Expedition Akumal: Coral Restoration Project

Many of us love gardening in paradise.  Whether it is in our own personal gardens or in community jungle areas, the joy of “growing” is important to many. But have you ever wondered about gardening UNDER the water? How could we grow coral? Well, it is being done in Akumal. Last year, very concerned local individuals reached out to discover how our coral reef that has suffered over the years from hurricanes, disease and human interaction , could be saved.

Coral Gardening is a concept that seemed to be the best answer and of much interest to many of our local professional divers. An agreement among a group of individuals was made to donate their time and knowledge to make this a reality. Hence, Expedition Akumal was born and the “nursery”, as it’s fondly referred to by the team, is now a work in progress . This non-profit organization that’s funded by Hotel Akumal Caribe owner and private donations is having very good success. CEA scientists provided the technical advise and supervision for the program and Oceanus collaborated with the permit process and technical details. Akumal Dive Center is in full support of this project and donates the use of their boats for the team to get to the work site. As the details are complex and pictures say a thousand words, please take a look at their new website www.reef4akumal.org , on Facebook and also their YouTube videos found at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUMKgDLyCyjowgz7SBVqv11g

This particular video shows a most recent maintenance dive:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQRmYiE2nko

The talented, professional underwater photography team of Hijos del Mar (Sons of the Sea) is dedicated to filming and photographing as well as helping care for the garden. The photos and videos will amaze you, such a “Good Thing to Know” being done in Akumal! The underwater team is experiencing the reward that gardening brings. The coral for this project at this time is Staghorn Coral that is collected by the team from the bottom of the sea floor- near complete death.  The fragments that are covered in algae and sand are cleaned, trimmed, and given TLC.  Then the pieces are hung on a PVC frame that was made and donated by a local diver.  Then maintenance begins.  The coral is checked and kept clean of sand and algae growth – and guess what, they begin to GROW!! These pieces after a growing period are then planted in the reefs .  As the project progresses, “cuttings” will be taken from living corals just as we would propagate our gardens at home, the reef will then flourish with new beautiful coral.

In the mean time the challenge is to educate everyone about the importance of a healthy reef and that coral is a living plant not a rock. The techniques being used have been tested and are successfully operating all over the world. The team leaders of Expedition Akumal are very excited about the wonderful results in such a short time. The project and it’s leaders are committed to help create awareness of the plight of the coral reef, maintain a high standard of scientific data and reef restoration techniques, work with the local community and continue their collaborative work with CEA , and provide volunteer and learning opportunities for many.

Akumal fans always want to help the reef, and here is a great opportunity!  You can donate your time, participate in a science dive, or help with the supply list on their website.  Financial donations are welcome as the needs are large for this operation. We all love our reef and time has taken a toll, but time and care can definitely make a difference for the future of Akumal and its living coral reef!
“We must plant the sea and herd it’s animals as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is about-farming replacing hunting” – Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographer

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