A major coral reef restoration in the northern part of Saint Lucia is aiming to solve an environmental concern while offering divers a more exciting underwater experience. This year, in anticipation of Earth Day (April 22), four sailboats were sunk in two locations in the Gros Islet district: two just off the Reduit coastline near an isolated rock, and two near Rat Island. The sailboats were purchased at low cost from IGY Rodney Bay Marina where they were previously docked for years subsequent to legal proceedings.
The exercise was phase one of a larger initiative called the North Project which aims to create a coral farm in the island’s North by using old vessels that will become reefs over time. In phase two, some youngsters will be trained to become coral gardeners.
The North Project is being undertaken by the Saint Lucia Divers Association, (or Anbaglo), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the interests of the diving community in Saint Lucia and the protection of the environment. Most of the mobilization efforts were undertaken by Eastern Caribbean Diving, Sandals Resorts, and Scuba Steve’s Diving. “This project is important in many ways,” said Donovan Brown, of Eastern Caribbean Diving. “For starters, it’s one of the ways we can combat climate change by limiting the negative effects the phenomenon causes to our coral reefs by trying to build back the reefs artificially.”
Brown, a certified diving instructor, added that the ultimate goal is to replicate the project in other parts of Saint Lucia by using resources from the project in the North. The project first targeted the island’s North due to the prevalence of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, a coral disease spreading throughout the Caribbean.
Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is a new lethal disease first reported in Florida in 2014. While the cause of the disease is unknown, more than 20 species of corals have been affected by it, especially brain, pillar, star and starlet corals. The disease spreads quickly, causing high coral mortality, which is why combating the problem requires a radical approach. “The coral we are replacing – the affected coral reefs which are resistant to the disease,” said Brown.
Anbaglo is a member of the Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association (SLHTA) and has received funding from the SLHTA’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Saint Lucia National Conservation Fund (SLUNCF).
According to Brown, funding to extend the coral restoration project to introduce another form of coral restoration called bio-rock was recently confirmed, thereby ensuring that the project’s work continues.
For many visitors and locals alike, underwater diving is a popular activity that allows people to enjoy the kaleidoscopic views of the underwater world. Saint Lucia is renowned for its various diving tours, therefore restoring the beauty of that space that benefits the local tourism sector and safeguards the health and survival of many marine species.