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Cayman’s Coral Nursery Program Launched with High Hopes

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After only a few short weeks, hundreds of coral fragments hanging from “trees” made of PVC pipe in the shallow waters of Grand Cayman are showing healthy signs of life and attracting fish. Ocean Frontiers, Sunset House and Divetech are gardening coral that will be used to replenish Cayman’s reefs. The Cayman Islands Department of Environment granted the operators permits to set up the coral nurseries and is overseeing their individual programs.

coral“So far everything looks great! There has been zero mortality from the collected coral,” says Lois Hatcher who is managing the nursery for Ocean Frontiers. “We are doing weekly maintenance on the site and setting up a report for the Department of Environment. The fragments are being monitored for disease, photographed and measured. They already show visible growth after just a few weeks.”

The coral trees were set up in late April with the help of Sea of Change Foundation, an ocean conservation non-profit that donated money and materials to construct the PVC trees, plus guidance and manpower. Experts from the Coral Restoration Foundation were brought in to help install the trees and train the dive operators in how to manage the nurseries.

“Every year the Foundation picks a project that we believe will make a difference in saving our seas, and this year we picked Cayman’s coral nursery program,” said board member Jerry Beaty. “We’ve seen this method succeed in other places and because Cayman is such a prime dive destination, we want to do what we can to keep it that way.”

Each coral tree, which can hold about 100 coral fragments, is anchored to the sea bottom with rope and can float with the currents, even during storms and hurricanes. The coral fragments feed from the nutrient-rich currents and they grow. Cayman’s nurseries contain fast-growing Staghorn Corals. Nursery tenders clean and maintain the coral trees to find the strongest corals which will then be used to “seed” local reefs.

“I was out cleaning the nursery the other day and everything looks very healthy and all of the fragments have already grown over the fishing line that is attaching them to the trees. Very exciting!” says Jo Mikutowicz, Divetech.

coral

“The staghorn has already grown between .5 cm to 2.5 cm based on the 5 cm baseline fragments that were hung. On the Elkhorn it’s great to see the mono that was wrapped around the fragment as they have overgrown already,” said Lois Hatcher.

The Sunset House coral nursery has attracted a small school of curious squid.

“The nursery is doing very well, and there’s also a lot of interest from guests,” says General Manager Keith Sahm. “The trees are strategically placed and depth changeable to accommodate the nursery, and keep it safe from a late season Nor’wester.”

Dive operators, staunch advocates for protection of the marine environment, have always enforced conservation measures to reduce the stress on Cayman’s reefs from divers. The chance now to be directly involved in growing coral to seed and boost the reefs is exciting and fills them with purpose.

coral

“It requires a lot of work on Divetech’s part to maintain the coral trees weekly, to keep algae off of them and keep any predators (snails and fire worms) off the coral,” explains Jo Mikutowicz. “We are very dedicated to this nursery program being a success and will put in all the work that is required to maintain them.”

With coral reefs threatened worldwide from overfishing, rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution and more, Cayman’s operators are excited about the good things that will result from their new coral nurseries.

“It sometimes seems like there is a lot working against coral to stay alive and be healthy these days so it’s nice to finally be able to be proactive in reversing the damage to the reefs and to be able to create new reefs,” said Mikutowicz.

“It will be very successful, there is no reason for it not to be,” says a confident Lois Hatcher, who has co-managed the successful coral restoration project in George Town Harbour started a year ago to repair reef damage from a ship anchor.

“At the Carnival Magic site we have out planted already and those are doing well.  Cayman reefs will never be the same as they were 100 years ago or even 20 years ago but we can slow down and maintain the loss which means there is hope. As long as there is hope we need to continue,” she said.

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The Rescue – available on Disney+ tomorrow (Watch Trailer)

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If you missed the recent cinema debut of The Rescue film, you can watch it on streaming channel Disney+ from tomorrow December 3rd.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo), The Rescue is the edge-of-your-seat account of the rescue of 12 Thai school boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave system in 2018.

The Rescue chronicles the dramatic rescue of the boys and their coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award®-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. An outing to explore a nearby system of caves after soccer practice transformed into a two-week saga of survival and a story that would capture the world’s attention. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork displayed during this heroic edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes.

Check back for our review of The Rescue soon!

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Marine Life & Conservation

Shark Guardian investigation finds endangered sharks for sale in Taiwan

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A field investigation into Taiwan’s shark fin industry was conducted by Shark Guardian between December 2020 and March 2021. The investigation obtained documentary evidence of fins from endangered shark species being openly offered for sale by over half of all shark fin traders surveyed in Taiwan’s southern fishing port of Kaohsiung.

Of the 13 shark fin processing and trading companies visited, more than half were found to be trading CITES- listed fins, and seven had shark fins from CITES Appendix II-listed species as part of their product range. One company saidthere was no difference in selling protected or unprotected species. Protected sharks’ products usually create a problem for international shipping only.”

The new report details how seven out of thirteen traders surveyed in Taiwan were found to be selling shark fins from silky sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, mako sharks, thresher sharks and great white sharks in broad daylight – in contravention of Taiwanese and international law.

Over a three-month period, Shark Guardian investigators witnessed multiple shipments of shark fins from endangered species being unloaded at Donggang fish market which is in Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung.

Alex Hofford, Marine Wildlife Campaigner with Shark Guardian, said “To save sharks and the marine environment, Taiwanese authorities should implement an immediate crackdown on its cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade, and should tighten up local laws to ban the domestic sale of shark fin as well as better enforce its international obligations under CITES. It is also high time that the Taiwanese government should rein in its out-of-control distant water tuna fishing fleet, who are a major supplier shark fin to Chinese markets. Whilst Taiwan is a beacon of democratic and progressive values in Asia, it is allowing its unsustainable and often crime-ridden fisheries sector to rape and pillage our ocean with impunity. This must stop. Taiwan needs to show leadership in environmental protection and must quickly clean up its act as regards its sleazy shark fisheries and trade sectors.”

During our investigation, Shark Guardian also found evidence of Taiwan-based online retailers selling fins of endangered species of shark in contravention of local and international law.

According to WWF, a third of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, yet fishing and trading in unsustainable shark fin remains a highly profitable, but environmentally destructive, enterprise for Taiwanese companies operating out of Kaohsiung.

Brendon Sing, Co-Director of Shark Guardian said “Clearly more must be done to protect sharks globally. There are over 500 known shark species with only a handful of them listed under CITES. Even then, CITES listed sharks are still traded illegally where monitoring and enforcement lack any power and expose loopholes in the system. As long as this continues, there is no real protection for any shark species regardless of CITES listing or not. Taiwan must be responsible and take positive action in response to this report.”

Shark Guardian believes that excessively large profit margins are the main reason why Taiwan has never acted to rein in its shark fisheries and trade.

Shark Guardian hopes that Taiwan can apply its progressive values towards preserving the marine environment by imposing a comprehensive ban on the physical and online selling all species of shark fin in Taiwan. Such a ban would go above and beyond what is required under international law, and Taiwan’s domestic laws can be changed with public support.

For more information about Shark Guardian visit their website by clicking here.

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Egypt | Safaga, Brothers & Elphinstone | 27 January – 04 February 2022 | Emperor Elite

Jump on board this famous Red Sea liveaboard and enjoy diving the famous wrecks of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer.  Emperor Elite offers a contemporary living space combined with the best itineraries available in the Red Sea.

Price NOW from just £975 per person based on sharing a twin cabin including:

  • Flights from London Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Booking deadline: Subject to availability.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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