Any diver who fancies the idea of an 10-day expenses-paid trip to South Sulawesi is invited to apply to be the 2023 UK Advocate for what’s claimed to be the world’s largest coral-restoration programme, Sheba Hope Grows.
The initiative is named after the cat-food brand that organises it, part of Mars Sustainable Solutions. Sheba says it is seeking applicants with “a passion for the environment, travelling and a knack for story-telling”. A scuba qualification is not necessarily a requirement, although “strong swimming ability” is. The selected UK Advocate would be one of five appointed around the world.
The entire advocacy initiative will take three weeks of your time, because a 10-day virtual training course with the Mars Petcare and coral-restoration team will precede the trip out to Makassar in Sulawesi, Indonesia for the successful applicant.
Working with the local community on Bontosuan Island, the UK Advocate will learn about the coral-restoration process, capturing content and sharing their experience through blog posts. They will help to prepare and plant 90cm-wide steel “reef stars”. Hand-made by the community, these interlock on the seabed to create a stable base on which coral fragments can be regrown.
Coral growth boosted
Hope Reef Indonesia was unveiled as Sheba’s first coral-restoration project in 2021, as reported on Divernet. Satellite images reveal “a beacon of hope visible from space” in the form of the 14m by 46m letters that spell the word ‘HOPE’ in the regrown coral.
Since Hope Reef was restored, coral growth is reported to have been boosted from 2% to 70%, fish populations have risen by 260% and there has been a 64% rise in the number of fish species, according to Sheba.
“Our efforts around the world to restore and regenerate these precious ecosystems are showing exciting results and having a positive impact on local communities,” says Prof David Smith, chief marine scientist at Mars Inc.
“We hope that our 2023 UK Advocate will help showcase the amazing efforts taking place, and the direct impact that restoring our world’s coral reefs can have on ocean health.”
By 2029 Sheba Hope Grows aims to have restored coral reefs at key sites around the world covering more than 185,000sq m – that’s about the size of 148 Olympic swimming pools.
Thirty reef-restoration sites have already been launched across seven countries, with 60,000 reef stars installed (more than 11,000 of these on Hope Reef) and 80,000sq m of reef restored so far. Overall coral cover has increased from 5% to 70%, with an accompanying 10% increase in the number of fish species, a tripling of fish populations and a doubling of fish biomass.
Last year’s UK Advocate
“I was left feeling incredibly inspired after spending a week in the Maldives contributing to the Sheba Hope Grows restoration project, in partnership with the Maldives Coral Institute, as the first UK Hope Advocate,” says Rebecca Daniel, who took on the role in 2022.
“A big highlight for me was the people I met: from the passionate team and volunteers, to the friendly islanders who welcomed us into their homes and shared their stories of the reef with us.
“I came back to the UK feeling incredibly empowered to continue my journey within marine conservation, and I’m super-grateful to be involved in the next stages of this ambitious and successful programme as it expands across the globe.”
Applications to be UK Advocate 2023 are now open until 2 June, and full information about the opportunity and how to apply is available on the website.