Stuarts is backing CCMI again

Stuarts Walker Hersant is giving another major boost to the research program at the Little Cayman Research Centre by offering four years of support.


From left, Chris Humphries of Stuarts Walkers Hersant; Carrie Manfrino, CCMI president; Andrew Hersant of Stuarts Walkers Hersant; and Gary Montemayor, Deep See Ltd.
Photo: Submitted

Stuarts was the corporate sponsor of the NOAA ICON station and is now the leading company in Cayman supporting the organization’s effort to better understand what is causing the decline in the health of our reefs and what could contribute to a more resilient reef. By exploring the processes that may connect deep and shallow reefs and reefs between the islands the organization hopes to propose new conservation strategies and promote realistic solutions that will reduce the major threats to reefs by humans, so that reefs may be more resilient to the stresses caused by global warming and climate change.

The directors at Stuarts released the following statement in support of their multi-year gift: ‘The promotion of education and awareness are an essential part of preserving the marine environment.

‘The Cayman Islands have one of the world’s most spectacular reef systems. The Central Caribbean Marine Institute (‘CCMI’) is fortunate to be conducting research at Little Cayman, an island that is currently protected from the impact of over development. CCMI is dedicated to ensuring the accurate monitoring of and learning from the reef system as well as distinguishing the environmental effects such as global warming of over development.

‘Stuarts Walker Hersant supports a variety of local charities doing excellent work here in the Cayman Islands. CCMI is one such organization. A number of the directors are personally involved with the charity and sit on different CCMI committees.’

Chris Humphries, a biologist before becoming a lawyer, explains what CCMI means to him:

‘Education, awareness and research are a focal part of preserving the marine environment. Coral reefs, the rainforests of the sea, are an essential part of our global ecosystem. As a past marine scientist, I personally gain enormous pleasure from them and enjoy diving every weekend. I simply believe our reefs must be preserved for future generations to learn from and enjoy them as well.’

The directors of Stuarts have agreed to make a four-year pledge to CCMI’s research projects, the first of which is about exploring the connections between the deep and shallow coral reefs. This unprecedented level of commitment to one particular cause is because Stuarts is so impressed with CCMI’s strong track record and management. ‘We want to help make a difference long-term and to encourage others to consider committed giving which, at the end of the day, helps the charity to plan for the future and become even more successful,’ says Chris Humphries.

CCMI is establishing a partnership with the new Cayman company, Deep See Ltd. to study the deeper reefs using the company’s Remotely Operated Vehicle.

Gary Montemayor, marine technologist who has been the test pilot for numerous new submarines and for his spectacular work on a variety of film productions including the BBC’s ‘Blue Planet’ series sees the partnership with CCMI as providing an important application for his new remotely operated vehicle, Little Tyche, which arrives to Grand Cayman this week. ROV’s are tethered underwater robots with a human pilot always communicating with the vehicle. They are commonly used for underwater search and rescues because the unmanned vehicle can travel to great depths and can explore underwater for hours.

Various instruments including cameras and arms, side scanning sonar and scientific measurement and scaling devices make ROV’s valuable for research. CCMI will use the ROV on a project called Deep Dive Down Cayman’s Bloody Bay Wall where they will conduct a pilot study to explore the connections between the shallow reef and deeper reef ecologies. One of the goals is to see whether the losses scientists are reporting on the shallow reefs are also occurring on the deep reef.

As coral reefs are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth, it is of great concern whether deep reefs are being effected because they are exhibiting the greatest promise for new drug discoveries. It is becoming critical to know whether corals are still capable of reproducing and whether deeper reefs provide a refuge for corals and other invertebrates. Scientists are wondering whether the deep reefs can potentially re-seed our shallow reefs. Much of the loss on the shallow reef is attributed to stressful impacts of warming ocean temperatures, our first guess might be less impact on the deeper reefs.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit 501c3 organisation. CCMI was established as an international charitable organization after becoming incorporated in the Cayman Islands (2002) and in the UK in 2004.

Since its first years, CCMI has proven a valuable asset to the effort of understanding changing coral reef and tropical marine environments, and its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness in the Caribbean and for students and researchers from around the world.

A key component of the organization’s strategy was realized in May 2006 with the opening of the Little Cayman Research Center which has laboratories, a classroom, dormitory-style and private rooms, and a sustainable off-the-grid bathhouse. Easy access to the reefs make this an important new research and education center for all of the Cayman Islands.

Recreational divers who’d like to learn more about coral reefs and who might like to explore the deep reef can participate in CCMI research project this summer by contacting [email protected] or by calling the Grand Cayman office, 949-1938. See CCMI’s website to learn more about the Dive With a Researcher programme.