Rescuing Corals Across the Caribbean
Emma Doyle, coordinator of the MPAConnect (for Marine Protected Areas) Network, reports: In 2022 we reported on a new coral disease that was affecting Caribbean coral reefs [“A New Coral Disease in the Caribbean: Challenges, Resources and How to Help”). Called stony coral tissue loss disease, it spreads rapidly and affects some of the slowest-growing and longest-lived reef-building corals, including the iconic brain corals, star corals and pillar corals. The disease has now spread to 26 countries and territories in the Caribbean region.
What can be done? Across the region, managers have responded by monitoring affected corals. In some cases, they have been treated and some corals have successfully been saved. Others have proven resilient and survived despite the passage of the disease.
“Caribbean coral reef managers are now looking for additional tools to save the biodiversity of these slow-growing, reef-building stony corals in the face of coral disease,” Doyle says. “Where the disease has already decimated reefs, they’re looking for practical ways to restore those stony corals that have been lost.”
Dana Wusinich-Mendez, Atlantic-Caribbean team lead for the Coral Reef Conservation Program of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains: “Coral rescue has become an important tool in our efforts to address the destructive impacts of stony coral tissue loss disease. It can serve as an insurance policy that will help Caribbean coral reef resource managers in their efforts to restore their reefs in the future as well as to build ecosystem resilience to future coral disease outbreaks.”
While there is much already known about the restoration of faster growing species of coral, like the staghorn and elkhorn corals, new approaches are emerging to save stony corals.
“As the field evolves, we’re seeing a trend towards ex-situ coral rescue in the form of land-based nurseries housing whole healthy corals or micro-fragments of healthy corals,” says Ms. Wusinich-Mendez. “We’re also seeing more monitoring of coral spawning, with the collection of gametes and then the rearing of coral larvae in lab settings or in-situ.” These coral reserves can eventually be outplanted or broadcast on the reef.
Stony coral rescue is now underway in locations including Mexico, Belize, Honduras, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Dominica and the Dutch Caribbean.
The Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire in late 2022 tested outplanting of fragments of three species of boulder coral: lobed star coral, mountainous star coral and great star coral.
“Outplanting these boulder coral fragments for the first time was a critical step for us, one that was necessary to fine-tune our restoration techniques and establish proper operating protocols,” said Francesca Virdis, chief operating officer of RRFB. “From now on, our focus is scaling up their production to make sure that, with the help of our incredible community of dedicated volunteers, thousands of corals will be outplanted back to our reefs every year.”
All three species of boulder coral, two of which are endangered, are key building blocks of the marine ecosystem and will bolster the resilience of Bonaire’s reefs for years to come.
Having previously focused on staghorn and elkhorn coral, the foundation has expanded its restoration efforts to more species, first through a larval propagation program and now a fragmentation technique.
In 2019, RRFB, with a government permit and input from Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA), collected a few boulder coral fragments from four wild colonies around the island. These fragments were hung on specially designed nursery trees and closely monitored for indicators of disease, bleaching, and other stressors over the following two years.
In December 2022, the first “reef-ready” boulder corals were taken to various restoration sites on Bonaire and outplanted using a novel, cement-based attachment technique. Fragments are pressed into small domes of fresh cement and secured to sand or rock; once hardened, these structures become part of the reef, where they will be monitored for the coming years by the Reef Renewal team. Although RRFB has been propagating boulder coral larvae for years, this is the first time that colonies were reared and fragmented in a nursery setting before being outplanted.
The boulder coral project is important not only for the preservation of key species, but also for ensuring the resilience of Bonaire’s reefs in the face of growing local and global threats.
By expanding the quantity and species of coral they outplant, the Foundation is introducing much needed diversity to degraded reef areas, allowing them to better withstand today’s ever-changing environment and the uncertain conditions of the future.
For more information, visit www.reefrenewalbonaire.org and contact [email protected].
Sustainable Sails for Haiti
Students at Ursuline Academy of New Orleans, LA, are building sustainable sails to help both the environment and the subsistence fishermen of Haiti.
Ursuline’s STEM for Others class, which teaches STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through a hands-on, service-learning project, has partnered with Community Sailing New Orleans and Sails for Sustenance, a non-profit organization that collects used sails in the United States and ships them to Haiti to be used by Haitian fishermen, who largely rely on sails to power their boats.
Sails for Sustenance has had an enormous impact on the lives of the fishermen, but the question became how to do better than giving the fishermen sails that were already near the end of their useful lives. There is also another big problem — those sails are usually made out of petrochemical products, which contribute to the plastic pollution in the Haitian fisheries when they break down.
