Mette Carlsen – Penida Project Manager

I am happy to share the first quarterly report of the year from the beautiful Nusa Penida. Firstly, I want to give a warm welcome to the talented Anne Van Boomen who has now been program coordinator for almost three months and is doing an amazing job! 

In the past three months we have congratulated 15 new divemasters and conservation divers on finishing their program with us. So, I would like to give an extra personal congratulations to; Sebastian Navarro, Peter Owen, Arantxa Pagonabarraga Altisen, Manon Gibbs, Miriam Villaneuva, Joyce Choi, Ellie Donaldson, Sudaryanto, Virginia Finigan Carter, Sara Carrasco Yepes, Felix Laroche, Joshua Brown, Alexandra Smith, Hilary Vick and Rennie Stienstra. It is always extremely rewarding to follow the progress and development of dedicated divers and passionate conservationists. 

Since last update, the interns have participated in various conservation initiatives including surveys, BRUV, benthic survey, dive against debris, CoralWatch as well as taking care of the mangrove nursery. Furthermore, the team conducted a mangrove planting event in December and participated in the local coral day at Nuansa Pulau, assisting with planting corals in one if the nurseries in the north part of the island. I want to give a personal thank you for all your efforts and contribution to out research, we truly couldn’t do it without you! 

In the past few months, outside of conducting divemaster teaching sessions, the interns have been attending IDC workshops with course directors Helene (at Purple dive) and Cody (at Blue corner). Furthermore, the interns have participated in freediving workshops at blue corner and Freedive nusa to give them insight in the world of not breathing under water. As the interns get familiar with the many aspects of marine conservation and doing divemaster training it is inspiring to watch divers from all background and abilities, take on challenges to learn and grow into confident divers and marine ambassadors. 

Rainy season is upon us on the island, however this year, we have been lucky to be blessed with many sunny days and only rainy nights. A period of questionable visibility and interesting waves finished the old year and started the new one. But now, the island is as green as ever and the water as blue. We are seeing an impressive amount of Reef Mantas (mobula alfredi) at the moment and since it is still low season we have them almost to ourselves. Our dive sites are still swarming with green sea turtles (chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (eretmochelus imbricata) and though out of season, we are still occasionally seeing bumphead molas (mola alexandrini) as well as a few exciting encounters of other marine fauna, such as pelagic thresher sharks (alopias Pelagius), common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), spotted eagle ray (aetobatus narinari), Tahitian ray (pateobatis fai) and cowtail stingray (pastinachus sephen). 

I am excited to see what this next season will bring us of interesting sightings and inspired interns!

Rinaldi Gotama – Marine Biologist and Data Analyst

Science & Biodiversity Report

The Penida science team has been working hard this quarter despite some challenging weather conditions in December and January. As the rainy season came, we experienced some strong monsoonal influence in the island, including strong winds and eutrophication that spiced up our dives. The monsoon turned the waters in southern Penida very turbid and made our resident reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) to go for a ‘vacation’ away from Manta Point for a couple weeks! Luckily, the wind and turbid water has passed and we are enjoying very nice diving conditions again right now.

Despite the challenging conditions, we have successfully completed all our science targets, which included 36 surveys, 12 BRUV drops, and 12 benthic surveys from around the MPA. We have encountered some very species species during our activities, including not one but two pelagic thresher sharks (Alopias pelagicus), one blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus), bumphead molas (Mola alexandrini), spotted eagle rays (Aetobatus ocellatus), marbled stingrays (Taeniurops meyeni), reef manta rays, and many more!

New Species Update

What’s exciting about working in field research is that you will always be surprised by new findings! Throughout 2023 our teams in Penida, Bira, and Raja had found new rare and ecologically-important species, such as electric rays (Narcine sp.), zebra shark (Stegostoma tigrinum), silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis), ornate eagle ray (Aetomilaeus vespertillo), porcupine ray (Urogymnus asperrimus), and Omura’s whale (Balaenoptera omurai) to name a few. All these species have been incorporated to the list of species we survey at IOP from 2024 onward.

Mangroves

Marine ecosystems do not just include the reef and the open ocean. Mangroves are also connected to the health of the reef ecosystem and it’s important for us to learn and conserve as well. The Penida team went to Semaya at the eastern part of Penida to plant 114 mangrove seedlings. Our effort has brought the total number of seedlings planted to 181 in Semaya. Some of our older mangroves are doing very well and have grown over 1 meter tall (about 40% height growth in a year!), so we are crossing our fingers for good progress with our newly planted mangroves. We hope that these halophytic (salt-tolerant) plants can help create habitats for small fish and invertebrates, which can support the biomass of the surrounding seas.

