Up Reef Ball Foundation Photo Gallery » Geographical Database for photos, videos, GPS Coordinates, news, and project descriptions. » Cayman Island Reef Ball Projects and Photos » Grand Cayman Coral Propagation and Nearshore Restoration Project

The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort called on the Reef Ball Foundation, Inc. for rapid "Coral Team" activation to rescue imperiled corals and to train the Cayman Government on the latest and most successful techniques in coral reef and mangrove rehabilitation. The Foundation’s world renowned Coral Team is essentially a volunteer network of hundreds of specially trained experts in the field of coral propagation, coral rescue and coral planting. The Coral Team was able to send 20 experts plus a filming crew from the BBC that will feature the project in an upcoming series entitled "Jewels of the Caribbean." Because the team wanted to practice for rapid activations as a result of training for recent natural disasters and since imperiled corals were identified it was decided to conduction the activation as quickly as possible. From activation to finish, the team assembled and completed all assigned tasks in just 3 weeks with only one week on site. Such a rapid activation required enormous local support and interest. Being the overall sponsor of the project, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort offered the team accommodations and food. Red Sail Sports jumped in quickly offering scuba gear and boating support. Although the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort had already deployed numerous modules with plugs designed to accept propogated corals, the Coral Team wanted to deploy a few Reef Balls to mark locations for continued restoration and for monitoring purposes, so John MacKenzie of West Indian Marine jumped in and donated 6 Reef Balls and top notch deployment and anchoring services from their ultra modern boat fleet. Without time for additional fund raising efforts, the Reef Ball Foundation dipped into their emergency activation reserve budget and paid for whatever items that could not be organized in two short weeks such as rental cars, coral propagation tools/supplies, educational signs, and provided assistance for team members. With activation financially possible, there was only one question...could the required permits be issued in just two weeks? You bet, the highest levels of the Cayman Island government also mobilized quickly and recognized the importance of protecting the reefs that are close to every Caymanian's heart. In fact, the government....rather than issue permits to the group decided to take an even more active role and converted the project to a governmental level complete with boats, fuel and four extremely dedicated employees to serve as local expert. Each of these employees were certified as members of the Reef Ball Coral Team and are eligible for activation in future projects if required in the Cayman Islands or elsewhere in the world.. Prior to the hurricane, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort had created a Reef Ball submerged breakwater reef system to protect its beach from seasonal erosion using 236 designed reef modules. The project has been monitored by Dr. Lee Harris, P.E. from the Florida Institute of Technology and the Reef Balls have performed nicely for beach protection. However, Dr. Harris was aware that even more could be done, biologically, as he was also an engineer on the world's largest coral rehabilitation project in Antigua. during which the concept of having a worldwide, rapidly deployable, Coral Team was spawned. During a visit to monitor the breakwater after the category 5 hurricane Ivan, Dr. Harris suggested to the Marriott that his diving experiance suggested that deeper and mid-water reef ecosystems were spared by Ivan but there had been quite a few changes to the near shore ecosystems. Dr. Harris was amazed, but proud, that his anchoring designs and engineering had allowed the Reef Balls to survived the storm without movement or damage, but some of the natural reefs and many of the mangrove ecosystems were not so lucky. Chris Saiego, Managing Director of the Marriott, agreed. They jointly decided to survey and determine if corals needed rescue or stabilization. They contacted Todd Barber, Chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation, to get instructions on what to look for so the Reef Ball's Coral Team could assess the situation. Dr. Harris's intuition was confirmed. John Walch, President of the Reef Ball Coral Team reviewed the photos and recognized a perfect time to activate the Coral Team. It was also a great time to test the team limits since it was already in activation mode for Phase II Tsunami relief in Phuket Thailand in October. (Thailand's coral rehabilitation project). Moments later, emails went out to Coral Team members in 50 countries. Within 3 days, the team was chosen and plane tickets where booked. Simultaneously, The Reef Ball Foundation contacted the BBC who requested to be invited at the next Coral Team activation in the Caribbean, and a crew was dispatched. Within two weeks the team landed and started working even before bags were unpacked. Starting each day at dawn and working in the field until dusk and aided by enormous local support they stayed focused on the tasks at hand.. This is was nothing new to the seasoned Coral Team...just another day fulfilling their passions to aid our world's aquatic ecosystems.


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