The Mesoamerican Reef System is the second largest coral reef system in the world. And it has shown an alarming rate of degradation (loss of biodiversity, loss biomass, etc) in the last years due to factors such as climate change, coastal development and mass tourism with non-sustainable practices. GVI’s Marine Conservation Program has helped NGOs and federal institutions in this last quarter by collecting data to be used to create options for proper natural resource management through reef monitoring using the SAM synoptic in the Akumal Bays areas as well as carrying on maintenance activities for coral nurseries in the same area for coral restauration. And participating directly in the coral restauration project in the laboratory coral cloning part of the project.
In the last quarter, volunteers and staff of GVI’s Mexico Marine Conservation program, committed with the goals of coral reef conservation and restauration, have been able to monitor the health status of 6 of the 14 monitoring sites of the coral reef system in the Akumal bays area. Carrying out 60 fish transects, identifying 487 adult fish and 217 juvenile fish species. Also doing 15 coral transects, identifying 413 coral colonies and their health status. All this data collected during this dives was passed on to our in country partner CEA (Centro Ecologico Akumal) for their statistical analysis of the health of the reef ecosystem. CEA has a 15 year history as an NGO in the Mexican Caribbean region developing and undertaking different various projects for the conservation and sustainable use of the marine natural resources in the region. With this information, CEA was able to create a digital map, in coordination with the NGO Healthy Reef for Healthy People (another in country partner), of the state of health of the coral reef ecosystem to be able to bring into attention to the general public and the proper authorities the condition of the reef ecosystem and some of the mayor challenges to be surpassed to conserve this natural resource for future generations.
Volunteers and staff from GVI also participated in a lionfish eradication activity on which 15 lionfish were captured. This activity was promoted by the national committee for natural protected areas (part of the Mexican federal government) as part of the state’s local conservation week program and GVI was involved through our in country partner CEA.
In November, data on coral bleaching and coral diseases was collected using the Bar-Drop methodology. This survey is conducted annually by another in country partner, Healthy Reef for Healthy people. Together with CEA, 6 different sites were monitored, more than 200 coral colonies on each site. This way, our in country partners were able to determine the coral bleaching levels and the presence of coral diseases in the ecosystem.
During the first week of December the pilot project for macro algae removal and coral restauration was introduced by Healthy Reefs for Healthy People and CEA. The main objective of this project is to study the effects of macro algae on the development of the reef, more specifically their effect on coral recruitment and coral colony growth. The baseline for this project consisted in 3 initial replicas in which a 30 meter transect was divided into 6 areas for different interventions of macroalgae removal and coral outplant. GVI collaborated strongly in the establishment of 2 out of the 3 replicas in which more than 15 volunteers helped out in 3 dives. 90% of the first replica was achieved and 50 % of the second one.
During the months of October and November we collaborated with CRIP (Regional Fisheries Research Center) in the micro fragmenting process of the coral restauration project and maintenance of the coral nurseries. 2 or 3 times a week 4 volunteers and a staff member went to help in the labs either with the cleaning of tanks or with the microfragmenting process itself. In total around 35 pairs of hands went to help out making more than 6,000 microfragments. On two occasions GVI personal also helped out our CRIPs personal with the cleaning and redistribution of coral fragments in Cancun, in this effort one volunteer and two staff members contributed in 4 different dives
The economic, social and environmental importance of the coral reef ecosystem has brought together a smorgasbord of organizations involved on different projects focused on the conservation of this wonderful natural resource. Yet, the challenges ahead are still many to be able to accomplish a proper conservation, sustainable use and efficient restoration of the coral reefs. A lack of materials and personal, both in the NGO’s and government agencies involved in this activity has created a permanent issue to be able to accomplish these goals. GVI, through our efforts, has helped both in field work as well as in generating a fundraising event through which volunteers were able to raise $1’700 USD that were used to buy dive equipment for two of our in country partners, CEA and Healthy Reef for Healthy People, so they can continue on their honorable tasks of conserving the coral reef ecosystem.
With these actions, GVI works toward the Global Goals for Sustainable Development of the United Nations of Climate Action, Life Below Water and Partnership for the Goals.
We have accomplished a lot of our goals in collaborating with our in country partners in the main objective of the conservation of the some of the coral reefs communities of the Mesoamerican Reef System. Helping out in the field and laboratory activities in the process of conserving this wonderful marine ecosystem. Specially by being able to get our volunteers involved hands on different tasks that are undertaken in this process of conservation, but the most important part, giving our volunteers and people from the local community an opportunity to learn about the coral reef ecosystem and its importance. Through these actions we have been able to create a clear picture and conscience of the need to work on the conservation and restauration of this ecosystem. We still have a long way to travel to be able to accomplish our goals. This coming year we will be working closer with our in country partners CRIP offering them all our help and commitment to reach their conservation goals in the coral reef restoration project. With the generous help from our supporters and donors we can continue working on the conservation, restauration and sustainable use of the coral reefs in the Mexican Caribbean for the enjoyment of future generations.
As always, all of this wonderful work couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of our supporters and supporters, a great shout out to you all!!! Thank you!!!