Interview with Emilia d’Avack, an expert in marine ecosystems at PUR Projet

PUR Projet & Eau Thermale Avène: reconstructing the coral reef

Interview with Emilia d’Avack, an expert in marine ecosystems at PUR Projet

Several times a year, Emilia d’Avack, expert in marine ecosystems at PUR Projet, heads to Pejarakan, a village in northwestern Bali, to coordinate the PUR Corail programme, launched in 2016, to monitor the evolution of the growth of the regenerating coral reef. Feedback from a woman in the field.

You have been part of the Pur Corail project since the beginning, what is your role?

I started by looking for a suitable location. There had to be a coral reef to preserve and a local community ready to get involved. I then proceeded with an inventory of the damage. Then, we had to choose the most suitable reconstruction methods and train teams on the spot. Today, two people and a manager ensure full-time maintenance and work to rebuild and expand the reef. I come back twice a year to check that everything is running smoothly.

Since 2019, we have been installing nearly 17 underwater structures and transplanting 2040 corals of 20 different species each year.

Emilia d’Avack
Emilia d’AvackAn expert in marine ecosystems at PUR Projet

How is it possible to regenerate coral and rebuild a coral reef?

We selected a state-of-the-art technique, known as Biorock. It requires a 3D electrified metal structure that is immersed. When it comes into contact with water, the weak electrical current causes a chemical reaction and creates a material, similar to the skeleton of the coral, that attaches to the metal. It is then up to us to come and graft fragments of coral that are still alive. It’s very effective, but expensive. So, we are experimenting with two other methods: another metal structure that we cover ourselves with a mixture of sand and glue and a cage filled with stones that serves as a support for the grafts.

And the coral reef comes back to life?

Thanks to the support of the Eau Thermale Avène brand, since 2019, we have been installing nearly 17 underwater structures and transplanting 2040 corals of 20 different species each year. Between 2016 and 2021, we will have transplanted more than 10,000 corals thanks to Avène. The survival rate is good. The reef is starting to regain an architectural complexity, a refuge function. It’s seeing the return of nudibranchs, scorpionfish, blue-spotted stingrays, anglerfish, octopus, cuttlefish... Diving is once again a pleasure. 

What are your next objectives?

Our goal is for the reef to regain all the functions of a healthy natural living reef and to ensure all of its ecosystem functions and services in terms of biodiversity, food, coastal protection, etc. Fishing with dynamite or cyanide is now prohibited but fishing for predatory fish is still too common in the area. It directly promotes the spread of seaweed in competition with coral. It’s a very active pressure still. We must continue to work with communities on issues and to address pollution issues.

How is this project to protect the coral reef sustainable?

Each phase of the programme is designed with all stakeholders: inhabitants, local authorities and fishing and tourism associations. We have a support role, find funding, share expertise, infrastructure, pass on expertise, but above all, we pass on all the tools to the local community so that they can continue to preserve natural capital and restore the coral reef alone. We have trained teams exclusively made up of villagers. Today, we are looking into organising guided tours of the reef, offering baby coral adoption certificates and other income-generating activities.

Our goal is for the reef to regain all the functions of a healthy natural living reef.