The Waiting is the Hardest Part

For over three years we have been striving to receive our official permissions to practice coral
restoration using nursery propagation and out-planting techniques. You can only imagine how
much impact that authorization will have on our ability to effectively move forward.
We have not been idle with our preparations in the meantime. Coral Restoration involves a lot of
complex and diverse interactions with existing marine eco-systems and environmental
conditions. One of the challenges faced in the Bocas archipelago is the compromised fish
population due to overfishing accelerated by the simultaneous loss of habitat. A thriving fishery
is instrumental in helping to control the growth and spread of certain algae that overrun sea
structures including both dead and living corals. The result is that there is no base for the coral
larvae to land and attach even if they survive the perils these tiny planula must face between
fertilization and their maturity to a stage where they are ready to attach to something solid and
begin a new coral colony.
Suitable substrate structure is absolutely necessary for the success of coral regeneration and reef
regrowth. As coral restoration practitioners, we were aware of this problem from the beginning.
Our analysis was verified by several professional marine biology experts. At that point, our goal
became two-fold. Recreate habitat to encourage restoration of the local fisheries and make
available as much compatible substrate as possible to facilitate natural coral regeneration.
After much research and helpful advice from other reef restoration practitioners, we choose to
follow in the footsteps of success and use a concrete formula that has a composition, chemical
balance and texture that coral planula find attractive.

The creative talents of our team have made it possible to create structures that meet a wide range of criteria. We want the structures to look reasonably organic, so they eventually blend in to the natural habitat. It is important that they be large enough and structured so that they serve to mitigate destructive wave action but small enough to be practical for handling and transport to
outplant sites. We also need to consider how they will best serve the other marine life existing in
the area. Obviously, materials cost and labor factor into the total picture. Whenever possible, we
incorporate various non-toxic skeletal materials like discarded PVC pipe sections.

Little by little we have developed some interesting and creative structural platforms that meet the
criteria we set forth. Based on these prototypes, we will begin a production process that will let
us set a schedule of continuous reef development in targeted areas. Already we are seeing changes in the populations and species numbers of marine life in our test
areas. It will truly be exciting to watch what happens in the next few months if things keep
moving in the direction they are now.