It’s been a beautiful beginning of the year and we are enjoying the sunshine and exploring the oceans. One of our focuses as scuba divers here in Quepos, is to be ambassadors to the ocean, bringing awareness to our local community about the state of our oceans and what we can do to help. Our flagship project here in Manuel Antonio is our coral restoration project. This is a SINAC permitted and approved project that we have been working on. And since 2019 we have been growing and restoring our local coral reefs in an effort to improve the quality of our local ocean environment.
Did you know coral reefs account for less than 1% of the ocean’s floor, yet supports 25% of the ocean? So coral reefs are extremely important. However, they are also under threat. This comes from a number of things including, rising temperatures, ocean acidification, toxic runoff, invasive species, and unsustainable fishing. These are just some of their major threats. Did you know, that in the past 30 years alone, Costa Rica has lost 70% of its coral reefs!! That’s a crazy amount if you really think about it.
So, what does our coral restoration project do to help this?
During the past 3 ½ years we have outplanted approximately 1000 established colonies on our local reefs in Manual Antonio. Outplanting is where we take the colonies that we have been growing in our nurseries and plant them around the local reef. Bringing healthy coral colonies to the local reef area.
At Marine Conservation Costa Rica (MCCR), we practice a three-step restoration process. They are Coral Recovery, Growth and finally Outplanting.
The first step is coral recovery. With this step, we carefully collect wild healthy coral from the reef. Our preferred way of doing this is to use corals of opportunity. These are corals that have naturally broken off of the reef and would not survive on their own.
The second step is coral growth. We take the corals that we have collected and fragment them. Corals are fragmented using a diamond blade band saw and you may have seen us doing that at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos where we are based. When we are going to fragment, we normally post on social media to let people know, so if you are interested and want to come to see the process in action you are most welcome to. The fragmentation is an important part of the process as it stimulates faster growth in the corals. Fragments are then attached to plugs and transported to one of our ocean nurseries. Here they are placed into the nurseries, where they are looked after for 6-12 months and hopefully grow nice and healthy. We have to attend the nurseries regularly to clean them and measure the colonies that are growing.
The final stage is coral outplanting. Once the corals reach an optimal size in the nursery, they are ready to be moved out to the reef. The plugs are removed from the nurseries and then attached to the reef with some special marine epoxy. This allows the planted colonies to withstand the currents of the Pacific.
This whole project is continually growing as we strive towards our goal of restoring a healthy reef ecosystem in Manuel Antonio. This would allow the corals and marine life more time and a chance to adapt to changing local and global conditions and increase their chances for survival.
We are always looking for scuba divers to come and assist us with our coral cleaning and planting activities so if you are interested, and would like to get trained in coral restoration and then involved in the coral restoration project, we would love to hear from you. With our recent kid’s camp programs at Oceans Unlimited, we have been training our next generation of underwater ambassadors, who will be able to assist us in the ocean with our efforts.