Several years ago, when I started the Coral Restoration Panama project, I had on idea of the depth of complexity behind what I wanted to accomplish. On the surface, it all looks pretty simple and straightforward.
- World-wide, Coral Reefs are in decline.
- The reef systems are incredibly necessary to the balance of marine eco-systems.
- There are scientifically developed and field-tested methodologies in place to create coral nursery facilities.
- Outplant programs from nurseries are making a positive impact in the regeneration of reefs and marine eco-systems wherever they are being implemented.
- Although there are many Coral Restoration projects in the Greater Caribbean, nothing is being done in Panama.
- The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro (where I live) obviously needs help for its marine eco-systems.
No brainer! All I have to do is follow the example and teachings of those already practicing successful Coral Restoration procedures. With a little help, I can be growing coral to help reef recovery in a few months. Righhhhhhht!
My first step was to contact and meet with some of the people and organizations already successfully practicing coral restoration. For the most part, I found that the greater community of coral restoration people and companies were eager to share knowledge and offer advice. Everyone was very encouraging to the overall concept of my idea to begin a nursery on the Caribbean side of Panama. It also became obvious, reading between the lines, that there were going to be a few rough seas in my future.
Every situation is different and has its own challenges. The Bocas del Toro archipelago is especially unique because of the way it is oriented to the sea and the surrounding rainforest mountains. Luckily, this region has a Smithsonian Institution Research center located on the island of Colon in the Bocas archipelago. I contacted marine biologists and several local experts who were familiar with this area or had experience in the field of marine environments. Once again, I found encouragement and a great deal of invaluable expertise and advise.
All of this helped me to form a specific course of action and begin outlining the steps to make the project possible. First, it became apparent that I would need a funding organization and a corporation in Panama to obtain the necessary permissions and run the actual operational procedures.
The result of all this was that I was to spend most the next 6 months immersed in a sea of paperwork instead of a sea of coral. However, as you will see when our story continues, it was also time well spent setting up the groundwork for the actual coral nursery operation and learning more about the existing coral populations and their conditions.