Divers Seek Funds for Reef Restoration
Cayman Island newspapers and television have been keeping local residents and the world apprise of the progress on the restoration of the reef damaged by a cruise ship five months ago. The latest update brings a plea for funding.
On 27 August, the Carnival Magic dropped anchor on a sizable patch of healthy coral reef, inflicting nearly 16,000 square feet of damage to a pristine reef near Georgetown's harbor. A harbor pilot had guided the ship out of the anchorage area and dropped the anchor on a coral reef near Don Foster's Dive Cayman dive center.
The Cayman's Department of Environment says the incident caused anywhere from $1.5 million to $14 million dollars in damage depending on the method of evaluation. The DOE does not have a budget to restore the reef and the parties involved have not made any funds available to help with the restoration. While the DOE is responsible for protecting the reef and restoring it, without a budget the efforts has fallen to volunteers mostly divers. In the first two months divers logged over 450 hours of diving, searching for corals that were still alive and removing the rubble. Corals that could be saved were protected and allowed to recover from the stress.
Divers have launched a campaign to help finance the critical project. They have been donating hundreds of hours of time, paying their own dive expenses and covering the boat and fuel cost. With the help of dive operators donating boat use at weekends, the Cayman Magic Reef project volunteers have removed tons of rubble and salvaged pieces of live coral to be replanted. Many visiting divers have spent a portion of their vacation teamed up with an experienced local diver helping out with the project. However the costs have been adding up and the impact has become overwhelming for many. They are now preparing to enter another phase of the project that will require some special materials to graft the coral and to stabilize the destroyed areas.They now need cash to get the equipment they need and cover costs.
Divers Succeeding in Reef Restoration, Where Government can't
"The goal is to raise $10,000 and we've got the Cayman government's full backing," Keith Sahm, General Manager for Sunset House and a co-coordinator of the project said in an interview with The Cayman Bottom Times. Sahm said that marine science experts have suggested capping the scarred area on the reef base with concrete to keep the particles and silt from floating around and affecting nearby live corals, so bags of cement are needed for that phase of the project. The divers also need a special marine epoxy to reattach live corals to the base.