Story and photos by Alessandra Polo, Reef Check EcoDiver
Indonesia's Bangka Island, north of Sulawesi, sits along the Indo-Pacific's "Coral Triangle," which is second only to the Amazon rainforest in biodiversity. This is what makes me, part of a Reef Check Italia EcoExpedition, and thousands of other divers come here in the first place. Many people who inhabit these rather pristine coral reef islands, though, don't appreciate what they have. Here is where the action starts, and Coral Day begins! For this big event, organized two to three times a year, owners of local resorts, environmental NGOs, and schoolchildren join together for one main goal: to raise awareness of the need to preserve such a unique ecosystem. Popular practices such as blast fishing not only decimate the fish population indiscriminately but also destroy the coral structure that lies beneath, which is home to thousands of different species that build up the trophic chain. It is thanks to the united resistance of such local organizations that the illegal mining of iron ores on Bangka Island by a Chinese company was recently suspended.
The impact of the event was overwhelming! Children sang and danced in front of a huge coral-shaped heart saying "no coral - no life". Water was served in bamboo cups, reminding people of the need to stop disposable plastic waste. Finding myself suddenly in the middle of it, all by chance, without knowing what I was going to experience, made me feel thrilled and at the same time blessed. Bring the noise, Bangka!