Divers still battling to restore crushed GT reef

| 02/12/2014

(CNS): Lois Hatcher, who has been diving for more than 30 years, is leading the group of volunteer divers who are still working hard to restore the large section of reef damaged by a cruise ship anchor in September, as reported by CNS. Over the last few months the divers have been sifting through the rubble and dead coral and salvaging pieces that are still alive in an effort to reattach the living coral in the area destroyed by the anchor in the George Town harbour. Using proven techniques that she has learned from some of the world’s leading experts in coral restoration, Hatcher and the team involved in the Magic Reef Restoration have already “out planted”, or reattached, about 15 pieces of live coral.

“If the pieces still have a little keyhole of light, the coral is still alive,” said Hatcher, who dives five days a week as the Photo Pro for Ocean Frontiers but spends her days off at the recovery site. “We are trying to focus on the slow-growing corals and attaching them to open areas in the surrounding reef to give them a chance to keep growing. We are seeing signs of life and this gives us hope. They are looking really, really good,” she told Adela Gonzales in an interview for the local dive press.

Ken Nedimyer, one of the experts that Hatcher learned from, said the restoration work was moving in the right direction. “Some people look at it as too little too late, but the little bit of progress being made is better than inaction. Like me, Lois has spent a lot of time underwater and has come to appreciate all the little creatures there, both big and small. She has seen first-hand the dramatic decline of coral reefs in the Caribbean, so she has sought out ways to help,” he said.

The project coordinator, Keith Sahm of Sunset House, said that Hatcher knows her stuff when it comes to coral restoration. But they both say the biggest challenge to the potential year-long project is keeping up enthusiasm among the volunteer divers, whose numbers are dwindling as business picks up in advance of season and there is clearly a need to empower recreational divers to help restore the reefs.

Sean Kingscote, a regular volunteer diver, said that until the reef is repaired he will be out as often as he can to help. And volunteers are already reaping the rewards of their work by witnessing life return to the damaged reef.

As well as the almost 12,000 sqft of crushed reef, which was hit by a cruise ship anchor after it was directed to the wrong location and dropped anchor directly on the corals, there are wider problems for Cayman’s marine environment.

“The Elkhorn and Staghorn coral that used to be plentiful here are now hard to find," Hatcher said. "We need to stop the loss of coral – if we save half of it, it’s still better than none and complete loss.”

As a result, Ocean Frontiers co-founder Steve Broadbelt plans to establish a coral nursery at the resort in East End. 

“East End has the healthiest reefs on the island and we want to keep it this way by being prepared for environmental challenges that may come up,” he said. “The nursery will be an on-going coral farm to help seed our reefs as needed to keep them healthy and thriving.”

Category: Crime

Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I seemed to have missed the story about someone being held accountable for this?  PPM protecting their own again?

  2. peter milburn says:

    Just wanted to add my thanks to the divers working on the reef repair.Having headed up the one back in 1995 I know how much work is involved.Kudos to you all and hang in there.If its any consolation the reef work we did is flourishing so I know it does work in time.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lois and Keith have taken on this task because there was a gapping hole where no one was taking any responsibility. Credit to them.

    I would like to know why the costs of this recovery that are being incurred by some of the dive organisations (most notible, Don Fosters, Red Sail, Sunset House, DNS to name a few) cannot be obtained from the environment fund the government has. If there is ever a prosecution and the guilty party is fined then re-imberse the environment fund.

    As one of the non-professional volunteer divers I do not want to be paid for what I do but I want to make sure the dive organisations are not out of pocket.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What fines were imposed??? Come on! Government sleeping on the wheel again!!!!???

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you to all the volunteer divers and support teams for their hard and honourable work. Too bad there are no longer any Caymanian divers in the industry they built, to take part in this restoration project.

  6. Knot S Smart says:

    This is good and we should all thank these volunteers for the work they are doing…

    Which reminds me – whatever happened to those eight lawyers that were assisting?

    Did they ever re-surface?

    Also may I suggest that we get some from the Prosecutor's office to assist with this?

    And whoever hired that Jamaican Police that was just charged for murder?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Volunteers (speaking for myself anyway) do not want or need compensation for helping out with this restoration work. What we do want to see is those who are responsible to step up and do the right thing by owining up to this tragedy. Carnival and Bodden Shipping…its your turn to speak up, your silence is severly damaging your reputation!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Well done to the volunteers but someone is responsible for damaging the reef and that someone should pay! whether it be the cruise liner, the port authority or whoever, they appear to be getting off scott free! The volunteers should be compensated for their hard work from the payout that is due here….

    • No See Um says:

      Spot on. The relevant govt Ministries and Departments have been woefully quiet. They seem to think their duties are owed to the big businesses responsible and not to the country and people they serve. Shameful stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      Kudos to our full blooded, native, Caymanian divers for there hard work! Franz you should condider an award for there leadership!