Citizen Science

Our interns have also been busy learning and contributing to our citizen science efforts. Overall, we conducted 16 citizen science dives and uploaded 17 photos of sea turtle cheeks and 12 photos of elasmobranchs to our database. These photos are crucial for us to understand how the MPA can support these important megafauna and elasmobranchs. We also completed 5 CoralWatch dives, which is important especially because the water temperature around the island is starting to warm up due to the monsoon. Long-term continuous monitoring such as CoralWatch is very important to allow us to detect changes and anomalies and to prepare us when bleaching happens. Lastly, we also completed 5 Dive Against Debris dives and collected a whopping 20 kg of trash from Crystal Bay! It is imperative for us to keep Crystal Bay clean and healthy, as we use the surrounding habitat for many divemaster-related activities, including all our skills training dives. 

Coral Restoration

Speaking of Crystal Bay, I am pleased to report that we have completed 3 more coral restoration dives this quarter and brought the total number of fragments planted to 1135. With just about 10 dead fragments this quarter, the survival rate of our corals are over 99%! Our corals have been thriving in our nursery tables, we are running out of space for future planting events! So, we transplanted some of our larger fragments to metal spiders in November. The idea is that the corals will grow around the metal structures, cover them up, and create new habitats for small fishes and invertebrates to hide within. So far the corals are responding very well to the spiders and continue to grow nicely. I will keep everyone updated on the status of our coral fragments in the next quarterly report.

Anne van den Boomen – Program Coordinator and Dive Instructor

I’m happy to share the first quarterly report I am writing as the program coordinator in the Penida Project. I have been lucky enough to spend the previous 3 months here training for my position in the Penida project and have had the pleasure of meeting all the new interns and watching them grow into amazing dive professionals. I’d like to start with a personal thank you to both Sigrid and Michaela, who left the Penida project in such perfect state that I had the best start working for IOP. My colleagues Rinaldi, Arya and Mette have been amazing giving me a warm welcome as well, thank you very much for that!

Since we last updated you we have welcomed 13 new interns that are all ready to call Penida home for the next few months. A big warm welcome to Tiffany Cheung, Casey Marsh, Alyse Turner, Matthew Emard, Adri Forczek, Eliane Sauter, Edouard de Mailly Nesle, Elena Rocco, Aditya Rughoobur, Alexandra Smith, Hilary Vick, Andy Handoko and Rennie Stienstra.

This last quarter has been full of science, fun and diving and plenty of training courses for our interns to get ready to begin their divemaster training. After the arrival day and check out dive the training begins. Some interns start immediately with their divemaster training, while others will start with doing their open water, advanced water or react right and rescue course. A special shout out for the dive instructors working at Reeflex Divers to help make our interns ready to start their divemaster adventure with IOP.

The last few months we’ve started experiencing the rainy season. There have been some proper storms going on, but luckily they never last long. Unfortunately, with the rain sometimes more trash flows from the rivers into the ocean. Since our last report we have done 5 dive against debris dives and collected almost 20 kg of trash. At the end of 2023 we calculated that in total in 2023 in the Penida project we have collected 154 kg of trash with our dive against debris efforts!

We have found the usual items like fishing lines tangled around the reef and unfriendly food packaging and plastic bottles. Unfortunately since the rainy season is in full swing we had to cancel some community clean ups, but as long as it’s not pouring down rain the interns will go out and make Penida a little cleaner. Our yearly stats tell us that through our community clean-ups, we’ve removed 80 kg of trash around the roads in 2023, that’s pretty impressive!

Our current group of interns are falling in love with the nice dive sites, where the manta’s at the dive site Manta Point have not been disappointing. Doing a survey dive here can be overwhelming with these big creatures flying over your head, and we had to do a small workshop on sizing large creatures 🙂

The interns put in some incredible work preparing the mangroves for our planting day, we all had an amazing (hot) day full of fun. Together we have planted 114 mangrove propagules into our restoration site. Reports of the success of this planting will follow in the coming months. Meanwhile, back at the dive shop our mangrove nursery needed to be restocked, 178 propagules are now in our nursery waiting to grow big enough to be planted along the Penida coastline.

In the coming months I am looking forward to seeing all the new divemasters graduate and the new interns develop the skills to become incredible divers, I am excited!

Want to join the team?

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