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Divers In Houston Get Behind Multi Million Dollar Reef Project

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Houston’s scuba diving community has launched a massive online campaign in an effort to get approval to sink a 200 foot ship off the coast of Galveston to become an artificial reef and diving hot spot.

More than $4 million worth of funding has already been secured to pay for the project, which would be the first of its kind this close to the Bayou City. It would sit just 67 miles from Galveston.

“This would be fantastic,” said Roger Veteto from the City of Houston Underwater Mariners. “There are thousands of divers in the Houston area and a ship reef would bring more from accross the state and the country.”

The closest project of it’s kind right now is the Texas Clipper, a 500 foot maritime marine training vessel, which was sunk as an artificial reef off the coast of South Padre Island in 2007.

Divers say the Clipper is just too far away to make day trips possible, so this new project would fill a gap in Texas’ coastal tourism and bring big economic benefits to the area.

“A wreck like this would be a destination type wreck like those sunk for divers off Key Largo and Pensacola,” said Captain Randy Smith, one of the owners of Sport Divers of Houston Inc. in Webster.

The Pensacola reef, the USS Oriskany, or the Mighty ‘O’ as it is known locally, is a World War II aircraft carrier sunk in 2006.  That generated an extra $6m for the local economy in it’s first year according to a 2007 study by the National Center for Environmental Economics.

Capt. Smith was at a public meeting about the Galveston project held by Texas Parks and Wildlife back in January.  He says $1.8 million has been secured from BP restoration money after the Deep Water Horizon Disaster.  Another $2.4 million is coming from the Texas Artificial Reef Fund.

“What we need now are public comment cards saying, ‘Yes, we want the ship reef,'” Smith said.

The issue is the amount of work it takes to clean up a ship and get it ready for sinking, which can take several years. There’s also the added challenge of finding a ship in the first place.

An alternate plan proposes putting concrete fishing reefs near Corpus Cristi, a much smaller and simpler idea, but less spectacular. Captain Smith says Texas Parks and Wildlife want to know if people in Houston think this project is worth the extra effort.

Divers estimate about 2 to 3 percent of the population are certified scuba divers and say dive trips available now out to oil rigs that have been sunk as reefs in the past are popular.

“It would absolutely work,” said Roger Veteto of the City of Houston Underwater Mariners, “Four or five boats run trips out every weekend to the oil rigs, we are looking for public support, we are trying to mobilize our members to get in touch with Texas Parks and Wildlife, we think the ship reef project would have a big positive impact.”

The deadline for public comment is 19th February.  More details about the project can be found here.

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Euro-Divers opens to guests at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives

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In celebration of Euro-Divers’ 50 Years of Diving with Friends in the Maldives, the team have opened a new PADI 5 Star Dive Center at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives.

Alila Kothaifaru Maldives retreat lies at the northern edge of the Maldives in the tranquil Raa Atoll, reached via a panoramic 45-minute seaplane voyage from Male. The island has 80 all-pool-villas, 36 of which are over water with a private pool for your enjoyment and 44 beachfront villas designed seamlessly to immerse guests in the natural surroundings. In support of sustainable tourism, Alila hotels adopt Earth Check operating standards, integrating their environments’ natural, physical, and cultural elements.

Raa Atoll is well-known for the excellent scuba diving it offers. The underwater landscape of Raa Atoll is characterized by a high number of thilas scattered inside the lagoons. These underwater coral mountains are magnets for marine life including huge schools of tropical reef fish, a generous splash of colour, iconic bucket-list-must-see marine creatures including sharks, mantas (appearing during the entire year), turtles, and uncrowded dive sites—a perfect diver’s heaven for beginners and experienced divers. We offer a full range of PADI courses for different levels. From November till March, the Manta cleaning station is located 15 minutes away by boat.

The team from Alila Kothaifaru Maldives look forward to welcoming you soon.

Find out more at: www.euro-divers.com/alila-kothaifaru-maldives

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Marine Life & Conservation

Blue Marine Foundation launches new partnership with Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance

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Ocean charity makes initial grant of $90,000 to marine parks on six Dutch Caribbean islands. Award will fund projects including coral protection, and training youth marine rangers.

Ocean conservation charity Blue Marine Foundation has announced it is awarding $90,000 in funding to support marine conservation in the Dutch Caribbean. A range of projects run by protected area management organisations on six islands will each receive a grant of $15,000. The funding is the first step in a longer-term partnership to support the islands and help secure sustainable financing through the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Trust fund.

To improve ocean governance, Blue Marine uses a combination of top-down intervention and bottom-up project delivery to help local communities at the front line of conservation. It will work together with the DCNA to help marine-park organisations protect the unique and threatened biodiversity of the Dutch Caribbean.

The new partnership is an important development in the successful management of marine conservation parks in the Dutch Caribbean. The UK-based charity has established a small-grants fund to provide rapid access to support for critical conservation projects run by marine parks.

The individual projects and their local partners are:

Unique ecosystems on the islands are vulnerable to threats such as feral livestock causing sedimentation on reefs, and invasive species, including lionfish and coral diseases. They are also at risk from overfishing, climate change, coastal development, erosion and the build-up of harmful algae caused by waste water.

The islands of the Dutch Caribbean are also home to important “blue carbon” habitats – ocean ecosystems such as seagrasses, mangroves and other marine plants that suck up and lock away carbon from the earth’s atmosphere. Seagrass is so efficient at this it can capture and store carbon dioxide up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.  The management and protection of these blue carbon habitats is vital in the fight against climate change.

Current marine conservation measures in the islands include a 25,390 square km mammal and shark sanctuary- Yarari sanctuary- across the Exclusive Economic Zone of Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius. All six islands have inshore Marine Protected Areas ranging in size from 10 to 60 sq km.

Blue Marine’s Senior Project Manager Jude Brown commented: “Having recently visited two of the islands, I witnessed first-hand how special this region is. Diving the waters off Saba I saw huge Tarpon swimming amongst shoals of blue tang, and hawksbill turtles feeding on the seagrass beds. I also witnessed the challenges these islands are facing from coral disease to issues with coastal development. It is an exciting opportunity to work in the Dutch Caribbean, bringing expertise and funding from Blue Marine to join with the wealth of knowledge already on the islands, to work together to protect the important marine life arounds these islands.”

Tadzio Bervoets, Director of the DNCA commented: “The Dutch Caribbean consists of the Windward Islands of St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius and the Leeward Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The nature of the Dutch Caribbean contains the richest biodiversity in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The diverse ecosystems are a magnet for tourism and at the same time the most important source of income for residents of the Dutch Caribbean. Nature on the islands is unique and important but it is also fragile. The coming week we will be in The Netherlands to present a Climate Action Plan for the Dutch Caribbean to emphasize the urgent need for a climate smart future for our islands.”


Photo: Coral reefs in the Dutch Caribbean- Photo credit: Naturepics: Y.+T. Kühnast- all rights reserved

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Booking deadline: Subject to availability – book and stay before end of June 2022

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