WILLEMSTAD - "The coral colonies around Curaçao have a hard time surviving due to the discharge of waste water into the sea, various diseases and storms which has ultimately caused an increased mortality rate leading to corals disappearing in recent years." This is what divers Marc and Anton from Scubacao say and that is why they have joined the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao (CRFC).
For years the coral reefs around Curaçao have attracted thousands of dive tourists to the island every year. In fact, the diving industry last year accounted for a gross revenue of more than 76 million guilders ($43 million USD), according to the Curaçao Hospitality & Tourism Association (CHATA) - Dive Task Force economic survey (full report - click here)
Several initiatives have been started to restore the coral. One is the CRFC. This foundation was founded on Curaçao in 2015 and is part of a worldwide platform. CRFC is trying to restore the reef by collecting pieces of elk gorse and deer antler coral and replanting them at various locations off the coast of Curaçao.
The CRFC Director, Pol Bosch explains how they do this: "This happens in different coral gardens, also called 'nurseries'. These nurseries consist of artificial trees that are anchored to the sea floor which the coral grows on".
After the corals have matured, they are planted on the reef. "For this we use various means such as epoxy, which is a type of glue, with which we glue the corals to the rocks," says Pol.
Armed with sponges, toothbrushes and dishwashing brushes
One of the diving schools that participates in this project is Scubacao. They have planted five trees on their house reef. "Once every 2 to 3 weeks we dive with volunteers to the nurseries armed with sponges, toothbrushes and dishwashing brushes. With a tree you are working for about an hour to clean it ", says Marc Retrae, co-owner of Scubacao.
"We as a diving school are very interested in a healthy reef. We use the fact that there is a beautiful reef. This is an effective way to do something back, it is measurable and the result is fairly quickly visible. Within a few months you will see results and that is crazy to see ", says Marc" but it is a time-consuming job, we are short of hands, "adds Anton de Lange, co-owner of Scubacao.
'Tackle the cause'
Scientific director of the Caribbean Research & Management or Biodiversity (Carmabi) foundation, Dr Mark Vermeij, fears that the coral gardens are not as effective. "If you do not remove the ultimate cause such as dirty water and overfishing, then planting out is fun in the short term, but not really a solution for the longer term. It looks nice, but if you think further about whether this can eventually become populations that can reproduce,
that remains to be seen."
Coral nurseries are now located at Ocean Encounters Diving, Atlantis Diving and Scubacao.
Contact the Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao for more information how you can become involved.
Click below for original article in Dutch
Article reprinted & translated to English courtesy of the Caribisch Netwerk
photos by: Roelie van Beek, Turtle & Ray Productions HD