified the ladies of Marau took over. They removed a few frags from the parent colony and attached them to cement discs using fishing line, no glue or epoxy. These discs were then attached using the same fishing line to wire racks. The racks full of new frags were then placed back in the lagoon alongside the parent colony so that both were in the same environment with the same lighting, etc., including natural predators of any potential pests so that the frags would be clean and grow quickly. Within a few months the frags are encrusted on the discs and the parent colony has regrown and is ready to be fragged again with zero impact on the natural reefs. Our coral mariculture program in the Solomons was totally sustainable and the resulting propagated corals are hardy and colorful. The Marau area is remote and isolated with no roads or electricity and our coral farming efforts provide the only source of income to the native Solomon Islanders and adds an increased respect for the local reefs that now become an even more important resource for the local farmers. The saying that all good things eventually come to an end is very true with our story here. Eventually the instability of the government and the lack of tourism to the Solomons lead to great irregularity of freight space and the eventual closing of the one export company in the Solomons. While the corals and fish of the Solomon Islands remain and prosper, they will for now not be seen by reef aquarium hobbyists except in photos.

Where is Marau?

Marau Sound is located on the eastern side of the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in the western tropical Pacific Ocean. To get to the Solomon Islands you take a 5 hour flight from Fiji, with a stopover in Vanuatu, and then fly to the capital city of Honiara. Since there are no highways connecting Honiara to Marau Sound the only way to get to this remote area is to take a small motor boat from the Honiara which takes approximately 3 hours to get around the side of the island. This part of the island has no electricity or modern conveniences as we know them in the western world, but the villagers are very hospitable and welcoming. It is a communal society with stereotypical grass huts and palm trees. Villagers use dugout canoes to travel between small islands that formed around the Sound. Malaria and Yellow Fever are endemic and the primitive lifestyle means many locals endure periodic episodic fevers as part of normal life. Many barrier islands encircle the Sound, between each tiny island the ocean currents are strong and allow for a huge and healthy population of Acropora corals to form in the lagoon of the Sound. Coral farming is one of the few sources of revenue for the village and a resource they highly value thereby reinforcing the need to protect and care for their natural resources.

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