coral restoration

Our Most Frequently Asked Questions

We answer your most pressing questions...

In this article we're sharing answers to the questions we get asked the most about Coral Restoration Panama.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • How long has Coral Restoration Panama been in existence?
    We have been operating in reef reconstruction for three years. Coral Restoration Panama was founded in 2015. In fact, we are the only coral/reef restoration project in Panama to date.

  • Where are you located?
    Coral Restoration Panama is located in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago off the north east Caribbean-facing coast of Panama in Central America.

Robin building a reef structure that will be covered in environmentally friendly concrete appropriate for the new home of growing corals.

Robin building a reef structure that will be covered in environmentally friendly concrete appropriate for the new home of growing corals.

  • Are you a for-profit business?
    Nope. We are a 501(c)3 charity organization created for the purpose of rebuilding reefs and coral, while educating local populations on how to conserve and reinvigorate the sea. Coral Restoration Panama is run by a group of volunteers striving to make a difference in the sustainability of the ocean environment in a community desperately in need of assistance. 

  • What is a coral nursery?
    A coral nursery is where coral clones can be raised and protected from outside forces and competitors. They are both shore based and ocean based. We have both. In this protected state, coral grow as much as 40 times faster than under normal conditions. When they reach a size suitable for transplanting they are returned to the wild. New clones are continuously harvested from the “mother” specimens to replace those transplanted. In outplant area, several specimens with unique qualities that have allowed them to survive are intermingled so that in the natural reproduction process more resilient coral are potentially produced.

  • Is this your unique method of coral restoration?
    We have been mentored and tutored by some of the world’s top practitioners; this knowledge does not belong to us alone. We have, however perfected some unique techniques that are being utilized by other restoration facilities. 

  • What are your plans for 2019?
    Plans for the upcoming year are to create and perfect a system to produce a steady inventory of reef structures, which will give employment to local workers and provide a ready source of reef enhancement structures. We will grow our nursery facility to at least 5000 clones growing in our open ocean facilities and another 2000 growing in our land based systems. We also want to continue our program of education for school kids in the area with organized tours and snorkel trips where they can learn the importance of responsible behavior towards our oceans.

  • Can I come visit?
    Oh definitely! You can come and visit us anytime. Bring your swimsuit, the water is wonderful. If you want to help build, install and actually be a part of the process, you should get in touch.

What Does Coral Reef Restoration Actually Look Like?

How coral restoration works...

Get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to rebuild reefs, and how Coral Restoration Panama is helping reef recovery in the Caribbean.

Spoiler alert: it's a lot of hard work, and totally cool


A diver cutting clones from resilient "parent" specimens which will be placed in an open water "line" nursery or of tiny cement pucks in a land-based nursery until they have grown into a clone large enough to plant in an artificial reef structure.


A Coral Nursery

We install nursery trees in protected nooks in the sea near Isla Solarte. The little coral babies are attached to our nursery structure where they are routinely checked, "cleaned" and measured for growth progress. 

One of the many amazing discoveries in recent years about coral growth is that the healthy clones from a similar "mother" can actually "sense" that they are near other clones from the same coral. As a result, they grow at a MUCH faster rate than usual to rejoin the other pieces, resulting incredible growth rates


Building a new home

Using recycled and repurposed materials, a frame is created for the artificial reef. It is covered using a sea and wildlife safe type of concrete that coral clones will want to build their new homes on. Once the structures have been formed and dried, we use our trusty transport Musa (the boat) to float the reef to its new home,where we install it on the sea floor.

Once the clones in the nursery are large enough, they are transferred from the nursery tree to the new reef. As the corals on the reef rebuild, all types of fish and creatures find a new home in the reef. And thanks to the returning fish population, the local indigenous communities in Bocas Del Toro have a renewed food source.


The reefs and mangrove islands protect the archipelago

As essential parts of the ecosystem, the newly installed reefs work in tandem with the mangrove islands to protect the larger islands of Bocas Del Toro from further erosion and ocean events where a high tide or rising sea levels can threaten the rest of the archipelago.

The result of coral restoration is an entire system of conservation that starts with just one brave little coral clone!

Looking back on 2018 with our Founder, Doug Marcy

It’s been a very eventful year in our Coral Restoration Panama project. The end of the year is rolling around so quickly, we decided to take the opportunity to touch base and share some good news and important updates with you. 

With world-wide coral bleaching events in the last few years, and the archipelago where we reside on the Caribbean side of Panama severely affected, it's been a struggle to find hope in the news about climate change.

There is good news…

In marine labs around the world there have been incredible advancements in recovering coral life. Despite the bleaching, there are evolving coral survivors and they can be used to provide “seed stock” for coral nurseries, that are then grown and planted in artificial reefs. In fact, some of the techniques used to recover these coral specimens have revealed some astounding results where corals are growing back at unprecedented rates! As these reefs recover with the planted corals, diverse fish populations return, and entire underwater ecosystems are being rebuilt. 

At Coral Restoration Panama, we had three big goals for 2018:

  • Get our licensing from Panama finalized to install the nursery

  • Secure at least 1000 coral clones

  • Install 50 artificial reef structures

With 2018 coming to a close, not only have we achieved all of our goals, but by the end of the year, we will double the amount of nursery stock we are raising - 2000 clones! 

In addition to achieving these milestones, we have also been amazed at the difference we have made in the last three years in the amount and variety of marine life now thriving in our “proof of concept” reef. Hannig Reef - named in honor of the mother of one of our donors - where once cans and bottles festooned the seabed, now corals, colorful sponges, sea urchins, lobsters and an array of tropical fish too numerous to count inhabit the once nearly lifeless environment.

It’s been so encouraging to see this progress in our work, to finally obtain the licensing we needed to build nurseries, and to see tangible results in our efforts of helping the coral recover.

Looking Toward 2019:

We are putting in place a strategy for Coral Restoration Panama to ensure our continued growth and impact. In the coming months we will be sharing more of our story, our progress and how you can be involved. 

We need your help. 

We are the only organization in the country of Panama that is actively pursuing the restoration of coral reef environments. Contributions to this organization during the past few years have made it possible to begin the rebuilding of the reef structure and coral systems in the Bocas del Toro Caribbean archipelago. 

Using modern restoration techniques and regional educational workshops, we have already made a difference in re-establishing the fisheries of the area which are so important to the indigenous people living there who depend on subsistence from a sustainable ocean environment. 

As the end of the year rolls around, it is your opportunity to put your dollars towards making a difference, and we would like you to consider Coral Restoration Panama. We are a fully non-profit 503c organization and your donations are tax deductible. 

Take this opportunity to put your dollars into an organization where your donation will have profound, lasting impact.

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and contributions to this effort. We wouldn’t be where we are without the incredible support of our mentors, donors, core team and industry partners who have given of their time, resources and expertise so generously. We are grateful for you. I am grateful for you.

Here’s to a fantastic year in 2019,


Doug Marcy
Coral Restoration Panama