Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Coral reefs provide billions of dollars in revenue from fisheries and tourism annually. Coral reefs are declining globally due to climate change (warm water bleaching and death), siltation and pollution from the land, and due to overfishing and associated ecological imbalances (overgrowth or corals by seaweeds, over abundant coral predators killing corals, etc). In the Caribbean the two most abundant corals on reefs (staghorn and elkhorn Acropora) have declined by some 98%, reducing coral reef growth by 70-90% of only 40 years ago. These two species are also the only tree-like corals in the Caribbean, and with their demise, much of the fish habitat has dissappeared. The two species generated reef rock and sand and intercepted storm waves. No other Caribbean corals are so vitally important to food security and to tourism, however, these two species were listed as "critically endangered" by IUCN 2006. Governments of the region do not have the resources to finance the restoration of these corals, and thus the tourism industry has the right and responsibility to invest in this effort in order to protect their industry.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
While many coral reef scientists and managers firmly believe that only their peers are qualitfied to manage and care for coral reefs, I believe that science can not save the world- that people working from dedication and concern will save the world, but only if we can empower them to do so. In have also learned that the tourim industry is more than willing to invest in order to protect or improve their businesses.
I began planting corals early on, in the 1980's, when I saw horrible destruction from blast fishing and saw that reefs, once pulverized into rubble, did not regain their coral populations. I discovered that fragments of corals would sometimes break off during storms and scatter into the dead zones, reseeding the dead reef, so I did likewise and with little effort replanted some reefs! Larger branches planted on lagoon sand quickly grew into patch reefs harboring fish. I went for further study on corals in 1993, moving from the Pacific Islands to Puerto Rico to obain my PhD, I focused on the staghorn corals, the corals most similar between the two oceans and the fastest growing of all corals. I developed methods for growing the corals in nurseries in many different conditions, and the growth of the corals is typically ten-fold and upwards per year. Small coral fragments are propagated into larger "mother colonies", trimmed annually to produce dozens of second generation seed corals for replanting back to the reef. I have involved resort staff, dive shops, fishermen, students, NGOs, youth and children in this work in Honduras, Belize, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Samoa. I find that the work excites and enlightens the participants as they see the corals growing, that the corals thriving become a ray of hope in this dark and gloomy time. My goal now is to firmly establish coral gardening as a certified and government recognized program at resorts, and a "coral care and reef first aid" program for the SCUBA diving industry