Sep172009
Marine Man Who Does It All
Written by Ava

Don't be fooled. Coral Cay Conservation IS the name, but only saving corals is not the game.  Contrary to popular belief, the organization doesn't focus specifically on corals. Instead, the focus is to support local communities living near to a coral reef ecosystem (and also a tropical rainforest atmosphere) and teach them to preserve these amazing locations and tools for the future.  

Peter Faulkner is the Chairman of this wonderful conservation organization, but he doesn't stop there.  While actively promoting the preservation of tropical rainforests and corals, he makes time to run a small business in Mission Beach of North Queensland with his wife.  They provide dive training with a reef environmental spin, but also use their business and finance background for consulting purposes.  

Are you tired just thinking about it? We are! But somehow, Peter manages to hold up both and we applaud him for his efforts to educate the globe on the marine world. 

Here's what Peter has to say about his lifestyle:

What is your background in marine biology? Did you grow up loving the ocean?

My background isn’t in marine biology at all. I actually studied International Finance at business school in London. It was only after my first expedition with Coral Cay Conservation to Belize in 1992 that I really became interested in coral reef ecology. My interest (and knowledge) has grown over the years simply by getting involved; teaching people about reefs and how we can work to preserve them; reading a lot of books; and being lucky enough to have met and learnt from many people with a real passion for coral reefs.

I certainly always loved the sea and as a child used to snorkel whenever I had the chance, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I finally learnt to scuba dive.

Why would you be in an organization that focuses specifically on corals? And why does CCC think it’s so important to have an organization that researches and focuses specifically on corals?

Coral Cay Conservation doesn’t “focus specifically on corals”. Our focus is on supporting local communities living with coral reef and tropical rainforest ecosystems to empower and enable them to preserve these amazing assets for future generations. Corals are, obviously, a very important part of reefs but they are by no means the only thing we need to worry about. Corals are certainly not the only thing that we need to consider when studying coral reef ecology, and our volunteer surveyors spend as much time looking at and recording fish, benthic invertebrates and algae as they do looking at coral!

Coral reefs and tropical rainforests are such important ecosystems, for a whole raft of reasons extending from biodiversity protection to coastal real-estate protection, that it is vital they are protected and conserved. 

What are the ultimate goals of CCC?

Ultimately Coral Cay Conservation works to help local peoples preserve the world’s coral reefs and tropical rainforests. We do that by providing them with a variety of resources such as research data, training of local scholars, education at local schools and the ability to keep up the work after we have left.

We only go into a country when we are invited to do so by the local people and we never lose sight of the fact that we are working with them. To successfully protect and preserve these ecosystems we must bring the local people along with us.

What do forests have to do with coral reefs?

When you consider any complex ecosystem (and they don’t get much more complex than coral reefs) we must take a holistic approach and consider many impacts that may have effects on the ecosystem in question.

In tropical regions when we look at a coral reef we often have to also consider the tropical rainforests that line the coast. One of the major threats that reefs face globally is deforestation which creates excessive run-off from the land onto reefs.

What is your favorite part of being in CCC?

Undoubtedly working with the amazing team of people who have dedicated so much time and effort to work on preserving these beautiful ecosystems for us all. It’s been a real honour working with them for so many years.

What do you think of the worldwide illegal selling and buying and trade of rare coral reefs and is CCC trying to prevent this?

Coral Cay Conservation has always avoided taking political positions. We do not get involved in trying to “ban” things. There exists a plethora of other organizations which focus on lobbying on various issues. We like to restrict ourselves to actually doing things on the ground. We focus on educating and empowering local communities to help them preserve their reefs and forests.

Personally I would rather not see any trade in coral of any sort; whether legal or not. 

What is the issue with coral reef conservation particularly in your location—Queensland, Australia?

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is one of the best managed and most thoroughly researched reef systems in the world. The major concerns for us here are things such as water quality, over-fishing, coastal development pressures and of course climate change.

Can you hold reefs in a tank and still consider yourself someone who conserves reefs?

Let me say that this is my personal view and that Coral Cay Conservation has no official position on issues such as this, for the reasons given earlier.

Simply put, I would say “no”. When you talk about “reefs” in tanks you are actually talking about “coral” in tanks. There are very few, if any, actual reef ecosystems that are sustainable in artificial conditions. Keeping a coral colony alive in a tank for a period of time, as far as I can see plays no part in conserving coral reef ecosystems. Indeed, I would suggest that it promotes a trade in live corals which has a negative impact on coral reefs.

So you hold the CC record for most species of algae collected on a single Caribbean dive? How did that happen and how does that feel?

Many years ago (I think it was 1996) I was working as Expedition Leader on a CCC project in Belize. The collection and recording of algae tends to be one of the less glamorous jobs for our volunteer surveyors, so I thought that I would teach myself as much about the species of Caribbean algae as possible so that I could take over the job of algae nerd! With the help of our Science Officer at the time, that’s exactly what I did…and actually really started to enjoy finding as many species of algae as I could. It’s a fascination that has stayed with me and I still enjoy going “algae hunting” on dives.

How can the average person join one of your projects or volunteer?

Joining a Coral Cay Conservation expedition is easy. Simply visit our website for full details and a great online booking facility. Going on a CCC expedition is the kind of life-changing experience that everyone should have! It certainly changed my life and I know that it has done so for thousands of others.

Tell me about your dive training and business consultancy operation and how did you manage both that and being part of CCC?

My wife and I run a small business in Mission Beach in beautiful Tropical North Queensland (www.conusdivetcs.com.au). We provide quality dive training with a strong emphasis on the reef environment; but also targeted business consultancy services for many businesses in the area. Although we are both Dive Instructors, we also both come from a business and finance background.

The two sides of our business allow for a great deal of variety in the work that I do. On any one day I might be teaching volunteers the techniques required for reef health monitoring with Reef Check Australia, the next working with a Dive Master in training and the next running a seminar on the economic prospects for businesses in our region! 

On top of this I have my ongoing relationship with Coral Cay Conservation as Chairman. CCC is a London based organization so my day-to-day input into the running of the company is very limited (although I am kept in-the-loop on most issues), but the marvels of modern communications means that we can very easily hold meetings via video-conferencing facilities, and I am in touch regularly with the CEO, Directors and Advisors. The work that CCC does around the world is of vital importance and I very much enjoy being a (very small) part of that.      

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