Reef Ball Tsunami Memorial Projects




-Khao Lak, Thailand   

-Madiha (Turtle Point), Sri Lanka

-Landaa Giraavaru, Maldives Islands

- What Else? Malaysia and Indonesia of Course!



Projects are presented in the order that we hope to fund them because each project will provide savings to the next one because of shared molds and reduced travel expenses.


The Reef Ball Foundation was working in Thailand, Maldives Islands and Sri Lanka before the Tsunami struck on December 26, 2004.  Therefore, we were in a good position to help and we have been conducting projects in the region to bring back tourism and to restore reefs damaged by the Tsunami.  Our organization now has the unique opportunity to create three Tsunami Memorial reefs in each of these countries that will uniquely aid each recipient.  In Thailand, the focus will be to aid the survivors of a fishing village in Khao Lak where over 6000 people died and 90% of the families have lost a member of their household.  In Turtle Point, Sri Lanka the aim will be to create a “Reef Farmer” approach for sustainable harvesting of marine aquarium fish for a village that lost their income when fish collection was no longer possible due to the Tsunami.  At Landaa Giraavaru, the aim will be to rescue imperiled corals and transfer technology about the latest techniques in Coral Restoration work helping the island recover from the massive coral bleaching event of 1998 and additional coral losses due to the Tsunami. 

In most cases, Reef Ball Foundation projects have been partially or fully covered by local contributions…. however, these projects need international funding.  Travel expenses alone will be fairly large due to the number of trainers and volunteers we will be sending to these countries, so an airline sponsor would be quite valuable.  The projects are scalable, but we hope that we do not need to reduce the intended scope.  If you or an organization you work for or with can help, please contact us.

Following, you will find more details about each of the three selected memorial projects.

-Khao Lak, Thailand   

The beaches of Khao Lak, Thailand were struck by a tsunami 2-3 hours after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake of December 26, 2004. Although 500 km away from the epicenter, the waves were 10 meters (33 feet) high. A resort area popular with Northern European tourists, luxury resorts dotted the coastline (January 3, 2003 image, lower center). Buildings and vegetation were scoured by the waves, leaving foundations and bare soil. Beach sand was also removed by the tsunamis. Over 6000 people died or were not accounted for…most from a village of fishermen.  90% of the people in the fishing village lost at least one family member. 

Earthquake Spawns Tsunamis Image. Caption explains image.

The Thailand government using the Army as laborers and engineers has restored the village.  On land, they have created a memorial consisting of a concrete wave and they have a museum, kiosks for locals to sell their products, and a park for kids.


Chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation, Todd Barber is shown the construction of the Wave Memorial By the General in charge of restoring Khao Lak.


An NGO helped the fishermen to buy subsidized motors for their boats and they have rebuilt their fleet.  But this had an unintended consequence, before the Tsunami there were 500 boats in sustainable fishing in Khao Lok.  Due to the subsidies, there will be more boats.  So, they are increasing fishing effort in an area where most of the near shore reef habitat was destroyed by the Tsunami.  Therefore 70-80% of the fishermen must now travel far out into the open sea and use gill nets for fishing instead of the hook and line and trap methods they used closer to shore when the reef was productive.  The traditional boat is a “long-tails”…not the kind of boat you want to be traveling far offshore in if you value your life.


The bottom line is that without a reef built closer to the village, more lives will probably be lost.  And economically, it is going to be hard to support 1000 boats in this region without nearby fish stocks.  The cost of fuel alone eats up most of the fishermen’s profits when they have to travel so far offshore.


Not just the fishermen need help in Khao Lak.  The resorts are just now opening back up and they also offer livelihoods for the people.  However, tourism is very slowly recovering in Khao Lak.   We hope this project will help change that by providing additional attraction in the form of an underwater memorial for scuba diving tourists. 


The Reef Ball Foundation has secured permission from the Prime Minister to conduct artificial reef projects in Thailand. The foundations also meet with the Minister of the Environment and Minister of the Interior and have their support too.  The General who was in charge of the Khao Lak restoration is also in support of the project. 

Reef Ball Chairman, Todd Barber Meets with His Excellency, the Prime Minister, Khun Thaksin Shinawatra and Minister of the Environment,  Suvit Khunkitti…the result was “permission granted.”


The Foundation donated a mold to the village in October 2005 to signal our intent to find a funding source to help them with a full project.  The village poured a Reef Ball in celebration and was very grateful we are trying to help them. 


Chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation, Todd Barber works through a Thai translator to explain to the village chief explain the Reef Balls will help the fishermen. 


