Coral Reef Restoration Efforts Come to Roatan

Turquoise Bay Resort and Subway Watersports are proud supporters of Bay Islands Reef Restoration (BIRR). This new iniative is a coral nursery and coral restoration program that is conserving and replanting threatened coral species.  In March 2016, Turquoise Bay and Subway worked with Coral Restoration Foundation International (CRFI).  This Florida-based non-profit organization helped us to install 10 coral nursery “trees” near Turquoise Bay on Roatan’s north coast.

  The nursery trees, are constructed out of PVC, fiberglass rods, and marine epoxy. Our trees are attached to the sea floor with moorings and suspended in mid-water with subsurface floats.

The coral nurseries are stocked with coral fragments from multiple genotypes of Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis).  The coral fragments are “hung,” or attached, to the trees using monofilament and metal crimps. We stock the trees with either “fragments of opportunity,” loose coral fragments that have broken off Elkhorn or Staghorn colonies, or from end-tip clippings of less than 10% of the coral tissue of a healthy colony.

The science behind the project

The two species of Acropora coral selected for Roatan’s new coral nurseries were once the most abundant and important species on Caribbean coral reefs. This Corals were building reef structure and three-dimensional habitat for marine life.  Elkhorn and Staghorn corals underwent serious declines in abundance in the 70s and 80s and were listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2006.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that the Caribbean has lost more than 97 percent of these vital corals.  White Band disease, elevated seawater temperatures, pollution, and other stressors account for these losses.

While Elkhorn and Staghorn have declined dramatically, there are certainly healthy colonies on Roatan’s reefs. Bay Islands Reef Restoration collects  pieces of opportunity, fragments the collections, and grows the fragments in our nursery. Once the corals are large enough they are taken to plant back on the reef. We seek to preserve the remaining genetic diversity of these threatened species and plant genetically diverse corals back on the reef. Our final goal is to create thickets of closely grouped corals that can more readily sexually reproduce through successful spawning.

Bay Islands Reef Retoration and the Divemaster Program

The BIRR provides GOPRO Green Divemaster interns and the Resort guests with the opportunity to learn about important coral conservation initiatives. We encourage them to take part in coral nursery maintenance and coral outplanting. We hope you visit Roatan and dive with us while we seek to restore Roatan’s reefs.

Visit our Facebook page to keep up to date with the program!

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