Volunteers complete reef recovery

Volunteers work to remove rubble in the immediate aftermath of the incident. - PHOTOS: LOIS HATCHER

Almost two years after a cruise ship dropped anchor on a large patch of coral reef off Grand Cayman, work to repair the damage is substantially complete.

A group of volunteers has painstakingly sorted through the rubble to piece the reef back together.

Photographs taken in the past month show large pieces of coral, reattached with marine epoxy, thriving amid vibrant coral colonies on the rebuilt reef.
The images contrast markedly with pictures from the weeks after the incident, which showed a white scar where the Carnival Magic’s anchor had sheared off part of the reef.

Lois Hatcher, one of the leaders of the reef recovery group, said it had been a marvelous effort involving thousands of man-hours from committed volunteers working in their spare time.

“I think it has been a tremendous achievement.

Volunteer Joe Avary dives on the restored reef.
Volunteer Joe Avary dives on the restored reef.

“I don’t think it mattered to people if there was money involved, they wanted to do it. To a lot of people, this was really important.

“Some people ask why it matters so much, but we can’t afford to lose any more coral. Who is going to come and dive on a reef without coral?”

She acknowledged it was virtually impossible to restore the reef to its natural state.

But, she said, the work to salvage live coral and stabilize the reef helped prevent the damage from becoming far worse.

She said the initial effort to clear the large amount of rubble from the site was crucial to allow the surviving reef to recover.

“During the first couple of months in particular, we had a lot of volunteers and a lot of enthusiasm. Everybody worked really hard.

“At this point, there is no more restructuring of the reef.”

She said there is still “maintenance” to be done, with pieces of salvaged coral being grown in coral nurseries to be reattached when they are strong enough to survive.
Volunteers will also attempt to clear algae from the reef before coral spawning in September to allow the best chance of new coral growth on the reef.