FILLING ‘FUNDING-SHAPED HOLES’
Arthur said he turned to the Marine Conservation Action Fund to fill “funding-shaped holes” in his data. He had had a grant to track coral reefs off the west coast of India beginning in 1998, but he missed four years when he could not afford to dive. Collecting more complete data sets - and the aquarium’s vote of confidence - may have helped Arthur win funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is now supporting his efforts to rebuild local knowledge about the reefs. He is documenting the knowledge local fishing communities have about the reefs. One of the oldest local fishermen showed him how he travels through the archipelago without a compass, navigating from the reflection of the lagoon on the clouds. “If you just look at navigational systems, that in itself is a treasure trove of information,” which is lost every time an old fisherman dies, Arthur said.
Even old recipes give a sense of what foods and resources were readily available in the area, Arthur said, but these were being lost with the aging population. “When local communities are shown the value of these things, they take a lot of local pride,” he said, citing one fishing community that imposed a ban on grouper during spawning season after the researchers educated them about the fish’s spawning habits. “What lacks is the information.”