Conservation and Environment in Cambodia: Monthly Updates
Conservation in Cambodia - Monthly update - September - October 2015
The last two months have been both quiet and very productive. During September, we have developed a new programme for the Green Protectors about marine organisms and ecosystems. This improved version of our previous programme is more visual with better structured subjects for easy learning, which starts with basic concepts and gradually turns into more complicated knowledge.
By the end of September we presented our first community workshop about Marine Pollution, with a high level of participation from the different local groups: local authorities, police, fishermen, school directives and the private sector. It was very interesting to hear their concerns about marine pollution and their ideas to minimise the negative effects of pollution on the marine environment and on people’s lives. This gathering served us to start working in a more ambitious project: a waste management plan, to give solution to this big issue that the Koh Sdach village is facing right now.
In October the arrival of 5 new volunteers for the majority of the month rejuvenated our ability to do larger scale activities and saw the completion of many clean-up activities and the beginning of a major project to create an area on the island free of trash, where the villagers can enjoy themselves and the stunning views of the neighbouring islands. By the beginning of October we were honoured by the visit of an expert in seahorses, Ms. Tse Lynn Loh from Shedd Aquarium who presented us with insightful information about these magnificent creatures.
During September and October we worked to establish a cooperation agreement with the local Community Fishery (CFi) Beauty of Koh Sdach, in order to join efforts towards marine conservation in Koh Sdach on a long term. This local group represents an important sector of the community, given that the majority of the population is formed by fishermen, and our education and support to them is crucial to develop a more sustainable future for Koh Sdach. Together we will continue to deliver educational workshops to the community and create action plans to protect species and ecosystems in the future.
Coral reef programme
A dissection of a ~70cm dead Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) found floating around the base was performed. Volunteers were invited to watch and participate. We found that the animal had died with plastic (plastic bags remnants) in its throat and stomach, likely the cause of its demise. Photographs were taken and may be used for future marine pollution workshops within the community.
In September we have started to compile a species database of the Koh Sdach Archipelago reefs, focusing mainly on fish species. We are supplementing it with Identification photographs taken by both staff and volunteers.
Marine pollution programme
The primary focus for September was the marine pollution workshop which we hosted in partnership with the local Community Fishery Beauty of Koh Sdach. The event was designed to achieve three main outcomes. Firstly, to highlight to attendees the abundant reasons why marine pollution is not just unsightly, but by explaining the mechanisms and scale upon which it is killing marine life, how it is threatening human livelihoods and health as well. The second section was designed to create interaction and enabled focus groups to work through the potential issues surrounding marine pollution in Koh Sdach and rank them in order of importance. The third section allowed us to present some potential solutions to these problems, both on Koh Sdach and globally, and some brainstorming to raise new solutions or advance those suggested.
To finalise we handed out a pack containing a cotton bag and a bamboo straw, as alternatives to minimise the use of plastic, and a poster to encourage the villagers to take action in solving the problems of marine pollution. September also contained the major international event known as International Clean up Day, which celebrated its 30th year. We used this day to schedule a Coastal Clean Up at Australia Beach, here on Koh Sdach, from which much litter and recyclables were retrieved.
In October we began a long-term project to create a management plan to protect an area of the island from accumulating litter, and enhance its amenity to local people, protect wildlife there and create a tourist draw-card to help that industry upon the Island. A small area, seemingly diverse in species of flora and fauna, but heavily polluted by marine debris washed up by storms, was chosen. The creation of a draft management plan was started and surveys began of the underwater and terrestrial fauna, along with analysis of the make-up of the pollution there and sampling of litter density in different areas. It is hoped that this plan will enable us to work with local land users there to tackle the problem of pollution long-term and put in place systems to monitor and retrieve it as it accumulates after storms. It is also hoped that the project will be a pilot program that can perhaps be replicated in other areas of the island.
Dives against debris
Fifteen Dives Against Debris were conducted in the two months of the reporting period. This totalled 3272 minutes of debris collecting, or over 50 hours in terms of one person working. This returned 161Kg of trash, once again with the majority being fishing nets and rope. The majority of this was from Koh Sdach, with one of two dives there removing a very large net that weighed at least 60 of the 99.5Kg collected there. The most number of dives and effort were applied to Koh Chan. Entangled creatures larger than 2cm totalled 6 large red True Crabs and 2 Sea Cucumbers. Many smaller crabs and invertebrates were found amongst the nets, but would more accurately be described as inhabiting the net, rather than entangled by it.
A small area of the island was chosen to complete a management plan to both decrease the amount of litter in the area and also to increase the amenity of the place. The plan will detail factors at the site such as current and former land uses, areas at high risk of pollution, species lists for flora and fauna at the site, possible projects to increase the recreational potential of the area and a table of Issues, Objectives and Solutions. The current volunteers are actively working in this plan, which will be followed up by future volunteers to come.
So far the process of conducting underwater surveys of Fish, Invertebrates and Coral Substrate has begun, but further work will continue. As the plan progresses, future activities will include interviews with local peoples and users of the land, mapping of the site using GPS and other methods and surveys of the terrestrial fauna and flora in the area.
Surveys of litter were also begun in 5 sections of the area which were selected (Intertidal Rocks, Shoreline, Walking Track Zone, Grassland and Jungle Edge). These surveys were conducted using a survey process and data cards designed by the Ocean Conservancy, an anti-litter and debris data collecting NGO. Groups worked along a 50 m transect within the zones, collecting litter for 10 minutes along each run, or until 50 m was reached. Each item of trash collected was tallied in various groupings (such as Bottle Cap, Lighter, Fishing Line, Foam smaller than 2.5 cm in length etc). Once the surveys are all completed the information will be used to highlight areas with the greatest density of litter or areas of concern due to the make-up of the trash there, such as areas high in substances such as Styrofoam, which are easily transported by wind and waves and easily consumed by living creatures.
Community & Education Programme
Green Protectors Programme:
During September and October we have been preparing the new program for the Green Protectors about marine ecosystems (life in the sea, main threats to the marine life, protecting marine life), as well as the procedures for their registration. Our aim is to teach them about the ocean life and environment. We provide lectures to them once a week and the last session of the month we do practical activities that are related to the previous lessons.
In September we got the permits from the high school director and local authorities, and we prepared “welcome packs” for them to use during our classes. Each pack contained: a cotton bag, a notebook, a pen, a pencil and sharpener, a rubber, a highlighter, a bamboo straw, and a water container. We have 7 students registered so far, and we expect more to join later.
In the third week of October we finally started the classes for Green Protectors. They were really happy to be back to our classes as we could see in their smiley faces. Remy and Sea conducted the lectures about food webs in marine ecosystems and after the presentation our volunteers developed some activities for the kids related to the subjects just learned about what a food chain is, starting from the primary producers to the apex predators.
The students did it really well which proved that they had indeed learnt from the lessons. They seemed to enjoy the lessons and activities very much.