Some restored coral off Grand Cayman is getting primped and beautified for an upcoming hot date.
Dive volunteers are carefully combing and brushing a section of restored coral reef in George Town Harbour, trying to keep reattached coral fragments free of algae to make them more attractive when local corals spawn next month.
Lois Hatcher, co-coordinator of the Cayman Magic Reef Recovery Project which began work in September 2014, says:
“85% of the corals have survived the first year, and they look good. But we need to get in there and keep scrubbing the algae away so that during the spawning event, floating gametes can attach themselves to these small corals and grow new coral colonies, fortifying this whole area.”
The corals were damaged two years ago when a Carnival Cruise liner inadvertently dragged its anchor across them.
Hatcher, along with a group of local volunteers supported by dive operators and the local community, have spent hundreds of hours on the project over the past two years. A fundraiser brought in US$28,000/25,068 Euros for the project and Carnival Cruise Lines donated an additional US$100,000/89,529 Euros without admitting fault.
“The heavy work is done, and now we need to focus on maintenance. Because of warmer water and other things, algae is growing rapidly and covering the coral fragments. We need to clean the algae off before the coral spawning mid-September.”
When corals spawn, they simultaneously release eggs and sperm to make new life in the water. These fertilized eggs, or gametes, ride the currents until they find a spot to descend and start new coral colonies. The annual event, which happens in the middle of the night, is more predictable these days, so Hatcher says timing is everything during spawning and too much algae can interfere with this reproductive cycle:
“A reef’s ecosystem is well connected and balanced, and when something throws the balance off, its delicate work to restore it. Sorting good algae from bad algae to give these corals a better chance for long-term survival is part of that work.”
To find out more about the Magic Reef Recovery Project, check out the project’s Facebook page.