Vamizi Island, a Cradle of Coral, provides a bastion of hope for people and biodiversity

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Raphaelle Flint Raphaelle.flint@iucn.org

With the constant news about climate change causing mass coral bleaching and die offs, most recently recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the South China Sea, good news is very welcome. Off the east coast of Africa and the northern tip of Mozambique lies the Hope Spot of the Quirimbas Islands, one of which is Vamizi. Local conditions here have allowed its reefs to remain a bastion of hope for the greater region.

Local children learning to fish sustainably © Mattias Klum

While ocean acidification and coral bleaching are always a threat, Vamizi’s location and the deep underwater channels allow it’s incredible corals to survive climate change better than elsewhere.   According to scientists, we are experiencing a third global bleaching event, now considered the longest and most widespread in recorded history. Indeed, in parts of the Indian Ocean, bleaching has affected coral by 60-90%.

Luckily, the waters around Vamizi are subject to circular water currents passing back and forth, encouraging a great abundance of food and biodiversity as well as keeping the water temperature cool. The reefs here are thus more resilient to stresses and continue to support over 230 species of corals and 400 fish. These are a vital source of food and livelihood for the island’s 1500 local and seasonal fishermen. In an effort to sustainably manage their remarkable reef, in 2006, the local fishing council created a community marine sanctuary. With help from Friends of Vamizi and international organisations like IUCN, WWF, ZSL and AndBeyond, the council continues to manage their sanctuary today.

Spawning coral credit ©Erwan Sola

The dotted line indicates the extent of the Community Marine Sanctuary

The island has attracted the attention of marine scientists like Dr. David Obura, Tessa Hempson, William Winram and Joana Trindade all of whom have been featured working on Vamizi’s reefs in an award-winning documentary- Vamizi- Cradle of Coral. In it, Dr. Obura- a renowned coral reef specialist refers to the Vamizi coral reefs as being in the “highest diversity region in the whole of the western Indian ocean.” He adds that it’s very likely that the reefs around Vamizi are a cradle of coral for the whole region- a mother reef. These globally significant reefs are a source of replenishment of other reefs – in this case of coral and fish that spread to other parts of Western Indian Ocean. Uniquely for the whole of Africa, mass spawning of coral has been observed and studied in the reefs of Vamizi, making them rare and exceptional, proving their importance as a source for other reefs.

The documentary by world renowned cinematographer Mattias Klum takes us on a journey to try to witness this event and the people who depend on the reef’s health. To the villagers here, whose largely traditional way of life is still catching fish, this improvement and stability has meant greater security for the future.

It is hoped that Mattias’s documentary will aid in this effort – to strengthen protection for the reefs and support for the community’s future prosperity.

Vamizi marine biodiversity © Mattias Klum

The Vamizi Movie (Cradle of Coral) makes me realize how important our reefs are and how we can keep them alive by changing how we do our fishing.” – Quiniah Ali, the first Vamizi Island female student sponsored through the island’s secondary education scholarship program.

With a special position in the cooler currents of the Western Indian Ocean, its relative isolation from the mainland and great diversity, the Vamizi reefs have a unique chance at being resilient in the face of potentially catastrophic climate change.  In its capacity as a mother reef, it can provide hope for the reefs and people of the region.

Spawning coral credit © Mattias Klum

For more information contact Raphaelle Flint at Raphaelle.flint@iucn.org