By: Laura Butz
The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.
Grand Cayman Eco Divers in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and local dive establishments are working together to maintain coral nurseries and aid in conservation, sustainability and restoration of Cayman’s coral reefs. The program develops effective strategies for protecting and restoring damaged areas of coral reef with an emphasis on growing Staghorn coral in nurseries. Coral fragments are grown on structures referred to as coral trees. These “trees” are made from PVC and fiberglass rods. The fragments of coral grow into colonies and after significant growth, they are removed from the tree and planted onto damaged coral reef areas to aid in their recovery. The fragments are proven to provide a sustainable method in maintaining healthy reefs for the long-run. The successful transplantation and growth of the coral fragments help create diversity in the ecosystem and resilient reefs.
Cayman Eco Divers are seeking to expand the Coral Nursery Program to include: data collection, research, and educational programs for both local and international students. The expansion of the program will allow the participating dive companies and the Cayman Islands Department of Environment to monitor the growth of coral reefs and the health of the surrounding ecosystems. The research will focus on the following areas: the survival rate of the coral fragments, resistance to disease and resiliency, adaptation to climate change and other pressures, and locating new species of coral. Furthermore, the coral nurseries are monitored while relevant data on growth, survivability and health of the coral fragments are collected. The united effort in collecting data will benefit our island’s efforts in conservation.
Learning in Paradise
Grand Cayman Eco Divers is proud to offer an educational component to their Coral Reef recovery initiative. Their study abroad program is open to those interested in participating in the Coral Nursery Program, ranging from a one week to six weeks during the summer. Students are guaranteed to have a one-of-a-kind experience learning about conservation, coral research and monitoring local reefs.
“Our one week program includes Open Water certification through PADI. We will also include project AWARE and Coral Conservation specialty courses that can be used to request college credits”. – Aaron Hunt, Grand Cayman Eco Divers
Developing Ecotourism in the Cayman Islands
The Coral Nursery Program offers an opportunity for growth in ecotourism in the Cayman Islands. Visitors and local divers have an incredible opportunity to participate in the conservation of our fragile coral reefs. Students will learn the process of transplanting viable coral fragments while participating in an educational course on the conservation of coral reefs. Conservationists from all over the world see first-hand the positive impact of this beneficial program. As an island dependent on vibrant coral reefs, the Coral Nursery Program is highly valuable to both ecotourism and conservation. It promises to ensure the future of healthy local reefs and creates awareness about innovative ways of conserving coral reefs.
Collaborators with the Coral Nursery Program
Cayman Eco Divers in collaboration with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment, Sunset House, Ocean Frontiers, Divetech, Central Caribbean Marine Institute, Cayman Brac Shack are ensuring the health of coral reefs in the Cayman Islands. Collectively, each affiliate has started a coral tree nursery and actively participates in maintaining the nurseries and transplanting viable coral fragments onto critical reefs and ecosystems. Through their continued partnership as an united team, there is hope for Cayman’s coral reefs to thrive as a healthy ecosystem.
Adopt A Coral Reef
If you would like to support this wonderful initiative you can donate funds to contribute to the overall success of the preservation of critical coral reefs and ecosystems.