Plea for donations as Aberdeen man Richard dives in to help save coral reefs

An Aberdeen-born man is on a mission to save the oceans – one coral reef at a time.

Richard Ewen, originally from Tillydrone, moved to a remote island in the Philippines 18 years ago but discovered that it was not a paradise, as surrounding coral reefs were slowly being damaged by devastating fishing methods.

In 2011, the 61-year-old met British diver David Parker and the pair decided to open a dive shop at Richard’s Biri Island resort.

It was during these dives that Richard learned of illegal fishing techniques and the damage they were causing to the coral reefs.

The Tillydrone man said: “I saw the damage that had been done to the coral reefs from dynamite fishing and cyanide fishing and I decided to start an non- governmental organisation to help repair what’s been done.

“It’s like having a back garden and wanting to make it pretty, I’m doing this for the sea since it’s my back garden.”

Working closely with experts, Richard launched non-profit group Biri Initiative in 2012.

The organisation actively works to protect the islands of Biri Northern Samar as well as trying to educate locals on marine protected areas. One of the initiative’s methods to help halt the deterioration of the coral is producing artificial reefs known as “Biri Buds”.

Coral Man - picture pg 12/13

The small domed-shaped concrete structures, aim to re-grow soft and hard corals. The Biri Buds also help conserve marine life as algae can latch on and fish can spawn inside.

Richard added: “Without a shadow of a doubt, this is an important cause to me.

“It’s something I never noticed the importance of when I was younger and I would go swimming.

“It’s not something that’s brought to your attention, but the older I get the more I started seeing it for myself.”

This year, the Biri Initiative started Project 250, a regeneration scheme that transplants broken coral fragments to Biri Buds on a large scale.

With the assistance of local marine biologists and divers, Project 250 has already transplanted 165 coral fragments and has already seen a 95% survival rate.

Richard said: “The organisation is now moving forward with bigger and better projects to help the locals and build a better environment with everything combined, such as eco-tourism and giving the education the locals deserve.”

Coral Man - picture pg 12/13Richard Ewen, 2nd left

He added: “We have to educate them on what’s in front of them because sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

“The programme helps them get the techniques for the future.”

These projects include beach clean-ups plus internships for both local and foreign students where they can learn about the reef while mastering diving.

In order for the organisation to continue its mission it is looking for donations from anyone interested across the world.

The entire campaign has been working out of Richard’s own budget and he’s now looking for help from sponsors to help him save the reefs.

He said: “I hopethat the folks back home in Aberdeen, even if I am away, have the same sense of pride of being Scottish.

“The hardships I have overcome through persistence regarding all stages of my life is pushed forward by my Scottish beliefs and faith.

“David Stirling once said “Who dares wins’.”

To learn more about what Biri Initiative or to donate to Richard’s mission visit: biri-initiative.org

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