Volunteers prepare to transplant nursery grown staghorn corals
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
This is a community based coral reef restoration project located in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. The Coral Restoration Foundation Inc (USA) has assisted a local Non Profit called Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire in setting up an offshore coral nursery program that is now prepared to start transplanting second generation corals onto the local reefs. The restoration program is being funded by voluntary resort fees, diver training programs, branded merchandise sales, and a dive medallion program.
This project involves developing a long term, locally managed and funded program focusing on coral reef restoration on the Caribbean island of Bonaire. Working with a local dive resort on Bonaire(Buddy Dive) staff from the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) have successfully established two offshore coral nurseries in Bonaire. Staghorn and elkhorn corals were collected from around the islands of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire and placed in offshore nurseries. Those corals were then cared for over the next 16 months by staff from Buddy Dive and the Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire. Several trips by CRF USA staff were made to the island in the first year to demonstrate proper nursery maintenance and pruning techniques, and the nursery grew in size from 300 corals to over 3,000 corals.
June of 2013, CRF staff traveled to Bonaire with materials to double the size of the nursery and materials to transplant some of the bigger corals in the nursery onto the local reefs. By the end of the trip, over a thousand corals had been transplanted, 30 more nursery tree structures were installed, and over 2,000 new coral fragments were pruned from existing corals and hung in the nursery. CRF staff also introduced two new revenue generating programs to the island, one being a dive medallion program and the other being a set of training manuals for teaching two coral restoration distinctive specialty dive courses. Instructors at Buddy Dive now teach weekly “Coral Restoration” specialty dive certification courses to their guests, which help support the local resort and the local Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire nonprofit. Buddy Dive has also sold over 1500 dive medallions for $10 each, raising thousands of dollars for the local program.
CRF and CRF Bonaire are now in the process of expanding the nursery and restoration program on the island by bringing additional dive resorts into the program and reaching a broader segment of the tourist divers that visit the island. Plans are underway to establish at least one new house nursery in May of June of 2014, with additional ones to follow later in the year.
Plans are also underway to launch a large elkhorn coral restoration program in the late spring of 2014. Up until this time, most of the restoration work has been with staghorn coral, but there are now hundreds of second generation elkhorn corals ready to be transplanted to the reef.
Work in 2014 and 2015 will focus on expanding the nursery program, expanding the restoration program, developing a team of local volunteers to help with the entire program, and monitoring the results of the restoration program. A final report will be generated at the conclusion of the Walker Foundation’s funding obligation, either in July of 2014, or if the project is funded for the 2014/2015 period, in July of 2015. The final report will include the number of corals grown in nurseries, the number of corals transplanted to the reef, the number of reefs “restored”, the monitoring results through the end of the funding cycle, and the number of people engaged in the various dive programs taught by CRF Bonaire. CRF expects the coral restoration program in Bonaire to be fully self-sufficient and self-sustaining by the summer of 2015. Most of the funding for the program will come from voluntary fees and services provided by CRF Bonaire.
To support this community based restoration project, we will be developing a system of voluntary fees and services that will support the restoration work. A "dollar per room per day" resort fee is currently in place at three resorts on the island, and we will be looking to expand participation in that program in 2014.
We have also developed voluntary a dive medallion program launched in June 2013, and have developed several specialty dive certification programs that were also be launched in June of 2013
We are also be working with CRF Bonaire to investigate a mandatory conservation fee that is charged to all cruise ship guests visiting the island. This kind of program is gaining more and more support as people recognize the environmental impact of supporting cruise visitors, so there is more support for assessing a conservation fee to mitigate for those impacts. Our Bonaire coral restoration program would well positioned to receive support from such a system.
This project is specific to Bonaire, but it is a model that can be adapted for use elsewhere, including the United States. The coral reef resources in the Continental US are managed by the State of Florida or the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and both entities have been resistant to imposing mandatory user fees for resource users. The increasing pressures on the resource, and the degradation caused by over use, pollution, and changing climate have stretched the abilities of the state and federal government to manage these important resources. New ways of producing revenue for protecting, managing, and restoring these resources need to be explored.
The Coral Restoration Foundation has been on the forefront of developing reef restoration technologies and is now confronting the challenges of finding financial support to expand this critical work. We believe Bonaire is an ideal place to develop and test various user fee programs that could be applied in the United States.
A final report will be submitted to the Walker Foundation for posting on their website, and a newsletter article will be distributed through our digital mailing list. Our CRF Bonaire web page will be updated to reflect the completion of the project and acknowledge the participation of the Walker Foundation in the development and completion of the project. An international coral reef restoration program is being launched in the spring of 2014, and CRF Bonaire and the lessons learned there are expected to play an important part in the development of that program.
(Check sent: 7/1/2013)