Reef restoration effort underway!

Late in January 2013 a 45′ catamaran ran aground on the reef between Guana and Fowl Cays on the eastern end of Elizabeth Harbour. Tragically, the owners lost the boat and the reef suffered significant damage.

The boat was a total loss for the owners who depended on faulty charts to make their navigation decisions.

The boat was a total loss for the owners who depended on faulty charts to make their navigation decisions.

This reef is considered one of the most beautiful in the area with lots of life. The water at this end of the harbour is clear and clean, so the reef supports the most sensitive coral species like the Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata). Luckily, some of the bigger corals were spared.

Elkhorn coral growing on one of the most beautiful, healthy reefs in Elizabeth Harbour.

Elkhorn coral growing on one of the most beautiful, healthy reefs in Elizabeth Harbour.

An initial assessment showed extensive damage to to the crest of the reef where the boat struck, at least 1000 square feet in size. The reef seemed to be raked clear revealing white coral skeletons and bare rock which can be seen from the surface.

A large elkhorn coral colony severely damaged.

A large elkhorn coral colony severely damaged.

Two large coral heads sheared off by the wreck.

Two large coral heads sheared off by the wreck.

Overseas Salvage of Sampson Cay did a great job of pulling almost all of the debris from the reef area. All that was left were small pieces of fiberglass, paper, and other random parts from the boat. The Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership organized a rescue effort to retrieve as many corals that had been damaged, but were still living from the wreck site. If left on the reef to roll around in the surf, the corals would eventually all die.

Howard swims a small brain coral to safety.

Howard swims a small brain coral to safety.

Thanks to Howard Bethel, Bob Cronin, Tori Walker and Tamara McGaw of Dive Exuma for providing assistance and dive equipment.

Temporary hospital beds for the injured corals.

Temporary hospital beds for the injured corals.

So far, many fragments of mustard hill coral, brain coral, finger coral, and elkorn coral have been rescued. The site is now marked with a small sign. Soon, we will have more plastic bins at the “hospital” to keep more corals safe until its time to re-cement them to the reef. If you like to snorkel in the area, please take a look. If you find more corals, place them in the “hospital” but make sure each coral has its own space. The best time to go is during high tide.

Reef Restoration Site: Please do not touch or move corals.

Reef Restoration Site: Please do not touch or move corals.

The Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership has begun this early effort to salvage some of the corals that were damaged in the grounding. We will need additional support for a full reef restoration effort. As soon as we conduct a complete assessment of the damage, we will begin a fundraising campaign to help cover the costs. Please check back with us for updates on this project. Here’s an article on a successful restoration project in the Florida Keys.

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