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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

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Coral Reef Management

Erin Jenkins speaks with Bitburg Elementary School in Germany

Once a year, a few U.S. classrooms get to talk with a Peace Corps Volunteer by telephone because they've been communicating throughout the year with a volunteer in the field. We've recorded some of those conversations. Today, students from Bitburg Elementary School, an American school in Germany, speak with Erin Jenkins in Western Samoa about coral reef management.

Student
Are the coral reefs healthy?

Erin
That's an interesting question. Samoa's coral reefs have had kind of a hard time of it in the—past probably ten to twenty years—because as the population of Samoa gets bigger, and as more and more land is developed and more rubbish is thrown into the sea, the corals have a harder time adapting. I think you guys learned about that in your research—that they're very fragile.

And then, the hurricanes, when they come in, they blow around and they can destroy the corals as well. They also used to have methods of fishing that included breaking the corals to get to the fish, so that has stopped. And many villages are starting what's called coral gardening, which is to increase the number of corals. They're not exactly healthy, but work is being done to improve them.

Teacher
That's good. Do you have anything to do with that kind of work, Erin?
Erin
Actually, yes. My roommate who's here with me, Hanna, and I, both our work offices deal with coral gardening. So we help the villages learn how to make the little houses for the fish and the coral to live on. And then we help them attach pieces of live coral from elsewhere, and then put it on to these houses so that it can grow in a protected area.

Student
What do you teach about in the lessons at the schools?

Erin
Well, I teach about what we do at my office, which is the fisheries office. We tell the students, because they're usually year twelve or year eleven, so they're like seniors and juniors in high school. We tell them about what we do, and why it would be good for us to come to their village, and about the coral gardening programs, and we make fish reserves—about fish reserve programs and kind of why all of these things will help Samoa make their fish populations better.

Student
Have you made any improvements for the coral reef?

Erin
Yeah. There's coral gardening, but in addition to coral gardening, it's very important that many villages are setting up fish reserves. Actually another division of the government is setting up marine protective areas. These make it so that people—generally speaking—people are not allowed in those fish reserves, which reduces the chances of people stepping on the coral. Because even if they're not meaning to hurt the coral, if you step on coral, it will die. So these fish reserves are very important in protecting that coral, because if they're protected their reproduction can increase coral elsewhere.

Teacher
We want to say thank you very, very much. You gave us a lot of information. We appreciate it, so we all want to say...

Students
Bye, Erin!

About the Author

Erin Jenkins

As a Volunteer in Somoa from 2007-2009, Erin Jenkins was involved in marine biology and conservation.