Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners

by Fundación Grupo Puntacana
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Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Transforming Local Fishermen Into Coral Gardeners
Coral gardener supervising volunteers
Coral gardener supervising volunteers

At the Center of Marine Innovation, domes where made and placed underwater to serve as outplanting structure for branching coral species like Acropora cervicornis. Twenty structures were deployed with a total of 400 corals outplanted. This will serve as a habitat for fish and other marine critters.

Corals where outplanted with our citizen science program which involves recreational divers, so that they can learn and help in coral restoration. This program allows our fishermen to teach others their techniques in coral conservation, which provides them with new skills for the future. Our personnel also use their new PADI diving certification in Rescue to be more aware of volunteers and keep everyone safe.

The goal of this program is to create patches of reefs with a wide variety of fish, train volunteers in marine conservation techniques, and help our coral gardeners into becoming leaders in coral restoration.

Volunteers in action  /  Pictures: Andres Miolan
Volunteers in action / Pictures: Andres Miolan
Attaching Acropora cervicornis to dome structure.
Attaching Acropora cervicornis to dome structure.
Finalized dome structure with Acropora cervicornis
Finalized dome structure with Acropora cervicornis
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Rescue Course
Rescue Course

The local fishermen working at the Center of Marine Innovation have started taking scuba diving courses with PADI. We have one new Open Water diver, one Advanced Open Water and two other members taking the Rescue course. With these new certifications we have scuba divers better prepared to work in coral restoration. The entire team took an Emergency First Response course in order to be prepared and know how to act in case of an emergency while working.

We also did a course with 25 local fishermen with the Dominican Merchant Marine School for them to become certified marine operators for small boats. Here the fishermen learned about boat terminology, navigation, rescue skills, proper treatment of oil and gas change, responsible use of boats, and the importance of the marine environment. These practices will help protect the natural resources such as coral reefs in the area of Punta Cana.

The marine operations team also has participated in a coral disease study in Punta Cana. This study is being done in various parts of the Dominican Republic by following the same methodology and timeframe in order to better understand the health of the corals.

Emergency First Response
Emergency First Response
Emergency First Response 2
Emergency First Response 2
Captain Course
Captain Course
Coral disease study in Punta Cana
Coral disease study in Punta Cana
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Coral Gardeners in action
Coral Gardeners in action

Over the last weeks, we have been working on the installation of a new coral nursery at a depth of approximately 12 meters. These are multiple table-shaped structures with the aim of favoring the growth and care of species present in this area of the reef, such as Agaricia tenuifolia (thin leaf lettuce coral), Porites porites (finger coral), Porites astreoides (yellow porites) and Acropora palmata (elkhorn coral). This is a progressive job that requires numerous hours in water for the installation of structures, selection of colonies and periodic maintenance and checks.

These activities are embedded in a great plan to restore the reefs in the area.

We have also been working on a Captive parrot fish fattening project. During 6 months, experiments will be carried out with a total of 36 juvenile individuals of parrotfish of the same species, varying the amount and type of diet (sea grass, squid and the combination of both) in order to test (a) if the increase of some type of diet results in an increase in the biomass of the specimen and (b) if the combined diet results in an increase in biomass. This project will be carried out in the facilities of the fish nursery of the Marine Innovation Center where there will be a closed-circuit system with 14 aquariums. The project will be carried out by a fisherman from the area, who has received training and will be under the supervision of a biologist.

Coral Gardeners in action 2
Coral Gardeners in action 2
Coral Gardeners in action 3
Coral Gardeners in action 3
Local Coral Gardener
Local Coral Gardener
Local Coral Gardener 2
Local Coral Gardener 2
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Local Coral Gardener
Local Coral Gardener

Since we started this project three years ago, the contribution of these fishermen turned into Coral Gardeners, is reflected in each reforested meter on our Puntacana coast.

We are so happy to share with you this new video (link below), which presents one of our project members (former Fisherman), talking about his experience working on coral restoration and how much fulfilling is to be collaborating in the conservation of this species.

With each donation, we're getting closer to our fundraising goal and we keep working on a better future for our reefs and the marine life of this amazing paradise.

