It took just a few minutes for a cruise ship anchor to destroy a large patch of coral reef in Grand Cayman in August. It could take more than a year for a group of volunteers to literally piece it back together again.
The community effort to restore the damaged reef has entered a new phase with volunteers using special marine epoxy to re-attach surviving coral back to the reef wall off George Town, close to Don Foster’s dive shop.
Experts from the Central Caribbean Marine Institute visited Grand Cayman earlier this month to assist with the increasingly intricate task of rebuilding the damaged reef.
Dive instructor Lois Hatcher, who is coordinating the volunteer effort, said the process involved taking pieces of live coral and gluing them back on to the reef.
In the three months since the incident, volunteer divers have been removing rubble and salvaging live coral. Organizers say there is still plenty of work to be done in that area.
Now, volunteers are anxious to get on with the more technical task of re-attaching the living coral. The sooner it is fixed back on to the reef, the better the chances of survival, said Ms. Hatcher.
She said the corals that had already been glued back to the reef, with the help of CCMI, were thriving. However, the Department of Environment is waiting on a shipment of marine epoxy before the painstaking task of rebuilding the reef can properly begin.
So far, around 50 crates of live coral have been salvaged, while more is buried beneath rubble.
Ms. Hatcher said the restoration was a mammoth job that would require volunteers to keep contributing their time and skills for at least the next year.
“We will still be removing rubble from the site for quite some time. We have done a lot of work and sometimes we think we are really making progress and then we see an area that we haven’t even touched yet.
“There was just so much damage done. We need as many volunteers as possible because this is a long-term project.”
She said anyone could volunteer to help, so long as they were dive certified.
An expert from CCMI will be in Grand Cayman in early December to instruct the dive team leaders in the use of marine epoxy.
The damage to 12,000 square feet of reef was caused when the Carnival Magic cruise ship, guided by a Bodden Shipping Agency pilot boat, dropped its anchor outside the designated anchorage zone on Aug. 27.
To date, no-one has been held officially accountable for the damage.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer can go to the Cayman Magic Reef Recovery Facebook page for details.