Monday, May 12, 2014

Under the Sea

As we drifted over the reef towards our next idyllic location, ooing and ahhing at the colourful fish and azure waters, the coral gave way to sand and I suddenly realised we were drifting over what appeared to be grids of fences and paddocks, set amongst the shallow waters of the bay. With fencing just visible in the far distance jutting out above the full tide, it was obvious something was being grown and harvested in a big way beneath the glittering turquoise waters. As it turns out, with 85% of the land here (Nusa Lembongan) being incredibly hard to farm, the main source of income for the island is seaweed cultivation. (although I'd hazard a guess tourism might be winning that race these days). Traditionally, most families own 3-5 acres of seaweed beds which can produce 150-200kg of dried seaweed each harvest. Predominately being the species Eucheuma cottonii, the young algae sprouts are tied onto lines of rope (or the fencing) and left to grow until harvest which is generally only a one month growing period/cycle. The harvested seaweed is then left to sundry for around three days, packed off to the mainland and then exported to various places for use in the cosmetics industry.
A double edged sword, there have been concerns raised that seaweed farming has a negative impact on its surrounds, with areas of mangrove forests sometimes being cleared to make way for more farming areas. However, mangroves help purify the waters to make the seaweed healthier and more robust and in turn, the seaweed provides diversity and habitat to the nearby reef which I'm sure these algaculturalists would be well aware of after many years spent in the ocean tending to their crops. To my touristy naked eye, I'd suggest there are definitely more pressing environmental issues to be dealt with- disposal of non perishables as the number one. 
anyway, thats another thought for another day. More from island life soon....

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