AMA #5 — Gili Eco Trust
For this week’s livestream, we’re thrilled to welcome dive instructor, eco-advisor, coral restorer/reef gardener, educator, dive resort manager, Biorock workshop organiser, and Managing Director of Gili Eco Trust, Delphine Robbe. Gili Eco Trust is one of our eight core supported organisations, and we’re extremely excited to dive into the details of their work protecting and preserving the Marine Protected Area.
NOTE: since Delphine‘s timezone is GMT+8, this week’s AMA is at the adjusted time of 10 am UTC on Thursday the 2nd of September. As usual, you can join the livestream on our Twitch channel.
Based on Gili Trawangan — one of the triplets making up the Gili Islands — Gili Eco Trust grew out of the local diving community to support eco-protection efforts of local fishermen on the archipelago. At the turn of the millennium, the reefs were frequently fished using dynamite and cyanide, destroying the coral and killing aquatic life. Local fishermen launched an initiative (SATGAS) to patrol the waters, establish legal fishing methods, and educate against destructive fishing practices.
A number of dive shops on Gili Trawangan introduced a reef donation system — each diver contributed $5, which was used to support the SATGAS — this combined structure of support for reef protection was formalised in 2002 as Gili Eco Trust.
Since then, the Trust has grown in size, focus, and scope, expanding beyond reef protection into marine conservation, waste management, sustainable eco-tourism, education, animal welfare, and other areas. Their core mission is to create a sustainable island. All the elements listed above combine into a macro-view of resources and methods available to the islands, a complete system of sustainability ensuring that the natural resources available — the reefs, fish populations, animals, tourism industry, and local community — are protected and managed sustainably, and that there’s positive education and action on issues such as waste management, recycling, animal care, and responsible tourism practices.
In 2004, Delphine Robbe imported Biorock technology to the Gili Islands. Biorock is a cement-like material formed when a small electric current is passed between underwater metal electrodes placed in seawater, forming artificial ‘electrified reefs’ for the benefit of corals and other sea life. The success of Biorock in the region is stark — after a series of destructive events (El Nino, overfishing, illegal anchoring, and storm damage) over 80% of the coral around the Gili Islands was deemed bleached. During this destructive period, natural reefs lost up to 40% of their coral cover, whilst the Biorock structures retained over 75%.
To date, over 100 Biorock structures have been installed around the Gili Islands to regenerate their reefs. Gili Eco Trust holds regular Biorock workshops, educating an international cohort on the benefits and practices of Biorock.
Beyond coral and marine protection, the organisation has followed its sustainability macro-plan into land-based actions, too. Waste management is a large part of this work — people in the Gili Islands are used to burning their waste, which is extremely polluting; the Trust educate and encourage recycling and upcycling of glass and plastic, composting, and reusing materials. Tetra briks are sent to Eco Bali, a partner of the Gili Eco Trust. Glass, cardboard, aluminium cans, and plastic are recycled in building materials.
Gili Eco Trust also drives positive change in animal welfare on the islands, promoting initiatives to treat the islands’ hard-working horse population better, to control and improve the livelihoods of stray and pet cats, and to preserve the archipelago’s famous populations of Green and Hawksbill turtles.
As always, there are prizes for the best questions, and the usual SEA Quiz at the end! More info on all that stuff: seatoken.org/ama