While the RMI plummets into coral bleaching devastation, the Slinger coral farm in Rairok is flourishing even as it undergoes ongoing expansion. Athelta Slinger is fulfilling a dream with a group of women and young girls at the helm of the initiative, their aim to change social mindsets and to rebuild their personal foundation and that of the islands.
“We keep saying we have problems. So I thought, why don’t we give it a try? We have hands and legs — let’s do it,” Slinger said during a site visit with the Journal. She recounted seeing a picture of women from Papua New Guinea and Fiji farming corals, and she knew someone had to take the lead in the RMI.
The farm is composed of two land-based nurseries, one for soft corals and another for hard corals. Rows of 20 to 30 cages of corals are grown in an aquatic nursery a few feet out in the lagoon facing the farm. It takes months for a coral to mature, and the coral farmers take great care in tending them as they are grown from fragments.
The land-based nurseries allow for faster growth, as many species of corals take decades to grow in the wild. On land, there is less risk of storms, boating accidents or pollution.
In the early summer, the farm brought in an expert to conduct training in coral farming. The first group trained young women from Rongelap. Today, there are eight girls certified in scuba diving who take care of the ocean-based nursery.
While corals are in demand — with the Slinger coral farm supplying to the US, England and China — some corals might not fit the request of the market. These corals are then returned to lagoons. Farmers working with the Slinger farm are trained not only to grow corals, but to also to be able to restore corals back into the ocean.
Read more about this in the November 30, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands