Coral transplantation has began!

While everyone was preparing for the holidays late last year (2012), Nature Seychelles’ Reef Rescuer project entered an exciting stage. After nearly two years of preparation, of growing and nurturing of corals in nurseries, the third stage of the reef restoration project is here – planting on degraded reef sites. Jim Scarborough, a Scientific Diver with the project explained.

Here at Reef Rescuer HQ, we have moved into one of the busiest and most important parts of our project. We finally get to start waving goodbye to our corals after many months of careful nurturing and care. That’s right folks, the pilot transplantation has begun!

What this entails is a careful site analysis, of both control and transplantation sites, to give us a good idea of the benthic cover, fish and invertebrate populations. Joe M.has been working hard crunching the numbers on this, and that allowed us to know what was there before we start transplanting the corals from our nurseries to the degraded site selected on the north-east side of Cousin Island.

Kevin and Jim attaching ropes of Pocillopora

Kevin and Jim attaching ropes of Pocillopora

Fuelled by heavy metal, samosas, sunscreen and coffee, we set off to move corals. 10 metre ropes of coral colonies, Pocillopora eydouxi and Acropora cytherea, are cut from the main nurseries and swum to the transplantation site by two divers, helped by a sympathetic current. Once we arrive the ropes were cut into sections for attachment. For this pilot we are trying to see the effectiveness of attachment methods, so the ropes are cut into 5 metre and 1 metre pieces as well as individual corals. These are then nailed into the bare carbonate substrate by the team using a variety of different nails, again to see which ones are the best for the job. The winner was a 2 inches concrete nail and 20cm ropes with ‘prussik’ knot were also used to stretch the 1m or 5m ropes of nursery-grown colonies and attach them as close as possible to the substrate.

Pocillopora eydouxi successfully attached!

Pocillopora eydouxi successfully attached!

Our pilot transplantation site is starting to look like a fully fledged reef now, and even has its own little community of butterfly and damsel fish. This is a great start and hopefully only a small taste of things to come!

On top of this fantastic accomplishment, we were also visited by a French film crew who were shooting a documentary about small tropical islands. After a briefing about what we do by David, they were shown most of the coral growing process, from collection and fragmentation to transplantation. It looked like they had a great time, and yours truly managed to sneak into every piece of footage they shot! Watch this space folks; I feel a French BAFTA is on the horizon!

Plenty is going on, even more still to be done and everything going well. Just the way I like it!

Jim Scarborough, Scientific Diver (September-December 2012)

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