International Year of the Reef: a Cayman Perspective
Focus on Conservation efforts and education are a never-ending campaign in the Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (July 30, 2018) - Cayman dive operators commend the International Coral Reef Initiative for declaring 2018 as the Year of the Reef to promote conservation and raise awareness of increasing threats to coral reefs worldwide, but they say in Cayman, where coral reefs are a national treasure and star attraction, conservation efforts never cease. Coral reefs worldwide are threatened by pollution, overfishing, unsustainable development, invasive species, hurricanes, bleaching events and more.
“We observe Year of the Coral every year, every day,” says Steve Broadbelt, co-owner of Ocean Frontiers in Grand Cayman. In addition to teaching coral etiquette and following conservation practices on dive boats, Ocean Frontiers, like Divetech and Sunset House, are tending coral nurseries that are producing good results and offering hope.
“The success of our coral nursery, established two years ago on Earth Day, is exceeding our expectations and rapidly expanding,” explained Broadbelt. “We’ve started out-planting some of those healthy corals.”
“Our coral nurseries are doing great!” agrees Jo Mikutowicz owner of Divetech. “Our original out-plant from about a year ago, is thriving and we have done two others since. All corals are healthy and growing like crazy. They seem to like their new homes!”
At Sunset House, it’s the same story according to Emma Fisher. “Sunset House’s coral nursery is blooming! Our staff, along with a large group of certified Coral Restoration resident divers volunteer their time on weekends to help maintain and clean the nursery. We are actively surveying the surrounding reef for further out-planting sites.”
In addition to the coral nursery programme, dive operators maintain the ongoing battle to remove invasive Lionfish from Cayman’s reefs. Ocean Frontiers, Divetech, Sunset House, Red Sail Sports and the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman run regular culling dives to remove the predators. Although the Lionfish will never be completely removed, the operators say they are maintaining a balance.
“We are very active in keeping the lionfish population under control teaching the Department of Environment Lionfish hunting course and participating in, or sponsoring teams, to be in the quarterly CULL tournaments,” said Mikutowicz.
“The Cayman Islands have been very persistent in culling the lionfish as our only defense against this invasion that has such a destructive impact on local reef fish populations,” said Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall. “I fear it will be a long battle, but there is a very unified and committed approach by many people and groups to rid our waters of them.”
Everyone agrees the Year of the Coral designation is a great way to highlight the need to protect these fragile ecosystems and to educate people who may not be aware that they can help. Dive operators have long supported watersports programs to educate Cayman’s youth about their marine environment and stress the importance of Cayman’s reef systems and marine heritage. The next generation will inherit the fight to protect Cayman’s reefs, and Caymanian Kelly Forsythe, a field station & research assistant at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute on Little Cayman, says bring it on.
“Coral reefs are stunning, but they aren’t just a pretty face,” she said. “These calcium carbonate structures provide important ecosystem services to many people around the globe and it is absolutely paramount that the issues they face should be highlighted. It is important to note that even though our reefs don’t look like they used to 30 years ago we cannot give up hope and we should try to share ocean optimism where we can.”
“Cayman residents and visitors alike are becoming citizen scientists and giving back to the community by helping to protect our precious corals,” adds Emma Fisher about the volunteers who help maintain the Sunset House coral nursery.
Coral restoration specialist Lois Hatcher, who has spent many years in the Cayman Islands, says any call to draw attention to reef conservation is good. “I think that the Year of the Reef is a good start, but something this important to us all should have the decade of the Reef or better still the century!”
The Cayman Bottom Times is news collaboration by five leading dive operators to promote the superb diving of the Cayman Islands, and keep the diving public informed of important developments and events. Divetech, Ocean Frontiers, Red Sail Sports and Sunset House in Grand Cayman, and the Southern Cross Club in Little Cayman, all members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, represent more than 100 years of solid experience in a destination that is recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving. With a unique combination of deep wall and shallow reef diving, several wrecks, and world-famous Stingray City, the Cayman Islands has cemented its place as the top diving destination in the Caribbean.
Offering diverse and wide-ranging dive programs on both Grand Cayman and Little Cayman, the members of this dive group represent the best Cayman has to offer; Divetech Ocean Frontiers Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman Sunset House and the Southern Cross Club.
Media Contact: Adela Gonzales White at Adela.G.White@comcast.net or call (941) 350-8735.