Coral builds reefs and provides habitat for fish.  Fragments of staghorn and elkhorn corals were harvested from surviving colonies such as this one.
Coral builds reefs and provides habitat for fish. Fragments were harvested from surviving colonies such as this to stock Bonaire's coral nurseries. Photo by Barrett Walker.
Project Report:
Community Based Coral Reef Restoration in Bonaire, NA
Buddy Dive
Buddy Dive (the largest operator on the Island) is charging guests a voluntary fee of a dollar per night to help fund coral restoration. Sixty percent of visitors to Bonaire come primarily to dive. Although the Island's reefs are some of the healthiest in the Caribbean, they have drastically declined, particularly in water less than thirty feet deep.

Purpose
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.

Summary

This is a community-based coral reef restoration project in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. The project is initially being funded by voluntary “bed taxes” collected from visiting guests by local dive resorts. Additional funding is provided through this grant from the Walker Foundation. The project is supporting the establishment of an offshore coral nursery program to grow corals for use in coastal coral reef restoration projects. The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) staff will provide education and hands-on training for local scientists and dive operators on how to grow corals in offshore nurseries, how to transplant them to the nearby degraded reefs, and how to care for them after they have been planted. CRF will also assist local groups to set up training programs for visiting divers and university students to help with all aspects of maintaining the nursery, outplanting nursery-grown corals to the reef, and restoration maintenance operations.

Coral Nursery Klein Bonaire
Working at one of three nurseries established in Bonaire. This site was previously completely covered by the two species of coral now being grown to restore it. Photo by Ken Nedimyer.

Description

In August CRF staff made a follow up visit to Bonaire to assess the condition of the nursery, provide additional training to the local partners on Bonaire, and to look into expanding the project.

The week started off with a visit to the nurseries where we did a photo inventory and developed a nursery work plan for the week. There are two species of coral we are focusing on at this point, staghorn coral, Acropora cervicornis, and elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata. Both are fast growing branching corals that are considered the primary reef building corals in the Caribbean. Fragments from ten different genetic strains of each species were collected and hung on tree nurseries in April of 2012. The assessment dive revealed that the staghorn corals had done extremely well with very high survival rates and robust growth, whereas the survival and growth of the elkhorn corals varied widely, mostly due to handling at the time of collection. We determined that we would focus on pruning and developing a second generation of staghorn corals, and wait until December to start pruning and developing a second generation of elkhorn corals.

In April when we set up the nurseries, we also set up an experiment to compare growth rates among the various genetic strains of staghorn corals, and to compare growth rates between two different nursery environments, so on this trip while we were pruning and hanging new corals, we were also measuring and photographing the experimental corals. The initial results of the growth experiment shows a considerable variation in growth rates between different genetic strains, but minor differences in growth rates at the two different nursery sites.

By the end of the week we had competed all measurements for the experimental corals, taken before and photographs of all tree nurseries, and pruned and hung 1150 new 5 cm to 10 cm staghorn fragments. In December we expect to be able to prune and hang an additional 500 staghorn corals, and prune and hang up to 500 elkhorn fragments. Our goal is to have at least 1,000 reef competent, second generation staghorn colonies ready by April of 2013, and up to 400 second generation elkhorn colonies ready by the end of 2013.
Our local partners on the island, Buddy Dive Resort, have formed a Dutch nonprofit called The Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire(CRF Bonaire), and they have been sending their dive staff to visit the nurseries almost weekly to clean and monitor the corals, so overall the nurseries look exceptional. Each week hundreds of people see the nursery located off Buddy Dive Resort, so there is quite a bit of excitement about the program. During the week we were there, we had at least ten different Buddy Dive staff members helping us prune and hang corals, so there is a pretty big pool of local divers being trained in how to set up, maintain, and expand a coral nursery program.

During the week we also held several different meetings aimed at expanding the program in Bonaire. On Monday morning we met with CRF Bonaire management and Frank Slobbe from Dienst Ruimtelijke Ordening en Beheer (DROB) (Bonaire Planning and Management Service) and Ramon DeLeon from Stichting Nationale Parken (STINAPA). The purpose of the meeting was to give Frank and Ramon an update on the progress of the nursery program and discuss next steps. They were both very open and receptive to what we were doing and what we had planned for next year, so we penciled out a series of steps that would need to be taken over the next several months leading up to submitting an application for a new permit by early December. They were very receptive to adding new dive shops and resorts into the nursery program, expanding the number of "House Nurseries", expanding the Klein Bonaire nursery, and transplanting corals onto the reef next year.

On Tuesday morning we had a meeting with CRB Bonaire and the Council for Underwater Resorts (CURO) members to discuss expanding the nursery and restoration program to more resorts and dive operations. Three resorts were represented (DIVI, Captain Dons, and Harbor Village) at the meeting and there is a forth dive shop that is interested but did not make the meeting (Wanna Dive). They were all very interested in getting involved but had questions about the costs, the structure of CRF Bonaire, and what the time requirements would be. Paul Coolen from CRF Bonaire will be working on addressing those issues. All the people that attended were managers, not owners, so ultimately a successful pitch will need to be made to the owners by the managers and possibly someone from CRF. Two of the resorts are owned by Americans living in Miami, so we may need to pay them a visit at some point and explain what we are proposing to do.

Long term funding through the existing Marine Park program was discussed and is moving forward. Bonaire has an existing permitting system that requires all divers to purchase an annual permit to be able to snorkel or dive off Bonaire, so we are looking into ways to access some of those funds to pay for restoration work around the island. Other resort level funding options are being developed and will be offered to participating resorts and businesses as options to help fund a long term program on Bonaire.

