A recent image posted by Lagoon Diving showing off Acropora growth in Okinawa had us curious to learn more about this iconic reef restoration project. The Onna coral field project started more than twenty years ago when, following a bleaching event, the Onna Village Fisheries Cooperative sprang into action to become coral farmers.
Coral reefs are central to life in Onna, a fishing village in Okinawa. In 2018 Onna Village issued the “Declaration of Coral Village” with the slogan of “The world’s coral friendliest community.” “These coral reefs have been protected by our ancestors over generations,” says village mayor Yoshimi Nagahama. “We have benefitted from these coral reefs and our ocean.”
The Onna Village coral field project is set in a tidy grid of corals all neatly mounted on metal supports. The view is unmistakable with thousands of plating coral growing together into impressive fields.
This simple, uniform technique lends itself nicely to the many plating varieties of Acropora in Okinawa, and we imagine the organization also makes it streamline and efficient for maintenance, research, and exploration.
The Onna project has been successful in attracting responsible ecotourism to the region, and scuba divers can also get involved with coral planting. The restoration project extends beyond the nursery into active outplanting sites, with ongoing coral recovery projects having replanted 30,000 corals to the natural reefs.
Videos on the Lagoon Facebook page give us a look at the onshore Onna coral farm and shows how divers attach coral fragments to rectangular frag plugs. A second video shows how divers are using an underwater drill to transplant fragments back to the reef.
Since it’s creation the Onna coral reef project has evolved from Okinawan fishermen to a collaborative effort. Coral scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) have new hopes of restoring coral reef with the success of this project.
“It’s a great example of a partnership between stakeholders on the reef,” said Dr. Zayasu, of the collaboration that brought together fishermen, academics and local government and communities.
For more information, we also found this great website created by the Okinawa visitors bureau. The site Okinawa Coral Reef includes interviews with scientists and representatives of the fishing community in Onna.