The chief understood completely and quickly spread the joyful news to everyone in the village.











The Reef Ball Coral Team (a renown group of worldwide volunteer experts) surveyed the area where the fishermen would like to have a large reef built.  It is also close to La Flora Resort so the reef could be an ideal dive site for tourists.  La Flora’s owner pledged additional support for the project and provided rooms and meals for Foundation teams during our visit. 


After extensive discussions about the needs in this area, we came up with the idea to build an underwater memorial wave…similar to that done on land (see photo at earlier in this report), as a central dive site.  Next to the wave memorial would be a special configuration of Reef Balls piled high to create a fish spawning and aggregation site.  Thus, the diving site would also be a fish nursery and would therefore be off limits to fishing.  This will create a fish replenishment zone.  As you move away from these center features there would be thousands of Reef Balls at first densely deployed and then becoming less dense as one moves away from the center.  The exact number will be a bit more than 6,000 with one Reef Ball to represent each person that was lost. (The number is subject to change as the final figures are computed on losses).   North of the center memorial would be designated for hook and line fishing and South for trap fishing on odd years and this would be switched on even years.  This will help keep the fishing sustainable.  Netting would only be permitted outside of the perimeter of the created artificial reef. 

This engineering drawing gives one an idea of what one module of the Memorial Wave artificial reef will look like.  It will also use all of the Reef Ball artificial reef technology such as vortexed holes, pH neutralized concrete, coral enhancing surface textures, coral transplant adapter plugs and bottom to top weight ratios for stability but this is not shown in the drawing.  The interior of the bottom is hollow to allow the unit to be floated out to sea using the “long-tail” boats.  Once at sea, the center is flooded with water and once it sinks, it is filled with sand to create enough weight to be stable without anchors.


Units will be assembled together underwater in two rows 50 meters long.  One wave represents the Tsunami whereas the facing wave represents humanity working to restore what was lost.  Divers will be able to journey the 50 meters to enjoy a quasi cave like feeling.  At each end, there would be a fish-spawning configuration of Reef Balls.


The wave modules and fish spawning modules would be transplanted with propagated hard corals by the Reef Ball Coral Team to make the dive site exciting very quickly and to add complex coral cover for the juvenile fish in the nursery. 



To build 6000+ “Bay Ball” sized Reef Balls will cost about $200,000.  To build the Memorial Wave and fish spawning sites will cost about $100,000.  To plant corals on the wave will cost another $25,000 mostly in airfare for experts to volunteer their time to come to do the work.                                                                                                            







-Madiha (Turtle Point), Sri Lanka


Following is the project description we saw when we first learned about a project being started by a private businessman (mailman) who lost his home in Sri Lanka.  Obviously, when we read about the memorial reef part we instantly thought of what we were doing in Thailand and how sharing the molds could help reduce the costs for both projects.  But we learned even more that made this a good fit.  We learned that the type of “fishing” the village was doing was collection for the marine aquarium trade of tropical fish.  Like regular fishing, this too must be done at sustainable level or fish stocks can crash.  Fortunately for us, our Coral Team Division President, John Walch, is an expert the marine ornamental trade as he ran for 6 years the largest tropical fish farm in the world.  He has been asking our board for years to embrace his “Reef Farmers” concept to build specially designed artificial reefs for sustainable collection of specific fish species.  This project will give John a chance to demonstrate that technology.  Right now, there are lots of regulatory issues facing the marine aquarium trade.  There are lots of issues but few solutions.  Problems include cyanide fishing that stuns the fish but kills the reef.  Reef Farming gives the fish collectors their own territories for collection, and through ownership comes stewardship.  When something happens on land (such as sewage dumping) that affects the farmed reefs, you can bet the fishermen will address the issue.  Neighbor to neighbor…the only type of regulation that works in many developing countries. 



Help the People of Turtle Point (Madiha)
– Sri Lanka Relief Effort Update

Dear Friends,

¡¡¡¡It has now been nine months since the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. Whilst the aftermath has faded from the news headlines, much of the relief work continues to help the region recover. The devastating effect of this terrible event reminded us of the unpredictability of nature but it also brought to light the generosity of individuals like you. Your generosity is helping to rebuild one particular costal community, the people of Madiha (affectionately known as Turtle Point) in Sri Lanka.



The enormity of the devastation meant that it was not possible for us to assist everyone in Sri Lanka. We decided to concentrate on one particular tsunami affected village – Turtle Point by restoring their ability to fish, which is the livelihood of the village.  As we drove back to our Head Office a new idea started to form - formal training for the villagers so that they could take tourists out and also dive for aquarium fish. The idea was that training might create an industry rather than one that potentially destroys one.

