Top priorities for 2013: education and moorings

The fundraising event in April with guest, Fabien Cousteau of Plant A Fish, and the support of patron founding members, has given the EHCP resources to work with! During a recent board meeting, the directors decided that education and habitat protection are top priorities for the organization.

Education is a key part of any conservation effort. There is a recognized need to educate both visitor and local communities about local harbour rules, and provide useful tips on how to take good care of the marine environment. The EHCP will be developing educational flyers that may be distributed by hotels, tour guides, the Ministry of Tourism, schools, and anyone else that would like to support the effort to raise awareness about the importance of harbour conservation. The EHCP has an education committee that will be working on brochure and sign design over the summer to be prepared for next season. They are also interested in exploring other ways to educate the community.

So far, the reef restoration project with Plant A Fish has supported several harbour educational opportunities for Exuma including three field trips and a well-attended presentation by Mr. Cousteau.

Mr. Basil Minns, Mrs. Petherina Hanna, and Mr. Fabien Cousteau. The EHCP led a field trip of Moriah Harbour Cay National Park with Mr. Basil Minns. The event was attended by the Ministry of Tourism, The Department of Social Services, The Department of Environmental Health, the Island Administrator, and Tourism Today.

Mr. Basil Minns, Mrs. Petherina Hanna, and Mr. Fabien Cousteau. The EHCP led a field trip of Moriah Harbour Cay National Park with Mr. Basil Minns. The event was attended by the Ministry of Tourism, The Department of Social Services, The Department of Environmental Health, the Island Administrator, and Tourism Today. photo: Derek Smith

The EHCP organized a field trip to Fowl Cay with the Discovery Club and Ministry of Tourism. Thanks to Off Island Adventures and Kevalli House for their support. photo: Derek Smith

The EHCP organized a field trip to Fowl Cay with the Bahamas National Trust Discovery Club and Ministry of Tourism. Thanks to Off Island Adventures and Kevalli House for their support. photo: Derek Smith

The L.N. Coakley High School Environmental Club visited the coral nursery in May. Thanks to Dive Exuma for their support. photo: Dothlyn Blake

The L.N. Coakley High School Environmental Club visited the coral nursery in May. Thanks to Dive Exuma for their support. photo: Dothlyn Blake

The EHCP has also identified the installation of dinghy moorings at popular snorkeling locations as a top priority. The dinghy moorings will provide a convenient way for small boats to tie up at their favorite reef or blue hole. Use of the moorings, instead of anchoring, will ensure that seagrass and corals are not damaged by repetitive anchoring or accidental anchor dragging. The EHCP hopes to have moorings installed by next fall. The projects committee will be working on this and other initiatives.

Special thanks to our patron founding members and corporate sponsors for their early support of the EHCP. We wish to give extra special thanks to those local businesses that provided in kind support for our fundraising event including the Peace and Plenty Hotel, Dive Exuma, and Off Island Adventures. If you would like to support the EHCP as a member or get involved in a committee, please let us know by emailing elizabethharbourpartnership@gmail.com

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Posted in events, reef restoration, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Elizabeth Harbour has a coral nursery!

After a recent vessel grounding on the eastern end of Elizabeth Harbour, the Exuma community rescued hundreds of corals from the rubble in hopes of saving the reef. In March the Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership partnered with Plant A Fish and Science Under Sail to form a plan to build a coral nursery to grow the endangered species, elkhorn and staghorn corals, and eventually “plant” them and other rescued coral species in the area that was damaged by the wreck.

Fabien Cousteau, director of Plant A Fish, visited Exuma in April with project manager, Elisabeth Jacobi, to kick off the reef restoration project. The project relied on the expertise of Dr. Robin Smith, a coral biologist and director of Science Under Sail to lead the effort to build the nursery. The team was supported by Catherine Booker and Howard Bethel of the EHCP as well as Jonathan Robinson of Dive Exuma, and staff from the Department of Environmental Health Services (Tristan Adderley, Geo Rolle, and Bradley Charlton). The action was captured by Seth Greenspan, an independent filmaker, Sara Kerens, a professional photographer, and Jerah Coviello of Science Under Sail. The project will be featured in Seth’s documentary on threatened coral reefs and restoration projects around the world.

If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact Plant A Fish. The Exuma project will be featured on their new website, coming soon!

Posted in reef restoration | Tagged , ,

Join Fabien Cousteau and the EHCP April 20!

 

 

reef jam poster

Posted in events, reef restoration

EHCP Profile: Howard Bethel

Throughout the year we will feature members of the Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership. Howard Bethel, Jr. is our first featured member!

Howard is a resident of Great Exuma. At 21 years old, he already has a wide variety of experience working in the marine biology and environmental science fields. He is very committed to conservation of Elizabeth Harbour and to learning new ways to solve environmental problems in his community. Because of his commitment, Howard was elected as a director of the EHCP. He is also very involved in his church as President of the Anglican Young Adults. Here are a few shots of Howard in action!

Howard holds a tagged green turtle. He joined Family Island Research and Education to tag turtle in Barra Terre creeks.

Howard holds a tagged green turtle. He joined Family Island Research and Education to tag turtles in the creeks of Barra Terre.

