NOAA partners with Cayman Islands

The Cayman Island’s coral reefs are positioned to become one of several international locations for coral reef research capable of providing real-time data on reef and climatic conditions because of a new partnership.

At the annual meeting of the Executive Council for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute at Whitehall House, North Church Street, where the organization’s Grand Cayman office is, President, Dr. Carrie Manfrino announced a new major partnership between CCMI and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

CCMI recently completed the construction of the Little Cayman Research Centre and is seeking to build research and academic partnerships to develop as a vital research and educational institution involved in coral reef research, said a CCMI press release.

New partners

CCMI and the US NOAA are entering into a partnership through an international project to monitor coral reefs globally. NOAA approved Little Cayman Research Centre for the installation of an Integrated Coral Observing Network Station. Through the competitive NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, ICON has also been awarded a grant and full human resource support for CCMI based solar-powered oceanographic and meteorology system.

‘With approval in hand, the Cayman Island’s coral reefs are positioned to become one of several international locations for coral reef research capable of providing real-time data on reef and climatic conditions,’ states the press release.

The release notes that the ICON Project addresses the highest need expressed in the National Action Plan to Conserve Coral Reefs – reducing key threats. The NOAA project meets several objectives:

Increases capacity for Coral Reef Management (the ICON stations give automated feedback on environmental data and conditions conducive to bleaching and other marine behavioral events);

Strengthens partnerships (the stations help in supporting ICON by capacity building in a Caribbean country struggling to do its part in coral reef conservation efforts);

Support project development (the LCRC project needs a long-term database of environmental factors), and;

Provides technical assistance (NOAA will train the local maintainers of the station in how the instruments work, how to maintain them, and what the data are useful for).

The release points out that the ICON/CCMI Project will: provide long-term data sets for the island that can be compared to all major U.S. coral reef areas; provide near real-time feedback on conditions conducive to coral bleaching, as well as other coral reef models, and; provide a platform for advanced in situ instrumental analysis of the coral reef environment, in near real-time.

Trend watching

One of the major benefits of the project is that observed long-term trends will allow local environmental managers and researchers to make better informed decisions for the reef area, it says.

Through the partnership, an array of instruments will be installed to measure and transmit near real-time information on water chemistry, coral stress, and weather conditions. Little Cayman is one of the international sites outside the US to be selected to have the most sophisticated array of instruments available for coral reef research.

Go to the web

The NOAA ICON website will provide information about our reefs that will be available to all divers, fishers, and individuals interested in knowing more about the reefs and oceanographic conditions at Little Cayman. The data is of direct scientific importance because it provides NOAA National Environmental Satellite and Data Service with ‘surface truthing’ data for both coral reef and weather models that will help us better understand some of the major stressors on coral reefs today.

‘We will be continuously transmitting data to the US Government’s GOES Satellite System, which is part of NOAA’s National Weather Service. We anticipate this project becoming one of the major attractions for scientists and that it will subsequently increase the grant funding that would normally not be available to us in the Cayman Islands,’ reads the release.

The project will be instrumental in increasing technological capabilities in the Cayman Islands and the data will be available instantly through the World-Wide-Web and will be serviced by NOAA. The organization plans to initiate a program to train teachers through workshops on a new curriculum that is based on the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program using the data from the Cayman station. Activities have already been developed for middle school students. The CCMI is establishing its Coral Reef Education and Conservation Fund and hope to raise the funds to both develop and implement the education activities for teachers and youths at the Little Cayman Research Centre.

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