In my Part I of this series, I touched on the mission of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRF) and promised to show you how the restoration work is carried out underwater.
But first, I think it’s important to explain the meaning of coral restoration. Simply put, coral restoration is the transplantation of nursery-raised coral fragments to needy reef sites where they are secured to the seabed with marine epoxy or tie wraps.
The coral nursery is the epicenter of activity for coral restoration. “Coral Trees” are constructed using PVC pipes and fiberglass rods. Then, coral fragments are hung from the tree on monofilament line. A tree can hold as many as 160 coral fragments (all of the same coral species- staghorn or elkhorn in this case).
Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire
Here a diver prunes the coral. The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.
Pruning the coral
A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree
Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree
Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree
A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree
New volunteer divers learning to hang coral
Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree
Once the corals have been affixed to a tree, regular maintenance is needed for optimal health and growth potential. The tree “branches” and the monofilament line both require frequent cleaning.
Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning. Notice the algae build up.
Cleaning the monofilament lines to remove algae build up
A diver cleans a tree trunk, removing algae and other build up
Cleaning a tree branch
Diver tending to a tree
In addition to cleaning the tree, predators and fire coral must be removed as part of its routine care.
A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch
Once the nursery-raised corals have grown to the appropriate size, they are carefully transported to a specially selected site for attachment to the sea floor. They are then tagged and monitored routinely.
In Bonaire, both tourists and residents alike are encouraged to volunteer with CRF. In order to volunteer, you must be a certified open water diver, and you must complete the PADI Coral Restoration Diver specialty course. The course is offered weekly at Buddy Dive Resort, and it is designed so that tourists can have both a fun and educational volunteer vacation. For more information, please visit Buddy Dive’s website or send an email to email@example.com.
Steve and I are very excited to be involved with this organization, and we think it will have a positive and noticeable impact on the health of the coral reefs which surround Bonaire. We would like to thank Francesca Virdis, the project leader for CRF Bonaire, for helping us become “coral lovers” and for her dedication to Bonaire’s reefs.
-You may notice that some divers participating in coral restoration activities are wearing gloves. This is due to the potential for coral cuts or fire coral injuries. Recreational divers are not permitted to wear gloves on Bonaire.
-Divers volunteering with Coral Restoration Foundation are specially trained in handling coral. In keeping with good diving practices, it is not OK to touch coral or any other marine species on recreational dives.