“The support we had from Clive, Dunia Baru’s cruise director, and the crew was outstanding,” says Gress, “The opportunity to tap into the immense experience of Dunia Baru’s team in the region as well as the amazing dive set–up they have on board was critical to the success of our project.
“We had 12 days of diving. Our day would start at 6am with a cup of coffee and then we would prepare the diver–operated video system before the first dive, which would normally be for around 80 to 90 minutes. After that, we would have breakfast and download all the video and data before a second dive between around 2pm and 3pm, which would be for about an hour.”
The study took place in reefs both inside and outside the MPA. Its aim was to document the size and abundance of the black coral as well as the organisms associated with them, including fish. The team dived in three different depth zones to a depth of 40 metres, carrying out transects over a 60–metre area and filming with two cameras at a time.
The videos will be analysed using sophisticated software, which will enable the team to measure the size and numbers of the fish living alongside the colonies of black coral. It will also ultimately provide information on the black coral ecology and the reefs they thrive in.
The team recorded black coral both inside and outside the MPA. An abundance of colonies seem to favour the south–eastern region, where reefs were generally in better condition than on the west side of Misool, outside the protected area. It also appears to support a high diversity of black corals, possibly including undescribed species.