Artificial Reefs in Ekas Bay

Artificial Reefs in Ekas Bay

Heaven on the Planet with the Wildlife Conservation Society built 22 artificial reefs in Ekas Bay as habitat for fish and lobster. Guests can snorkel and watch the eco-system evolve or help by donating for more reefs. You can even arrange to fund and build a small reef while at Planet. A stone statue of the Goddess Mandalika keeps watch on the seabed.

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Why make reefs?

Aquaculture is growing worldwide but nature still provides the biggest output of food from the sea. Our project enhances the natural marine environment by building habitat for fish, lobsters, and corals. The goals are:

  • to make simple, effective artificial reefs which provide habitat for marine species
  • to educate people about nurturing reefs and fish breeding

Background to the Project

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other NGOs are working with the Ministry of Marine Affairs and local community institutions to develop marine protected areas (MPA’s) to nurture bio-diverse ecosystems in Indonesia. Communities outside these protected areas often have little incentive to comply with MPA regulations and so education is needed.

At the same time, Heaven on the Planet has promoted conservation of Ekas Bay, its marine waters and employs many local community members. Prof Kerry Black led a large (3-year) New Zealand Aid project to stimulate cage fishing by in the Bay, by making demonstration cages and training local fishermen around 2001.

The joint project focus was on increasing the number of reef fish in the Bay, through a reef building scheme set against the background of global Climate Change. The reef building project benefits local communities through providing reef fish biomass and revenue from reef tourism.

Marine Issues being confronted

Like all developing nations, Indonesia is struggling to meet the demands of increased population. In the marine environment, resources are becoming scarcer. Fish numbers are down and average captured fish sizes in coastal communities are rapidly decreasing.

Indonesia currently exports some $US700 million of tropical species for the aquarium trade worldwide. This is having a large negative impact on the reefs. Moreover, intensive fishing, poor nets and spear-fishing are taking their toll on stocks. Controlled harvesting and methods to replace these stocks are urgently needed.

In early 2010, Indonesia exceptionally high water temperatures in the archipelago for several months which led to mass death of corals (known as “coral bleaching”). The temperatures are associated with Global Warming, and the impact is felt by local coastal dwellers.

The depleted natural marine environment needs human help to provide sufficient food for the population of Indonesia. Accordingly, fish farming is being promoted. However, for many villagers, the long period of waiting makes it difficult for many people to fatten fish in cages.  Moreover, other options such as small-scale coastal prawn farming has failed in much of Indonesia due to disease, food costs and lack of management skills within the poor village populations.

Another alternative is coral transplanting. This is commonly adopted in small regions, particularly tourist sites, to replenish coral lost by bombing or natural and man-made disasters. However, the cost and slow growth makes transplantation impractical over large areas. Moreover, the benefits in relation to fish numbers are relatively small compared to the cost of establishment and the daily fish intake of Indonesians.

In Ekas Bay, fishers are currently capturing juvenile lobster on artificial raft structures, with settlement plates below. The juvenile lobsters are being sold to foreign buyers who transport them live to their own countries for fattening. While the short term income is good, the long term effects on the Indonesian lobster population are unknown, noting that there are over 300 fishers in Ekas Bay alone. Unfortunately, the lobsters are mostly unable to recruit successfully in Ekas Bay due to a lack of suitable substrate. And fishing pressure is removing breeding adults from the Bay.

Shallow reef in the centre of Ekas Bay is ideal for zoning (about 1000×400 m). Government and surrounding tourist operators supported this with strong arguments about tourism and benefits for the future of the Bay’s ecology. However, some villagers are skeptical about the benefits being promised, and to demonstrate the unique importance of reef structures while enhancing fish/lobster stocks, our project the reefs to demonstrate their benefits.

Heaven on the Planet charges guests Rp 50,000 for each visit so that the reefs can be enlaged. Other operators have been asked to do the same.


The “Habitat for Fish” Reef consists of:

  • Quarried limestone rocks placed to make a reef up to 1.5 m high above the seabed, in shallow water (3-6 m deep). The reef modules will be 3 m long by 2 m wide and 1.0-1.5 m high.

Lombok East has a ready supply of fossilised coral building material (soft limestones) in its village quarries. This material is ideal for reef construction and for marine habitat and recruitment. The fossil coral is inexpensive and can be broken into blocks of many sizes to provide habitat in the rock crannies for many different species.

Project support

The project was funded and sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Society (Indonesia Office). Assistance and secondary financial support came from Heaven on the Planet.