Looking Back on 2019
Looking Back on 2019
It has been exactly one year since we were granted permissions by the Panamanian Marine authorities to collect damaged coral specimens from the sea and begin a coral nursery in the islands of Bocas del Toro.
Within a few days we had over 500 coral clones growing on “tree” supports in the deep-water nursery. Six months later we were taking clones from these original “mother” trees. These new clones were used to start more nursery trees, establish coral outplants on some of our artificial reef structures and begin populating some of the outlying shallow-water cage tables we had previously placed throughout the archipelago.
Today we have seven different reef-building coral species flourishing in the nursery and an expanding nursery population of over 2000 clones. Our facilities have grown from those first few trees to 15 trees, six shallow-water cage stations, six land-based nursery tanks and numerous outplant test stations.
In addition, we have produced and placed nearly 200 artificial reef structures since January of this year. The “proof-of-concept” reef we established at the nursery site was started in a location where there were almost no living reef structures left alive and certainly no sustainable fish or marine life populations. Today, that new “reef” is effectively helping to protect a shoreline and is habitat to hundreds of breeder-size fish, along with crabs, eels and an amazing variety of colorful tropical fish.
Many of the original structures are indistinguishable from natural reef formations with an incrustation of naturally occurring sponges, algaes, exotic marine organisms and a variety of both soft and stone corals that have spontaneously seeded onto the surface of the structures.
It is motivating to watch a small group of volunteer workers supported by charity donations accomplish more in a few short years than anyone believed possible. All because they chose action above apathy.
But the sustainability of coral reefs is not found solely in the generation of coral alone. In order for our efforts to be effective, we have to simultaneously address the root causes for the desecration of our coral reefs. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, water quality influences and over-harvesting of all marine-life organisms must be resolved on an equal basis.
If we can force ourselves to take action at all levels political, environmental, economical and social, then we have a chance to at least partially restore the biodiversity that drives the balance necessary for the ocean to once again thrive in a sustainable manner. It is a choice we all have to make very soon and be willing to live with the consequences of those choices.
This is why we have chosen to broaden our perspective and taken the initiative to include within our Coral Restoration efforts, programs that involve and educate the local community. We are developing relationships with schools, community agencies, and local and national government agencies to educate, create and maintain beneficial protocols regarding marine environments. We are beginning to interact with other like-minded organizations in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago to coordinate and focus efforts towards an awareness and active participation in mitigating and eventually eliminating environmentally harmful practices. We are exchanging information and sharing knowledge with other practitioners throughout the Caribbean who are also are focused on coral and marine life enhancement and preservation.
Here in the islands, we are aware of the subsistence nature toward the sea that is traditional and ongoing with many of the outlying indigenous peoples living here. The collapse of the reef system has been instrumental in the simultaneous collapse of the fisheries. Over the last three years we have developed an artificial reef system that not only gives new coral and a stable platform but provides an instant habitat for fish regeneration. During the next few months we will be expanding that part of our program by training local indigenous leaders the techniques and process to build practical underwater fisheries structures. The goal is to establish a local industry that creates employment for local workers and provides a major benefit to the community at large.
By using common sense and grassroots technologies we have greatly reduced the cost factor so often quoted in reviews of the coral restoration industry. We take pride in the our ability to make every dollar produce results that can potentially make a difference in another human life. With growing worldwide awareness for the critical nature of preserving the biodiversity of our oceans and the willing participation and support of people who care, we can and will continue to build hope for all who Love the Sea.
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