To help replenish wild populations of corals, whether in areas where there has been a vessel grounding or areas where coral populations have declined due to major environmental events such as coral bleaching and winter cold water events, the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment has allowed Sunset Divers a permit to grow corals in underwater nurseries, specifically Staghorn coral.
Staghorn and Elkhorn coral can grow and reproduce through fragmentation; if a branch falls off on the reef and conditions are favorable, it can reattach to the rock and begin to grow a new colony. We take advantage of this naturally occurring process by growing corals in our offshore underwater nurseries until they are large enough to be out-planted on the reef.
In the nursery, the fragments are attached to PVC and fiberglass trees suspended off the seafloor. The rescued corals are cared for by staff and volunteers who monitor their health and growth and keep algae, encrusting sponges, and tunicates at bay. There are currently 3 trees, each holding 100 fragments.
There is another tree that has nothing on just to the South, which is used as a quarantine tree, should something arise that we need to separate the fragments.
Sunset House along with Cayman ECO Divers Reef Foundation have built up a large group of certified Coral Restoration resident divers to volunteer their time on weekends to help maintain and clean the nursery. They also actively survey the surrounding reef for further out-planting sites.
Cayman residents and visitors alike are becoming citizen scientists and giving back to the community by helping to protect our precious corals.