January 2013 Update

In January of 2013, Denise and Ken Nedimyer traveled to Bonaire to meet with the government officials of Bonaire and the marine park manager to discuss a proposal to expand the nursery program and to start the restoration phase of the program. They proposed to double the nursery size on Klein Bonaire and add "house nurseries" in front of some of the other waterfront resorts on Bonaire. They also proposed doubling the genetic diversity in the nursery program by collecting additional genetic samples from around the island. After much discussion, it was determined that they should move forward with the nursery expansion and restoration programs, but hold off on collecting any new corals until the fall of the year.
During the week, CRF board chair Mike Echevarria joined the group and helped frag and hang new corals, as well as participate in business meetings with Buddy Dive. The group produced over 1200 new staghorn corals and about 350-400 elkhorn corals during the week. Of the 1200 corals produced in August of 2012, only three corals had died, so the survival rate for that first group second generation corals is almost 100%.
Business meetings between CRF Bonaire and CRF USA led to some action plans that include producing and selling branded merchandise, teaching at least two levels of PADI Distinctive Specialty dive certifications, and selling dive tags to guests at Buddy Dive resort and other resorts throughout the island. These revenue producing products will add to the funds generated through the "dollar per day" optional room charge, and should significantly increase the ability of the foundation to support its restoration goals using guest contributions. CRF Bonaire officials are developing relationships with other resorts on the island so that in the summer of 2013 they can begin to set up additional "house nurseries".
Efforts to get funding for coral restoration work included in the 2013 Bonaire Marine Park budget were unsuccessful and the prospects for the near future do not look very promising. CRF USA believes that as their restoration program yields some successful results, the Marine Park Authority will start to place a higher value on restoration than they do now.
CRF staff will travel to Bonaire in June of 2013 to direct the nursery expansion program and to help start the restoration program. Up to 1000 staghorn and 250 elkhorn corals are expected to be transplanted onto the reefs of Bonaire in 2013

Purpose

This project will explore and develop a market based system for funding a long term coral restoration program on the island of Bonaire. An initial system of voluntary bed taxes and user fees may eventually lead to a more formal, mandatory fee system that will fund the program long term. We believe that a voluntary system will work well on the island, and if coupled with port taxes for cruise ships and access fees for restored reef sites,, long term funding will be secure. This is a community based project that will engage the diving visitors on the island, so the people paying for the services will be able to see and enjoy the services.

Scope

This project will explore and develop a market based system for funding a long term coral restoration program on the island of Bonaire. An initial system of voluntary bed taxes and user fees may eventually lead to a more formal, mandatory fee system that will fund the program long term. We believe that a voluntary system will work well on the island, and if coupled with port taxes for cruise ships and access fees for restored reef sites,, long term funding will be secure. This is a community based project that will engage the diving visitors on the island, so the people paying for the services will be able to see and enjoy the services.

Amount Approved
$10,000.00 on 6/4/2012 (Check sent: 7/2/2012)



Island of Bonaire.
The island of Bonaire is about 5 x 25 miles and located in the southern Caribbean. Photo NASA.

Attachments
Coral Nursery Klein Bonaire
Coral builds reefs and provides habitat for fish. Fragments of staghorn and elkhorn corals were harvested from surviving colonies such as this one.
Island of Bonaire.
Buddy Dive
Sewage Collection Truck
Numbered coral in nursery
IMG_2610 Elkhorn, Photo by Ken.jpg
Tree Nursery with Elkhorn Fragments
Staghorn colony B6 in August 2012
Planting coral
Trio of Palmata Planted
A trio of palmata planted

Address
Florida Keys
5 Sea Gate Blvd
Key Largo, FL 33037

Directions
Drive South on US1 from Homestead into the Florida Keys. When you pass the second traffic light in Key Largo you'll come to a flashing yellow light. Turn at the flashing light, cross the northbound lane of US1 and proceed to the first stop sign. At the sign, take a left, then follow the signs to the Pilot House. The Coral Restoration Foundation Education center will be on your right, just before the Pilot House.

Phone
(305) 453-7030

Contacts


Martha Roesler
Chief Development Officer, Coral Restoration Foundation

Posted 3/30/2012 10:08 PM
Updated   4/11/2015 9:10 PM

  • Nonprofit


Sewage Collection Truck
Genetic testing has identified human sewage as one cause of coral disease. One reason Bonaire was selected as a pilot site to restore coral is that the Island is building an advanced wastewater treatment plant, funded by the Dutch government. Until the plant is finished, trucks pump sewage from holding tanks and transport it to the interior of the Island.

Numbered coral in nursery
Coral is carefully tracked by origin and condition. During the first five months, staghorn coral in the nurseries is growing rapidly and is being picked free of predatory snails and worms. After sufficient growth, it will be transplanted to re-establish reefs.

IMG_2610 Elkhorn, Photo by Ken.jpg
Augusto displaying nursery-grown elkhorn coral.

Tree Nursery with Elkhorn Fragments
Tree Nursery with Elkhorn Fragments

Staghorn colony B6 in August 2012
Staghorn coral growing in nursery (colony B6 in August 2012).

Planting coral
One of Coral Reef Foundation's Florida volunteers planting nursery-grown staghorn coral, June 20, 2013.

A trio of palmata planted
A trio of Elkhorn corals planted on the reef, June 20, 2013. (Fragments generated from storm damage April 2012.)

 
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