cayman_coral reef_restoration_project, marine conservation, coral reef damage, ocean issuesGrand Cayman, Cayman Islands –A fundraising campaign has been launched in Grand Cayman to help finance and sustain a major reef restoration project currently being done by volunteer divers supported by local dive operators, and overseen by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.

During the past five months volunteers have donated hundreds of man-hours to repair the devastating damage caused when a cruise ship dragged its anchor across a dive site in August. Diving from shore and on weekend boat trips donated Red Sail Sports, Divetech and other operators, the volunteers have removed tons of rubble and salvaged pieces of live coral to be replanted in the restoration process. Now they’re fanning out into the community to help raise money to keep going.

“Everyone’s been giving of themselves to the project, so we have decided to have a fundraiser to recoup some expenses, buy supplies and go forward,” said Keith Sahm, General Manager for Sunset House and co-coordinator of the project. “The goal is to raise $10,000 and we’ve got the Cayman government’s full backing.”

Breaking News: Cruise ship grounds on pristine coral reef in Raja Ampat National Marine Park causing severe damage, see full post here.


Reef Restoration in Progress:

Sahm says marine science experts have suggested capping the scarred area on the reef base with concrete to keep the particles and silt from floating around and affecting nearby live corals, so bags of cement are needed for that phase of the project. A special marine epoxy to reattach live corals to the base must also be ordered.

Some live corals have already been reattached in surrounding reef and they are doing well according to project co-coordinator Lois Hatcher of Ocean Frontiers, who is experienced with this coral restoration technique.

“Its amazing! The ones we replanted look really good,” she says, giving credit to the whole team of volunteer divers who are a part of this daunting project, expected to take a year to complete. “We’re lucky to have a good strong core of volunteers who care deeply and are dedicated to the effort. Everyone is working well together.”

Hatcher is using proven techniques that she has learned from some of the world’s leading experts in coral restoration; Dr. Alex Brylske, a renowned professor of Marine Environment Technology at Florida Keys Community College and Ken Nedimyer president of the Coral Restoration Foundation. She was enrolled in Dr. Brylske’s first undergraduate course in coral restoration, and spent a year taking other marine science classes.


Coral Reef Conservation in Cayman

Ocean Frontiers co-founder Steve Broadbelt was well aware of Hatcher’s background and training when he hired her in 2012. He plans to establish a coral nursery at Ocean Frontiers, one of Grand Cayman’s most conservation minded companies. Hatcher took the job: During the past 20 years she has seen first hand the changes in Cayman’s reefs and wanted to do something about it.

“The Elkhorn and Staghorn coral that used to be plentiful here are now hard to find,” Hatcher says. “We need to stop the loss of coral – if we save half of it, its still better than none and complete loss.”

Coral Reef Restoration’s Ken Nedimyer says the coral reefs of the world, and particularly the Caribbean, are in a very serious state of decline. Some are almost totally gone, so coral “gardening” is their last hope.

He says coral nurseries and coral gardens now exist in Fiji, Indonesia, Maldives, India, Israel, Egypt, Philippines, Japan and other places worldwide. In the Caribbean there are coral nurseries in the Bahamas, St Thomas, St Croix, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Belize, Bonaire, and Colombia. The Coral Restoration Foundation is planning to start nurseries in Jamaica, Curacao, Guadeloupe, the Grenadines, and Barbados during the next year.


Fundraising Plans:

To keep the estimated year-long project going, volunteers are now knocking on doors in Cayman’s business community soliciting donations for the cause. A fundraising event is also planned for Friday, February 27 at the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal on the waterfront in George Town. The fundraising festivities will be held in late afternoon after the cruise ship traffic has cleared. Organizers are lining up music, sponsors and prizes for a silent auction and drawings. T-shirts are also being printed for the cause and will be available for purchase.

Donations for the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project can also be made online with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. Online contributions must be designated for the Environmental Programs listed on the giving page.

Response so far from Cayman’s community is generous says Hatcher, adding that some people have come forward to donate supplies without being asked. Renowned sculptor Simon Morris who created “Amphitrite” the mermaid at Sunset House, “The Guardian of the Reef” at Divetech Lighthouse Point dive site, and “Tradition” the sculpture of the man and boy in Heroes Square in Georgetown is also pitching in to help the cause. He’s donating 40% of the proceeds from the sale of any bronze sculpture in current inventory to the restoration project.

“The tireless and generous efforts of all the volunteer divers and companies donating support in cash and kind to restore the terrible reef damage prove once again that Grand Cayman has true spirit and many heroes,” he said. “Every time I visit I am overwhelmed at the treatment I receive. My art is all about our need to love and protect our marine environment and if it can be used to help in anyway to assist in the efforts to repair the reef, I’ll be grateful for the opportunity.”


Dive Travelers Can Get Involved:

Divers planning to visit Cayman on vacation are also offering to get involved with the reef restoration project during their stay.  Co-organizers Sahm and Hatcher say they can use all the help they can get. As they reach out to the community, the volunteers are spreading the message that keeps them going and working for a successful fundraising campaign.

“We’re working to save Cayman’s marine environment for the future so we can’t afford for it not to be a success,” Hatcher said.

For more information on the fundraising campaign for the Magic Reef Restoration Project contact Keith Sahm at or Lois Hatcher at You can also visit the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project Facebook Page:  Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project**