As well as the training we have been in discussion with Dr Hiran Jayewardene, Secretary General IOMAC (Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Co-Operation) to build an artificial reef/Memorial in this area. The divers from the USA have also pledged their support to help design and build this. This we hope will bring pride and new hope to the young divers we are training and also attract tourists from around the world (one of the PADI divers in a writer and photographer/film producer who will be documenting the project to get media coverage in the USA and abroad). The association will have the responsibility to maintain and look after this memorial. Mailman will continuously work closely with the people of Madiha in the future to make sure we all work together to enrich the lives of the whole village.


So, the concept here is to do a similar wave memorial and fish spawning site in the center, but the Reef Balls surrounding it will be custom designed for specific fish types. 



Here is an example of a Reef Ball designed for a specific animal… in this case for spiny lobster culturing.  John will be designing a host of Reef Ball variations to accommodate high value tropical fish.













To build 1000+ small sized custom Reef Balls will cost about $65,000.  To build the Memorial Wave and fish spawning sites will cost about $75,000 (presuming the Thailand project is already funded due to savings in mold design).  To plant corals on the wave will cost another $25,000 mostly in airfare for experts to volunteer their time to come to do the work. 




Landaa Giraavaru, Maldive Islands


The Reef Ball Foundation has been working in the Maldives Islands since 1999.  In fact, some of our earliest coral propagation and planting work was conducted there because in 1998 there was a mass bleaching event as the waters of the Maldives superheated killing off almost 90% of their corals. 


Quite frankly, the results of some of these initial coral plantings were not very encouraging.  Over ½ of the planted coral plugs did not survive their first year.  We experienced high rates of predation on the coral by coral predators such as parrot fish, crown of thorns, and coral eating snails.  We also lost some to infection, because at that time we had not yet developed the antibiotic dipping solutions we use today when fragmenting corals.  And, we tried training local people to do the work, but we had not yet developed the concept of our worldwide Coral Team to support them so when they ran into problems, they just tried to fix them themselves with little success. 


Our sponsoring organization for these projects was the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa.  The resort had to be closed for a full year as a result of the Tsunami.  The will be opening a new resort at Landaa Giraavaru.  Here, they are doing many projects to help the local people recover from their losses.  For example, they have set up a fish farm to raise “Nemos” (clown fish) for income.  They employed local people to rescue corals that were imperiled which have been transferred to temporary nurseries waiting for The Reef Ball Foundation to return to show them how to propagate and replant them. 


The Resort has offered free rooms and board to Reef Ball volunteers that want to come to help them restore their reefs.  But, they lack the funding to build the reefs for the corals to be planted on.  So, we thought why not do a 3rd Tsunami memorial…. maybe not as many Reef Balls around the memorial this time…. just enough to rescue the imperiled corals. 


We can self-fund the Coral Team part of this project, we will do so by making the expert volunteers pay for the privilege of staying at the Four Seasons while they work.  We have done this before successfully when the resorts are nice….it is amazing how many people are willing to pay to help others.  Eco-tourism at it’s best.  Therefore, we only need funding to build the Reef Balls and the Memorial.  We’ll scale this project to the size of the grant we can get to support it.  With a minimum of $15K, we can build enough Reef Balls to save the corals.  With another 50K we could build the memorial and fish spawning sites.  The real goal here is to save the corals, but building the memorial would be a lasting present to give to the people of the Maldives that did not get nearly the attention that Sri Lanka or Thailand got in this region wide tragedy.  Most people in the west don’t know that the entire country of the Maldives was underwater at one point during the Tsunami!


What Else? Malaysia and Indonesia of Course!


Reef Ball has also been working in Malaysia since the late 90s.  We have Reef Ball Asia running out of Kuala Lumpur.  They are assisting us in identifying a Malaysian site for a fourth memorial.   There is a good chance that the Malaysian Government will want to fund this one.  So, for now, we are not asking for funding.  Stay tuned if you have specific interests in this one.


Reef Ball has also received a request to help in Banda Ache, Indonesia.  There infrastructure is still rebuilding and not yet to the point to support a non-humanitarian project yet.  We will be sending over a team to investigate and will report back on the results.  Reef Ball also has an offer to build an example artificial reef in Bali Indonesia but this area was not affected much by the Tsunami.  There are already over 5,000 Reef Balls in Indonesia and over 5,000 in Malaysia too.