Coral reefs around the world are threatened by human impact, but the news isn't all bad. In a growing number of locations, protection and restoration programs are ensuring the health of our reefs for now and future generations. One place where this is happening is on the Honduran island of Roatan, where one of the island's premier dive operations is working with both local and international organizations to protect and restore threatened coral species.
Trees in the Water
Subway Watersports is the in-house dive operation for Turquoise Bay Dive & Beach Resort, which is located on Roatan's less-developed northeast coast, close to some of the island's most vibrant reefs. In 2016, Subway began a project to regrow corals, working in partnership with the Bay Islands Reef Restoration project and the Florida-based Coral Restoration Foundation International. The Subway team installed 10 coral nursery trees near Turquoise Bay and 10 more near Mahogany Bay off the island's south coast. The trees, which are constructed of plastic and fiberglass, were anchored to the seabed and suspended with mid-water floats. The branches of these trees were hung with coral fragments of elkhorn and staghorn coral which were either rescued fragments of damaged formations or taken as end clippings from healthy specimens.
Elkhorn and staghorn are two of the Caribbean's most important reef-building corals and create a valuable three-dimensional habitat that provides shelter for a wide variety of marine animals. Both species have been in decline across the region for decades, but the waters of Roatan are still home to a number of healthy colonies. The stock harvested or rescued from these colonies are grown on Subway's coral trees for a period of six months to a year, then strategically replanted in closely grouped thickets, which will allow the new corals to more readily reproduce sexually through spawning. By selecting the healthiest specimens for replanting, the program increases the genetic diversity and resilience of the coral gene pool.
Expanding on Success
To expand on the success of their initial restoration program, Subway Watersports has teamed up with Mayan Divers to create a coral nursery in Roatan's West Bay area. In the spring of 2019, staff from Mayan Divers and Divemaster candidates from Subway Watersports Go Pro Green Divemaster candidates installed ten new coral nursery trees on a sandy patch on the reef near the dive site known as SeaQuest Deep. Following this initial planting, a grant to the Roatan Marine Park provided the funding needed to add an additional 20 nursery trees. When completed, this installation will nurture a total of 1,800 new corals.
Get with the Program
Guests at Turquoise Bay Dive & Beach Resort can channel their inner marine biologist by participating in the Subway Watersports coral restoration program. To date, more than 150 resort guests and 50 interns in Subway's Go Pro Green PADI Divemaster program have participated in the coral restoration program. These volunteers have transplanted more than 500 corals back onto Roatan’s reefs, and ongoing monitoring programs indicate that more than 80 percent of the transplanted corals are thriving.
Subway Watersports has also launched a PADI Distinctive Specialty Course in Coral Restoration. The program was developed by Tripp Funderburk, the Coral Restoration Manager for Subway. The specialty course includes lectures on basic coral biology, coral stressors, and the theory and techniques employed in coral restoration programs. It also includes two open water dives to teach students how to maintain coral nursery trees and transplant nursery-raised corals onto the reef.
Subway Watersports is one of the top-rated dive centers in the western Caribbean. The operation at Turquoise Bay includes retail, repair and rental services, changing rooms with showers, personal gear lockers, a multi-media class and conference room, an Internet terminal and a fill station with nitrox supplied by a Nuvair membrane system. A fleet of ten boats allows groups of various sizes to create personalized itineraries, with three daily morning and afternoon departures, night dives and specialty dives such as the shark encounter known as Cara Cara.
We offer special all-inclusive stay-and-dive packages with Turquoise Bay Dive & Beach Resort and Subway Watersports. Divers may also want to mark their calendar for the Fifth Annual Roatán Underwater Photo Fest, which will take place from November 2 to 9 at Turquoise Bay and Subway Watersports. To learn more, call 800-329-9989 or send a note to email@example.com.
Turquoise Bay Dive & Beach Resort
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