Recovered Coral Fragment
Recovered Coral Fragment
Working as Coral Gardeners
Working as Coral Gardeners
Working as Coral Gardeners (2)
Working as Coral Gardeners (2)

Links:

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Figure 1. Pseudodiploria strigosa microfragments.
Figure 1. Pseudodiploria strigosa microfragments.

We're excited to share that we have started coral restoration activities again, after being limited because of the pandemic situation. Over the last couple of months, we have been working on our infrastructures to optimize microfragmentation in order to obtain a higher rate of coral survival. Thanks to this, 101 microfragments were obtained from an in-water nursery; these were located in-situ because of the lack of personnel and the closure our Center for Marine Innovation due to government regulations to limit a further spread of COVID 19. These fragments of different species (Porites porites, Acropora spp., Pseudodiploria strigosa) where kept in-situ without any monitoring. These where cleaned to remove macroalgal cover, crustose coralline algae attached to the ceramic plates while in-situ which indicates a good substrate for coral attachment and overall low macroalgal cover.

The 22 coral nurseries located at the site Aquarium were monitored to evaluate the state of the 20 A-frame structure and 2 rope nurseries. These nurseries where monitored, dead fragments were removed to increase the growth rate of the fragments. Four A-frame structures were deployed in this site to start an experiment with the goal of knowing the exact coral cover of Acropora cervicornis that incentivizes the recruitment of fish in the nursery. For this experiment we have 4 old nurseries that have a high coral cover and fish biomass that will serve as a reference, 4 structures without corals that will serve as control, and 4 (still haven’t been deployed) structures with new fragments of A. cervicornis attached. Based on recurrent observations throughout one year in order to measure coral cover and fish biomass, we will be able to know the optimum coral cover needed to provide a habitat for fish. This data will also serve to know the number of coral fragments that can be removed for outplanting without compromising the agglomeration of fish.

A new nursery site, was evaluated to see the state of the four nurseries that were installed before the pandemic. Two of the structures are tree nurseries, which were never used before in the Puntacana region. These structures located in the new site have low algal cover and were able to withstand little to no monitoring due to COVID and tropical storms. This site is surrounded by a reef that will be used for coral outplants. In the near future a possible study could be implemented to evaluate the difference between fish biomass in coral nurseries in a Marine Protected Area (Aquarium) and a none proteted site.

Three species of massive corals (Montastraea cavernosa, Orbicella annularis, Pesudodiploria strigosa) and one branching coral (Acropora palmata) were taken from The Aquarium to the wetlab at our Center of Marine Innovation. The different colonies belonging to the same species were put in close contact in order to see if they were different genotypes via aggression experiments. From these experiments, nine different genotypes were detected. By having different genotypes a proportion of individuals in genetically diverse populations may have a greater capacity to survive and acclimate to changing environmental conditions. Genotypes also serve as a way to place microfragments of the same genotype together in order to accelerate growth rate for the fragments to fuse and cover a greater area which will serve to restore reefs.

Three tanks of the land nursery were reactivated as an initial stage with an approximate of 200 microfragments. The corals microfragmented were from the aggression experiments and staghorn corals of opportunity obtained from the Aquarium. These tanks have herbivorous marine species such as gastropods, sea urchins and doctor fish. This creates a more holistic ecosystem within each tank, which helps maintain a low microalga cover.

A new area for public outreach was designated to demonstrate the different structures that are used as nurseries in the Puntacana region. Tourist can come to the Center of Marine Innovation and be able to visualize how coral nurseries work and their purpose.

We're currently designing a workshop with the goal of teaching people how they can help with inland microfragmentation, nursery cleanups and coral outplants while using citizen science. This way more fieldwork will be able to be done and at the same time people from the community, former fishermen or tourists will be able to get involved and become coral gardeners as well. 

Figure 2. Structures for coral cover.
Figure 2. Structures for coral cover.
Figure 3 Structures for coral cover
Figure 3 Structures for coral cover
Figure 4. Microfragmentation
Figure 4. Microfragmentation
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Organization Information

Fundación Grupo Puntacana

Location: Santo Domingo, no applicable - Dominican Republic
Website:
Project Leader:
Jacob Kheel
Vice President
Santo Domingo, no applicable Dominican Republic
$362,997 raised of $500,000 goal
 
130 donations
$137,003 to go
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