KRALENDIJK- It has been 10 years since the first coral nursery was installed in Bonaire, kick-starting the island coral restoration project and giving a helping hand to our beautiful and endangered coral reefs.
Fast forward to today, and Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire (RRFB) is a successful organization, recognized worldwide for its tangible restoration results, the continued development and up-scaling of its techniques, the wonderful community involvement effort, and the driven determination to make a positive impact on Bonaire coral reefs.
In April 2012, the initial permit was obtained to collect from the reef a few fragments of the endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals, and to set up the first 20 nursery trees at Buddy’s Reef and on Klein Bonaire. The initial installation was completed with the support and technical guidance of Ken Nedimyer, Founder of Coral Restoration Foundation in the Florida Keys.
Over the past 10 years, the Foundation has continued to grow and evolve, and now works on 7 corals species using two different techniques, fragmentation and larval rearing. These techniques are used to propagate thousands of corals that are strategically outplanted to local degraded reefs on Bonaire every year. “The integration of the two techniques is very important”, says Francesca Virdis, RRFB Chief Operating Officer, as it allows us to work on increasing both coral abundance and their genetic diversity, which are both critical to increase reef resilience and assist the natural recovery of Bonaire’s reef in the long term.
Today there are 11 coral nurseries in Bonaire, which host more than 15,000 corals of 75 different coral strains. Since 2013 more than 41,000 corals have been outplanted back to almost 9,000m2 of coral reef. According to Francesca, an important result and a restoration benchmark of success, has been witnessing, for the past 4 years, the spawning of the outplanted corals on the reef. “When our corals spawn, it means that they are healthy, have reached sexual maturity, and therefore have started seeding the nearby reefs with life, assisting their population natural recovery”.
The program is a successful combination of year-round field work, community involvement, youth education and partnership with research-oriented organizations. RRFB has 9 local dive shops that serve as educational ambassadors for Reef Renewal Bonaire’s restoration program as well as training centers for volunteers.