Our coral nurseries are stocked with coral fragments from multiple genotypes of Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), two species that were once the most abundant and important species on Caribbean coral reefs in terms of building reef structure and three-dimensional habitat for marine life. Both Elkhorn and Staghorn corals underwent serious declines in abundance in the 1970s and 1980s and were listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act in 2006. It is estimated that the Caribbean has lost more than 97 percent of these vital corals due to White Band disease, coral bleaching, pollution, and other stressors.
While Elkhorn and Staghorn have declined dramatically, healthy colonies are still present on Roatan’s reefs. Bay Islands Reef Restoration collects a portion of healthy colonies, fragments the collections, and grows the fragments in our nursery until they are large enough to plant back on the reef. We seek to preserve the remaining genetic diversity of these threatened species and plant genetically diverse corals back on the reef to create thickets of closely grouped corals that can more readily sexually reproduce through successful spawning.
Tripp Funderburk is the Coral Restoration Manager for BIRR. Mr. Funderburk was part of the team from Key Largo-based Coral Restoration Foundation International (CRFI) that installed the coral nurseries in 2016. He returned to Roatan to manage the BIRR project in June, 2017. BIRR is leveraging ecotourism to help defray the costs of the conservation project. Turquoise Bay Resort has been funding the project but cannot fund the project indefinitely without expanded financial support from donations to continue and grow the project.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 Pandemic has dramatically reduced tourism in Roatan. Turquoise Bay Resort did not have tourist guests between March and October, 2020. Therefore, we increased our fundraiser goal from $15,000 to $25,000 to keep the program running during the pandemic slowdown.
We appreciate all the donations we have received over the last two years and if you are able, we hope you can contribute once again to help us get through this global pandemic and resulting economic difficulties. We are grateful for any help you can provide!
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