Thousands of New Homes for Fish in Buleleng

Six villages in Bali’s north coast are building thousands of artificial structures to grow new coral reefs. Each new reef is a home for fish and other marine animals to find food and raise their young.

Les Village, Tejakula includes two sites for the Indonesia Coral Reef Garden (ICRG) program, which is part of the government’s new social economic recovery (PEN) in the marine sector.

Residents start their day’s work by lining up at the front desk of the LINI Aquaculture Training Center (LATC) LINI staff check the temperature of residents that will work as reef structure builders, giving masks if needed, and checking the attendance list.

The list needs to be signed twice, in the morning and afternoon after lunch.

Residents working on the structures then go to their designated area. Nyoman Surana works in the fishdome production area. A semicircular structure with holes in its surface Each fishdome can be used by little fish as a shelter from predators. The holes are small enough to ensure predators are blocked from entering.

“The construction of this structure is very useful, it’s a fish house, but in the past, the holes were bigger,” Surana said, observing the latest fishdome made by his team. Larger holes, he remembers, allowed scooping nets to enter domes and catch ornamental fish.

Risana has been an ornamental fish catcher since he was a teenager and remembers when fishermen used a bomb or potassium to stun fish to catch them . He recalls using ‘potash’ for about 10 years until he was 25 years old.

After intervention by NGOs and environmental activists in the 1990s, fishermen abandoned destructive fishing practices, switching to using nets and freediving.

Around the time, fishermen also realized the potential of making coral transplant structures like fishdomes. Surana is able to compare as he stopped working as an ornamental fisherman in 2011, turning to construction work and is now involved again in making coral structures.

“Most of those who join are fishermen because they are the ones who take care of them,” he replied about residents involved in ICRG.

Each structure is built by two people, and Surana is supervises the fishdome unit. His daily target is 4 structures, using an iron net that is provided for him to simply patch with cement.

One of the young workers on the site is Made Juli, who has participated in the construction of 25 rotibuaya structures. “It’s not often I participate in making a fish house,” he says.

The construction of structures in Les Village Site 1 is under the coordination of Made Partiana, The leader of Mina Bahari Fishermen Group. He carefully monitors each assignment, counting the result, and coordinating workers. LATC’s whole yard is filled with structures.

As well as the fishdome and rotibuaya structures,, residents have decided to add clownfish-shaped statues, called ‘Nemo’ because of the movie. This fish is one of many that has been successfully cultivated in LATC.

Yunaldi Yahya, the ICRG Program Coordinator in Buleleng, from the LINI Foundation, said residents were enthusiastic to join the program because of the impact of the pandemic, such as the lack of demand for ornamental fish. LINI was also affected by the absence of visiting students, especially from abroad, which provide operational income from accommodation at the LATC. Through Air BnB Experiences, the LATC would typically attract guests for education and conservation programs, as well as eco field trips.

Each structure will be plunged to a depth of at least 10 meters. “If it’s less than that it could be destroyed by the current,” said Yunaldi. The materials have enabled residents to build structures in various shapes, such as earth pegs, fishdome, rotibuaya, and fish statues.

He welcomed every village to be creative whilst following the requirements for each structure to be a maximum height of 1.5 meters and 1 meter wide.