Howard joined the round table discussion with Yvette Rolle about harbour management at The Breeze.

Howard joined the round table discussion with Yvette Rolle about harbour management at The Breeze.

Howard giving a presentation on the EHCP logo design competition and sea turtles at St. Andrews Anglican School.

Howard giving a presentation on the EHCP logo design competition and sea turtles at St. Andrews Anglican School.

Howard with the Earthwatch team at the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

Howard with the Earthwatch team at the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

Posted in EHCP profiles, Uncategorized

Volunteers save hundreds of corals

A glimpse of the healthy coral life on the reef crest.

A glimpse of the healthy coral life on the reef crest between Guana and Fowl Cay.

The effort to rescue corals and prevent further reef damage at the vessel grounding site between Guana and Fowl Cay has continued since the accident occurred 3 weeks ago. Volunteers from the EHCP, Dive Exuma, and the cruising community have saved literally hundreds of corals and removed a significant volume of loose rubble from the site in hopes of preventing more damage to the reef.

A close up of the rubble and coral fragments the volunteers searched through to rescue corals.

A close up of the rubble and coral fragments the volunteers searched through to rescue corals.

Dr. Robin Smith, a Plant A Fish Ambassador and Director of Science Under Sail estimates that 500 square meters of reef (5000 square feet) was impacted by the grounding.

Volunteers righted and cemented one of the large brain corals that was knocked over back to the reef. Bleached (white) tissue is visible where the brain coral sat upside down.

Volunteers righted and cemented one of the large brain corals that was knocked over back to the reef. Bleached (white) tissue is visible where the brain coral sat upside down.

A exact count of the number of corals saved is pending, but a conservative estimate would be around 300. An estimated 1200+ lbs of rubble have been removed from the reef crest. Although, most of the bigger pieces of rubble were moved, there is a lot more that will need to be removed before the re-planting stage of the restoration can begin.

Robin estimates the extent of the damage.

Robin estimates the extent of the damage.

Bill Eklof (m/v Margaret Lee) swims with handfuls of rubble.

Bill Eklof (m/v Margaret Lee) swims with handfuls of rubble over the scoured reef.

Doug Daggett (s/v Viento) and Jack Hayden (s/v Taiga) put corals into "hospital beds".

Doug Daggett (s/v Viento) and Jack Hayden (s/v Taiga) put corals into “hospital beds”.

Erik Mortenson (s/v Flying Free) diving down to the greatly expanded "triage area" at the end of his second day volunteering.

Erik Mortenson (s/v Flying Free) diving down to the greatly expanded “triage area” at the end of his second day volunteering.

As this reef restoration project develops, it will be very important to acknowledge and address the reasons for navigational errors that lead to incidents like this in the heavily trafficked Elizabeth Harbour. In this case, unfamiliarity with the area and dependence on misleading chart software were the main causes of the accident, but other groundings in the harbour may be attributed to inadequate navigational aids.

A screenshot of the Navionics App clearly showing a route between Guana and Fowl as a entrance into Elizabeth Harbour.

A screenshot of the Navionics App clearly showing a route between Guana and Fowl as a entrance into Elizabeth Harbour.

A BIG THANK YOU to the volunteers that have joined the effort so far by donating resources or time including:

Tamara McGaw (Dive Exuma), Tori Walker (Exuma), Catherine Booker (EHCP), Howard Bethel (EHCP), Bob Cronin (Kevalli House), Craig Parotti (EHCP), Allen Mayers (s/v Nutmeg), Jeremy King (s/v Fernway), Austin Cohen (s/v Fernway), Erik and Joanne Mortenson (s/v Flying Free), Dan Baylinson (s/v Hakuna Matata), Erich Mueller and Laura Stockwell (s/v Alias), Jo Fettin (s/v Serenade), Skip Hind (s/v Eleanor M), Ed Eklof (m/v Margaret Lee), Jim Krest, Doug Daggett (s/v Viento), Jack, Sherry and Katie Hayden (s/v Taiga), Tazzie Dave (s/v Mist), Steve Elliot, Stratton Pollitzer (s/v Egret)

Howard, Allen, Robin, Jeremy, and Austin.

Howard, Allen, Robin, Jeremy, and Austin.

Cruising community volunteers after a strenuous morning of snorkeling for a cause.

Cruising community volunteers after a strenuous morning of snorkeling for a cause.

Posted in reef restoration | Tagged , ,

A message from Recycle Exuma

Everyone complains about trash, and now we can do something to document the amount of illegal dumping around Exuma.  If you see illegal dumping, or areas where trash is accumulating, you can fill out a form that documents this event. You can use this link to fill out the report form https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=H4ZFZLRjCoKKk1u0bzctfQ_3d_3d ,
or you can find this survey on the Recycle Exuma website www.recycleexuma.com
or Recycle Exuma Facebook page.

Trash costs everyone money.  Illegal dumping can be linked to pollution, public health problems and diminishing property values.  We all want to keep the island beautiful.

For the next year, Recycle Exuma will attempt to document and map the illegal dumping around the island.  We can make Exuma the first ZERO WASTE ISLAND in the world, but first we have get everyone thinking about where their trash is going.

Thank you for looking at this link, and pass the word! Bash the trash, Recycle!

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized