PRESS RELEASE — THE Sandals Foundation and Clear Caribbean, in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries; St. Lucia’s Dive Association; and the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA), have embarked on an environmental conservation initiative for coral restoration and preservation. The announcement was made by Judy Deterville, Public Relations Manager of Sandals Resorts International, on Wednesday 13th March, at the Sandals Dive Centre in Vielle Bay, Pointe Seraphine, for the inauguration trip for the Sandals Coral Nursery Dive.
Financial support in excess of $200,000 US, has been provided for the project, and is derived from contributions from the partners of Sandals Resorts International, including the Caribbean Development Bank. As part of the initiative is an undertaking to establish coral nurseries along the coast of the island. Sandals Resorts International has also extended an offer to their guests to partake in the programme for coral restoration. Guests are invited to participate, with the assistance of trained instructors, in planting two thousand coral fragments that are waiting to be transplanted on the reef in the Soufriere Marine Management Area.
The executing partner for the project is Clear Caribbean, who was responsible for the creation of the coral nurseries, which came about through consultations and funding from the Sandals Foundation and other partners. The project was initiated by the Sandals Foundation, whose mandate it is to conserve the environment, including the flora, the beaches, the coral reefs, and marine life in general. The aim of the project is to foster public-private partnerships for coral restoration, and the preservation of the eco-system.
The background of this initiative goes back to the 1980s, when 95 percent of the Caribbean’s Elkhorn and Staghorn coral colonies were destroyed by a coral disease. The small percentage of the corals that survived has been experiencing laggard growth ever since, due to their low numbers and mass distribution. The objective of the initiative for coral restoration is to speed up the recovery of the coral populations that remain.
Bianca Young, Environmental Officer of the Sandals Foundation, stressed the importance of the project as being one that will increase the livelihood opportunities of persons in the fishing communities, on the basis that the project will improve biodiversity, which in turn, will make the fishing industry more lucrative. She said that it will also be a benefit to the tourism market in St. Lucia, since coral reefs are a tremendous attraction for tourists. Young emphasized the role that coral reefs play in protecting the coast lines from wave impacts of storms and hurricanes, to which the region is particularly vulnerable.
It is the hope of the Sandals Foundation and Clear Caribbean, for the initiative to inspire other organizations and private entities to participate in activities for coral restoration and preservation.