The Coral Crusaders are NOT the name of a rock band, but they are rock stars: ordinary scuba divers, participating in the defense of reefs with superpowers to preserve and restore corals!
Across the oceans of the world, there are regional and global factors profoundly impacting coral reefs: large construction projects, oil and chemical spills, frequent mass bleaching events, increased algae cover, and ocean acidification caused by an uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere. The combination of these factors has resulted in a 14% worldwide decline in coral since 2009. Scientists, conservation managers, and citizen environmentalists, like the Coral Crusaders, are developing and implementing strategies to protect, preserve, and restore coral reef ecosystems against this suite of local and global threats.
There is a network of 20 coral restoration projects across the Caribbean. A group of scuba divers and snorkelers traveled to Curaçao at the end of 2021 and dove with Reef Renewal Curaçao (RRC) under the guidance of Megan Beazley, Marine Biologist and nursery coordinator. Some of the group from A-1 Scuba chose to tour and work in one of their coral nurseries including: Albert, Carla, Charlie, Claire, John, Lynn, and Tom. They scraped, scrubbed and removed fire coral from ‘trees’, and afterwards Charlie said, “Working in the nursery was amazing. Instead of just looking we were actually doing something positive.”
In Roatan, Honduras there are three coral restoration projects. Jennifer Keck, the Education and Research Coordinator at Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences (RIMS), took Colorado new diver, Dr. Carly L. and me to one of their nurseries. Their nursery is in deeper water than Curaçao’s, and that helps to protect the trees from their specific storm patterns. They grow both Elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, and Staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, on trees very near the coast. Outplanting directly onto rocks and similar substrates, when the frags are viable, has proven to be an effective way to outplant. Dr. Carly L., who came along with me to work in the RIMS nursery said, “Probably the best thing I saw on Roatan was the RIMS nursery”. A non-profit also working in Honduras, the Roatan Marine Park, is an organization dedicated to the conservation of Honduras’s marine and coastal ecosystems. Working primarily in the Bay Islands Marine Park, where over 1,600,000 acres are protected by the park rangers who work with the Honduran Navy to enforce the application of environmental laws in the waters of Roatan. Three coral crusaders went to work there: Crista R. and Karen D. and me, spending time cleaning off fire coral and parasites from some of the 40+ trees. Interesting for me to note was that this was the first coral nursery where I saw fragments of both Elkhorn and Staghorn corals on the same tree.
Here are a few ways that you can do something positive for coral:
- When you travel, ask if there are restoration projects to visit. Many welcome experienced divers who can control their buoyancy to work in their nurseries, for a dive or a day or days.
- Donate to the organizations in any of my blog posts by following the links to their sites.
- Take a course and learn to dive with purpose. Here are three organizations that offer certifications in coral reef conservation
Coming blogs include profiles of the Coral Crusaders who work for the restoration organizations. Don’t miss a post, become a rockstar and join the Coral Crusaders! Follow along!