Coral Nursery Thrives at Turquoise Bay,
Turquoise Bay Dive and Beach Resort, a highly-rated all-inclusive hotel located on Roatan’s northeast coast, and Subway Watersports, the on-site dive operation for Turquoise Bay, recently celebrated the three-year anniversary of the installation of the first coral nurseries in the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Turquoise Bay and Subway are committed to protecting and restoring Roatan’s coral reefs by supporting the Roatan Marine Park and championing a thriving coral nursery and restoration program that is growing and planting Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and elkhorn (Acropora palmata) corals back on Roatan’s reefs. Staghorn and elkhorn are the fastest growing Caribbean corals that provide the three-dimensional framework vital for reef life. Unfortunately, due to coral diseases and multiple other stressors including climate change, untreated sewage, overfishing, and land-based runoff, these once-abundant building blocks of Caribbean reefs have become threatened species.
After growing these endangered coral for six months to a year in our off-shore, mid-water coral nursery, we plant healthy corals back on the reefs around Roatan. Our coral restoration project bolsters the remaining genetic diversity of threatened corals by strategically planting the hardiest nursery-raised corals back on the reef. When these corals grow up and spawn shortly after the full moon in August, the nursery-raised corals will contribute their resilient genes to the next generation of these vital reef-building corals.
Over 50 Subway Go Pro Green PADI Divemaster interns, and 150 resort guests have joined in the effort to maintain the coral nurseries and outplant nursery-raised coral. So far, we have transplanted over 500 corals back onto Roatan’s reefs, and our monitoring program indicates that more than 80% of these corals are healthy and securely attached to the reef.
Coral Nursery Program Expands to West Bay
Buiding on the success of the Turquoise Bay coral nursery program, Subway Watersports and Mayan Divers are now joining forces to install a new coral nursery at SeaQuest Deep dive site in West Bay, Roatan. On March 5, 2019, Mayan Divers staff and Subway Watersports Go Pro Green Divemaster candidates installed four new coral nursery trees on a sandy patch on the reef near SeaQuest Deep. We have six more coral nursery trees ready to go that we will install and fill with diverse genotypes of elkhorn and staghorn coral in the coming weeks. A generous grant from the MAR FUND, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting the Mesoamerican reef, to the Roatan Marine Park will fund 20 additional coral nursery trees in West Bay. Upon execution of the one-year MAR FUND grant, a total of 1,800 corals will be growing in 30 coral nursery trees at SeaQuest Deep.
The funding will also help coordinate and expand the existing coral restoration efforts in Roatan. Mayan Princess, Mayan Divers, and other supporters of the RMP will work together to engage the West End and West Bay dive communities in active coral restoration. The RMP Coral Restoration Program will work to ensure that we all follow similar protocols for coral collections, genotype naming, coral data management, outplant monitoring and mapping, and information sharing.
Subway Pilots New PADI-Approved Course on Coral Restoration
Subway Watersports and Mayan Divers are also happy to announce that we are now offering a PADI Distinctive Specialty Course in Coral Restoration. PADI recently approved Tripp Funderburk, the Coral Restoration Manager for Subway Watersports and for Mayan Divers, to teach the Bay Islands Reef Restoration Coral Restoration Distinctive Specialty course, which Tripp personally developed. The course includes lectures on basic coral biology, coral stressors, and the theory and techniques employed in coral restoration programs. It also includes two open water dives to teach students how to maintain coral nursery trees and outplant nursery-raised corals onto the reef.
Mayan Divers recently certified a group of 18 students from the Blue Endeavors ocean conservation program in the new course. In just three days, these motivated students learned about coral ecology, cleaned coral trees in Turquoise Channel, planted staghorn coral at the Labyrinth dive site, collected elkhorn coral fragments from Blue Channel, and hung corals in trees at the new SeaQuest Deep nursery. “We are planning to come back, hopefully every year with a different school,” writes Vince Smith of Blue Endeavors.
We need your help to restore healthy colonies of staghorn and elkhorn coral! We hope you can dive with us at Turquoise Bay Resort and Mayan Princess to help maintain our nurseries and plant nursery-raised coral back on the reef. Please contact Tripp Funderburk ([email protected]) to find out how you can get involved in coral restoration in Roatan.