A children's choir from Penghu sang their way to third place in the recent Reef Check Singing Contest, using their song to raise awareness about protecting the ocean and coral reefs.
The contest was sponsored by the US-based Reef Check Foundation, an international non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of coral and rocky reefs.
The foundation has since 1997 been involved in investigating the conditions of coral reefs in more than 80 countries, said Allen Chen (陳昭倫), an assistant research fellow at Academia Sinica's Biodiversity Research Center.
“In the past, reef checks were conducted by the government, but because the work requires a lot of volunteers, this year two not-for-profit organizations — the Taiwanese Association for Marine Environmental Education and the Taiwan Environmental Information Association — will jointly host the activity,” Chen said.
Academia Sinica will also co-fund the reef checks, Chen said.
The Reef Check Singing Contest was part of the 2008 International Year of the Reef program, a global campaign to raise awareness about the importance of coral reefs, threats to their survival and coral reef protection.
Corals are organisms that extract calcium from seawater and use it to create hardened structures; they provide homes and shelter for thousands of other species in the ocean.
“In past coral checks, we have found four major problems associated with the ocean that may threaten the sustainability of coral reefs, namely overfishing, overdevelopment of coastlines, pollution and climate change,” Chen said.
Because of climate change, coral bleaching — or discoloration of corals, which is a sign that the organism is under environmental stress that could lead to death — and ocean acidification, which prevents sea organisms from forming calcium-based structures, have been found, he said.
“If the acidification worsens, corals would in the future be limp, and clams and oysters would have no shells,” he said.
Asked how her students won the hearts of the judges, Penghu County Chung Shing Elementary School (中興國小) teacher Anna Chang (張玳伶) said that before they recorded the competition video, she had shown her students photographs of the Penghu coastline 10 years ago compared with how it looks now.
“I asked the children to hold that in mind, and sing in ways that would encourage people to want to protect and love the ocean,” she said.
Children are a good medium with which to spread the message, as not only are their voices pure and uncontaminated, “when they go home, they tell their parents about the importance of protecting the ocean,” she said.
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