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Given the many threats coral reefs are facing around the world, it is imperative to build and strengthen our capacities to respond to these in a timely and efficient manner so we can preserve and protect these ecosystems as best we can in order to favor natural recovery.

This is the reasoning behind having recently launched a coral restoration project here in the CCANMM that features two “Christmas tree” nurseries, three “dome” nurseries, two “clothesline” nurseries, and over 500 fragments in various sizes distributed among them. We are focusing our efforts primarily on one species – Acropora cervicornis, a key species in the formation and continuity of coral reefs.

By the end of 2022, we will have outplanted over 300 colonies (fragments) of A. cervicornis in this year only, bringing our grand outplanting total since 2019 to more than 500 colonies (fragments). Our coral restoration program has evolved exponentially since it’s humble beginnings of 6 “A frame”-type structures made from iron that quickly succumbed to the conditions and pretty much disintegrated a couple of months after deployment.

We now have far more sophisticated nursery structures made from different, more resistant materials such as boat’s rope, PVC, and resin and sand-coated iron rods. These structures are located at two different sites around the MPA including Cayo Gallo and Cayo Culebra and the fragments placed on these are frequently monitored and maintained by our staff and volunteers.

Coral restoration volunteers assist in any and all activities that members of our conservation team train them in. These activities include cleaning the structures and removing algae and incrusting organisms that find a favorable habitat on the surface of these structures and that could potentially outcompete the corals. It is sometimes necessary to replace, remove or fix all or parts of structures, buoys, or anchors. The coral fragments are all measured on monthly basis, and we teach our volunteers how to do so, later entering this information into our databases.

Anyone who would like to partake in these activities should be at least a PADI Advanced Open Water diver with excellent buoyancy, trim, and air consumption. Previous experience in coral restoration activities are desired but not required.

Similarly, our staff has also been training in other coral rescue and restoration techniques such as coral microfragmentation and assisted sexual coral reproduction.

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