After studying the causes and effects of plastic pollution in the oceans, and the history, economy, and daily lives of Haitian fishermen, the Ursuline Academy students began learning about how sails are made, so they could develop a solution.
Students recently completed two prototype mainsails that were tested in 420s at Community Sailing New Orleans. One sail was made from cotton duck canvas, which is biodegradable. Another was made from Top Gun fabric. While this fabric is synthetic and more commonly used for boat covers, it is UV resistant, so it should last significantly longer than traditional sail materials such as dacron.
Both sails worked well. The class will now video conference with Haitian fishermen to get input before selecting the fabric to build a sustainable sail.
The STEM for Others class is raising funds to purchase the materials needed to build their next sail, which will be shipped to Haitian fishermen through Sails for Sustenance. If you would like to help, consider donating here: e.givesmart.com/events/tPG/i/_Auction/jKqI.
On Carriacou, Rapid Plastic Granulator Goes into Action
Richard Laflamme reports: The equivalent of 20,000 plastic bottles were taken out of the Carriacou environment in a single week, with the encouragement and organization of the No-To-Single-Use Association, which has recently purchased a Rapid Granulator, which is a machine used for breaking down plastic products so that they can be recycled.
The granulated plastic on Carriacou is then taken to Paddy’s Block Plant, where it is confined in hollow concrete blocks. These eco-blocks are built to hold the plastic for more than 100 years, which means it is removed from polluting the environment and put to constructive use. It also conserves limited natural material such as gravel and sand. This process is called Waste-to-Concrete. Eco-blocks meet the Grenada Bureau of Standards’ structural class “A” specification.
The goal of the No-To-Single-Use Association and Paddy’s Block Plant is to eradicate all 400 metric tons of waste plastic discarded in the landfill and environment in Carriacou annually.
Response from the Carriacou community has been phenomenal. So much plastic has been collected that Paddy’s Block Plant is hard-pressed to keep up with it. Local contractors are eager to start using the new blocks to build eco-houses.
Rapid Granulator, based in Leetsdale, PA, USA, and Bredaryd, Sweden, manufactured of the granulator, has also donated $8,000 worth of equipment to the Association for the purchase of a vacuum extractor system.
The association sends out a plea to all Carriacou residents to help in reducing contamination in collection bags. Non-recyclable items such as aluminum cans, wood, cardboard, food, milk and juice containers, etc., still make up 25 to 30 percent of collections bags. Please put only plastic in those containers — any type of plastic is welcome.
Last, but not the least, NSU needs $32,000US to pay back the loan on our Rapid Granulator to make this initiative sustainable sooner. If you have a rich uncle, tell him what we are doing to stop plastic pollution here in Carriacou and ask him to talk to us at WhatApp 1-473-456-3474.
Electric Charter Catamarans Introduced
Angela Tuell reports: Dream Yacht Worldwide, a global charter vacation company, and Fountaine Pajot, designer and builder of leading-edge luxury catamarans, have announced a partnership to launch a collection of electric catamarans for charter.
Fountaine Pajot’s Aura 51 Smart Electric model is equipped with electric motors and an on-board energy management system, the result of a collaboration of more than 60 technicians, engineers and electrical experts whose goal was a new approach to a zero-emissions propulsion energy system designed expressly for yachting. Efficient electric engines power the new Aura 51, with two lithium technology battery banks for storage, providing hours of motor cruising, or as much as a week at anchor without any emissions.
The Aura 51 Smart Electric will be the first electric model introduced to the Dream Yacht Worldwide fleet, available for charter in Italy beginning April 2023.
Dream Yacht Worldwide and Fountaine Pajot expect to bring more than 22 electric yachts to the Dream Yacht fleet by spring of 2024. Of these, 10 will be sailing catamarans and 12 will be sailing yachts from Dufour, a part of the Fountaine Pajot Group.
“By partnering and supporting the research and development of electric yachts, we can continue to make sailing accessible to people around the world but with a lower impact on our seas and environment,” says Loïc Bonnet, CEO and founder of Dream Yacht Group. “Being environmentally conscious is central to our mission to protect our planet and oceans, and we are confident that our charter clients will support this endeavor.”
Romain Motteau, Deputy CEO, Fountaine Pajot, adds: “Aware of the urgency of preserving the planet, we are living through a great cultural change. The new generation expects much of us. Our owners are also changing their needs and today expect their boat to be more environmentally responsible, while maintaining a high level of demand in terms of comfort.”