Nature Foundation transplants coralPOSTED: 08/28/12 12:03 PM
GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation continued with its coral transplanting project to restore coral reefs both inside and outside of the Man of War Shoal Marine Park the last few weeks. A group of six volunteer divers from the community assisted the Nature Foundation with the project. The project started with coral being transplanted on the section of reef which was damaged by the sinking of the vessel “Urge” in late March of this year. The vessel caught fire and sank within the Man of War Shoal Marine Park close to a dive site known as “Fish Bowl”. The larger pieces of the wreck were cleared by commercial salvage company Aquatic Solutions with the Nature Foundation cleaning up the smaller sized debris. Bobby’s Marina Group of Companies also made a significant donation to the Nature Foundation to assist with the cleaning and restoration efforts of the reef due to the sinking of the “Urge”.
Because the vessel sank on an area of healthy reef some corals were damaged as a result. Once coral reefs are damaged they are less able to support the many creatures that inhabit them. When a coral reef supports fewer fish, plants, and animals, it also loses value as a tourist destination. Further, the absence of reefs acting as natural barriers can increase the damage to the Philipsburg area from wave action caused by storms and hurricanes. It was therefore decided to conduct a coral transplanting initiative to help Nature restore the damaged reef and extend the project to areas outside of the Marine Park.
The corals were transplanted using a simple technique where pieces of coral are harvested from healthy sections on different areas on the reef. A small nail is drilled into the damaged area to which the coral is attached using tying wire and marine epoxy. Dozens of coral species were transplanted by Nature Foundation staff and volunteers over the past few weeks and the transplanting project will continue indefinitely.
The Man of War Shoal Marine Park and the coral reef areas within it are of significant environmental and economic importance as diving in Marine Parks is globally on the rise and generally accepted by the diving tourist as a “must do” vacation activity. An economic valuation study conducted by the Nature Foundation of St. Maarten’s coral reef ecosystem has placed the monetary value at close to US$58 million in contributions to the country’s economy.
With proper management and restoration the area will increase the St. Maarten tourism product and local fisheries will also be enhanced through the regeneration of the depleted fish stock surrounding St. Maarten. Research has shown that Marine Protected Areas increase fish populations and fish size of commercial species in nearby fishing grounds.
The latest area to have coral transplanted in order to have the reefs restored was the Long Bay Reef complex outside of Cupecoy.