Next time you gobble up some M&M’s, Snickers, Mars bars, Twix, Skittles, or many other Mars, Inc. candies, understand that your hard earned candy money has helped to rehabilitate a coral reef in Southern Indonesia and kick started a captive breeding effort as well. That is right; the maker of your favorite candies has been working since 2007 on coral reef restoration and captive breeding systems on Pulau Badi Island, an island just 20 kilometers from where Mars, Inc. has a cocoa processing factory. The candy confectioner also announced a new Marine Protected Area in the same location as the reef.
The company announced that its Mars Sustainable Solutions, part of the Mars Symbioscience team, in collaboration with the local population in South Sulawesi built 3,000 custom structures in which coral fragments, or frags, are growing to rehabilitate the reef, which is about 5,000 meters long. These structures will also help to re-establish native fish populations on the reef, according to a press statement put out by the company.
The reef and the associated MPA will assist in meeting the long term food security needs of the locals on Pulau Badi island and to provide ornamental fish for the international aquarium fish trade, according to the statement.
“I have watched this Mars project over the years and am not aware of anything of this scale. The beauty is that the technology is more easily transferable than other reef projects I’ve seen. The corals expand very quickly, possibly because the technology is based on a simple structure that does not shade the corals very much or impede water flow around them, enabling them to thrive,” said Dr. Susan Williams, professor at the University of California-Davis and its Bodega Marine Laboratory. “Rebuilding the coral reef ecosystem is needed by the local people, but also offers promise to improve the ecological and economic sustainability for the future of the region.”
Mars Symbioscience first began working with the Pulau Badi community in 2007 to develop an alternate livelihood system for the local population, and restoring the island’s coral reefs was a central part of that system. With a restored reef infrastructure, the company says that new businesses will be established that will include the capability to produce fish for the ornamental fish trade, including captive bred seahorses. Mars has seeded the effort by establishing independent, small scale breeding systems that will help to bolster the incomes of local fishing families. Currently Pulau Badi has three captive breeding fish businesses on the island that were funded by the company with more facilities planned. Mars will help to ensure the success of the captive breeding businesses and hopes to transfer the technology to other islands in the region and around the world.