Engaging the diver to protect and restore reefs
For several years, scientists have observed more and more instances of coral mortality worldwide. The reasons for this are manifold: the El Nino, rising sea temperatures, overfishing, as well as secondary factors such as increased algae growth of the shallow areas in the sea. From the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the reefs at the Maldives, Seychelles and Caribbean, evidence of coral bleaching is all over the globe. In fact, this issue will affect everyone in the world today. The question is just to what degree.
The reefs at the small Caribbean island of Bonaire are considered one of the best reefs in the region. Boasting very good visibility, they are popular among underwater photographers and photographers worldwide. The protection of Bonaire's maritime realm began relatively early:
1961 – Turtle protection
1971 – Ban on spearfishing
1975 – Coral protection
1979 – Establishment of Bonaire National Marine Park
To ensure that Bonaire continues to be one of the best dive destinations in the world, the Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRFB) was established in 2012. CRF is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of elkhorn and staghorn corals, which are very much under threat here.
The idea of the coral restoration is not new. For more than 30 years, research and observations of aquarists have shown that corals grow well under favourable conditions. An important finding of the research is that transplanted coral fragemnts is well tolerated by the coral.
The reef restoration process starts with extracting segments from live corals from a reef. The segments are then planted in a nursery till they are adult. Then they are transplanted back into the natural habitat - in this case, the sea. This process is similar to "gardening technology" and "silviculture", and uses similar methods.
Since the 1980s, large areas of staghorn and elkhorn corals in the Caribbean have been destroyed – not just by the rising sea temperatures, but also due to hurricanes and other factors that often occur in the region. Today, some reefs are in ruins. This is where the CRF and its subsidiary, CRF Bonaire, come in. The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) have classified the two coral species as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Currently, there are three coral nurseries at different dive sites at Bonaire.
Sports divers and coral restoration
Interest in helping coral reefs recover is high amongst divers. Those who are keen can take the initiative and embark on a dive holiday during which they learn the basics of coral restoration.
Such a Coral Restoration Adventure Dive can be arranged in Bonaire. In a half-day workshop, divers learn how to conduct a site survey and participate in site maintenance activities. The cost of this workshop, including the dive, is US$65. The extended course, is US$220, it covers three dives as well as course materials.. Participants learn site maintenance, as well as how to prepare coral fragments and how to transplant mature corals onto the reef.
Karibiksport, a German dive tour organiser, passionately supports sustainable projects like the CRFB. So, if you want to make a difference during your next dive holiday, check out the two courses at Karibiksport.