The island of Bonaire has some of the healthiest and best-preserved coral reefs in the Caribbean. This is no accident, it's the result of decades of proactive protection and coordinated resource management by the government, private sector and even the divers who contribute to the cause when they buy their annual marine park pass. But even healthy and well-protected coral colonies can benefit from an infusion of new growth, and that's the mission of Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire. This locally-based organization is literally growing new coral reefs, and divers visiting the island can get in on the program.
The beginnings of Bonaire's reef renewal project date back to 2012 when Ken Nedimyer of the Coral Restoration Foundation visited the island at the invitation of the Bonaire government and the National Marine Park. Working with the Bonaire National Marine Park, the Buddy Dive Resort staff and volunteers from Buddy Dive Resort, his team undertook a pilot project to revitalize the island's shallow reefs. Divers collected samples of staghorn and elkhorn coral from a variety of sites, and placed these bits of living coral within an underwater nursery near Buddy Dive Resort. Like all other living organisms, different members of a given species of coral have slightly different genetic makeups. By bringing corals from a number of different sites together in the nursery, Nedimyer's team increased the coral's genetic diversity and resiliency when re-planted on the reef.
The success of Nedimyer's first project lead to the founding of the Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire. In the years since, four more dive shops have joined Buddy Dive in supporting the foundation, which is now known as the Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire. The original trial site has expanded to eight nurseries that grow more than 13,000 corals, and foundation staff and volunteer divers have replanted more than 22,000 corals in the waters of Bonaire. In addition to replanting corals, the foundation works with local officials and environmentalists to address and resolve land-based issues such as improper development and storm water drainage that could have a negative impact on the corals.
Divers who want to take part in coral restoration efforts can participate in a range of programs organized through Buddy Dive Resort. For the curious, there is a Discover Reef Renewal Dive. This dive takes place on the nursery located in a shallow section of Buddy's Reef. Participants learn the basics of assessing nursery health and tending to the corals. Those wanting to devote a bit more time to the cause can sign up for a Reef Renewal Day to make two dives to help the foundation staff do nursery maintenance and out-plantings at a number of different sites around Bonaire and Klein Bonaire. Buddy Dive also offers a full Reef Renewal Week Package that includes 12 dives devoted to foundation activities.
This is an exciting time to become involved in reef restoration with Buddy Dive, as Bonaire has partnered with SECORE International to become the first location for a new coral breeding process known as larval propagation. This process involves the gathering of coral gametes during mass spawning events, and it will allow for the propagation of a greater number of coral species.
You can get involved in coral restoration efforts at Buddy Dive by talking with your Caradonna representative, who can incorporate any of the resort programs into a dive vacation. Just give us a call at 800-330-6611or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.