Phillippine reefs restored in fundraiser

Finn Ronne/Special to the Mirror

n Life's a beach: The beautiful island of Boracay is in need of some help to rebuild its underwater reefs.

By Grant Warkentin
Mirror Staff

Oct 21 2005

Pssst- hey buddy, wanna buy a reef?
No, really. A reef off the coast of a tiny island in the Philippines called Boracay. Well, actually there's not much of a reef there anymore. Fishermen have destroyed most of it with dynamite and arsenic trying to get at the fish using it as cover. You see, the island is a beautiful, tropical vacation paradise, but the destruction of the reefs has really put a dent in the tiny island's fishing economy. Fishing with dynamite and arsenic was outlawed years ago, but too late - the damage has been done. No more reefs means no more fish.
Locals now rely mostly on tourism to feed their families. The island intentionally has no dock to receive the boatloads of tourists coming to visit because if there was a dock, it would eliminate some of the island's most lucrative jobs. Locals make good money from the tips they get after helping tourists carry their baggage through the waist-deep water to the shore.
But that's not the end of the story. The islanders also have a plan to restore their environment and boost their economy at the same time. The Boracay Rotary Club has a project underway to rebuild the reef using "reef balls," hollow domes with holes in them made out of a special marine-friendly concrete. They are made in many sizes to best match the natural reef type in the area where they are laid on the ocean floor. Like natural coral reefs, they are great places for fish to hide and also provide a place for stationary sea life to grow.
If the club is able to put down enough of the balls, they will help give the island's underwater ecosystem a kick-start, encouraging fish populations to grow and helping local fishermen.
By attracting more sea life back to the area, they will also make it a more desirable place to go scuba-diving.
There's one problem - a Rotary Club on a tiny island such as Boracay obviously doesn't have a lot of money to spend. They just don't have enough members.
That's where the international Rotary community can help.
Finn Ronne, member of the Campbell River Rotary, was vacationing on Boracay when he learned of the local club's plans to rebuild the island's underwater reefs. Intrigued, he has decided to try and enlist aid from the Campbell River Rotary and the community as a whole with a fundraiser.
"I want to be able to take my kid back there in five to 10 years, show them the reef and say, 'this is what the Campbell River Rotary club did,' " he said.
The Boracay Rotary Club wants to put down 250 reef balls around the island. Ronne said individuals, families, or businesses could "purchase" one or more balls for $50 each, have their names publicly recognized by the Boracay Rotary and literally own a piece of the new reef around Boracay.
Ronne is hoping people will be as intrigued by the idea of rebuilding the reef as he is. He is returning to Boracay on Nov. 25 and is hoping to have as many reef balls paid for as possible.
Anyone interested in owning a piece of the reef can contact Ronne at 203-1278 or 923-4244.

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