First coral nurseries in Roatan installed by Turquoise Bay Resort / Subway WatersportsMay 25, 2016
Subway Watersports and the Turquoise Bay Resort were proud and excited to work with the Coral Restoration Foundation International (CRFI), a Florida-based non-profit, to install two new coral nurseries in Roatan in March, 2016. Team members from CRFI and Subway Watersports worked side-by-side to construct and install 10 coral nursery “trees” near Turquoise Bay on Roatan’s north coast, and 10 trees were also installed near Mahogany Bay off the south coast. The nursery trees were constructed out of PVC, fiberglass rods, and marine epoxy. The Subway and CRFI teams installed moorings for the trees and the trees were suspended with subsurface floats.
The Turquoise Bay nursery was stocked with 625 coral fragments that included seven genotypes of Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and three genotypes of staghorn (Acropora cervicornis). The Mahogany Bay nursery was stocked with 600 coral fragments including seven genotypes of staghorn and five genotypes of elkhorn.
The two species of Acropora coral selected for Roatan’s new coral nurseries were once the most abundant and important species on Caribbean coral reefs in terms of building reef structure. Both elkhorn and staghorn corals underwent serious declines in abundance in the 1970s and 1980s, and were listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2006. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that the Caribbean has lost more than 97 percent of these vital corals due to disease, elevated seawater temperatures, ocean acidification, and other stressors.
Elkhorn coral has thick and sturdy antler-like branches that provide fish habitat and protection from storm-generated waves. Staghorn exhibits the fastest growth of all Caribbean corals, with branches increasing in length by 4-8 inches (10-20 cm) per year. The new coral nurseries will help preserve the genetic diversity of these vital coral species. We will eventually plant the most disease and heat resistant nursery-raised corals back on the reef to help restore healthy, spawning colonies of these important corals.
We look forward to continuing a strong partnership with the Coral Restoration Foundation to maintain and grow our coral restoration project together. And we hope that our coral nursery and reef restoration program will serve as a model for other Caribbean islands.