The Sint Maarten Nature Foundation has started to populate its first coral nursery structures again after most of the previous coral nurseries were damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Foundation has slowly started to implement its ‘Fragments of Recovery” coral restoration projects with installing the first two coral reef nurseries in an attempt to repopulate hurricane damaged reefs around the island with rare coral species. “The first Staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) have been transplanted to the coral nursery station on the dive site ‘Moonscape, close to Simpson Bay. The two nursery ladders from the Nature Foundation are now populated with coral fragments in order to raise new coral colonies to repopulate the damaged coral reefs. In the next months, more nursery ladders will be placed and populated with Staghorn and also Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) fragments. The coral nursery will be checked and cleaned regularly to prevent algae growth and to secure optimal growth conditions for the corals. Also the growth of the coral fragments will be researched and compared with other Caribbean islands. We are asking scuba divers to keep their distance to the coral nursery as the corals are fragile,” commented Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The Coral Nursery Project in St Maarten used to be part of the 3 year RESCQ project (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Program. However, due to the effects caused by last year’s Hurricanes the Nature Foundation has had to step out of the project in order to focus on rebuilding and assisting Nature recover on the island; “Now that we are in a phase where we further along in our recovery we have started to relaunch our coral restoration program. We received tremendous help from the community and from the Coral Restoration, the US National and Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Coral Reef Restoration Consortium to get our project going again. Slowly we will be adding coral in our nursery which we will eventually outplant on our reefs that were severely impacted by the Hurricanes. We estimate that we lost about80% of our coral combined,” commented Tadzio Bervoets, Nature Foundation Manager.
The Nature Foundation also received support and expert assistance from Jamaican Coral Restoration Expert Michelle McNaught during the initial stages of populating the fragments.
Photo: Coral Reef Restoration Nurseries in Sint Maarten