To start this newsletter I would firstly like to thank everyone for his or her patience and support towards Reef Recharge in the past months. We have had a very difficult time since the last newsletter was sent out. Those who have received updates in recent months will already be aware of what has happened to the project but I would like to take this opportunity to explain the situation further.
2016 has been one of, if not the, warmest year on record according to NASA. Several parts of the globe have experienced very unusual extreme weather conditions including droughts, hurricanes and prolonged heat waves. Unfortunately this has also affected the world’s oceans, with unusually high surface water temperatures being recorded around the globe.
You may have seen reports concerning the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The best of the reports suggest that although a high percentage of the coral is damaged or dead it can yet be saved. The worst of the reports are posting an obituary for a reef that is millions of years old. Sadly the Great Barrier Reef is not the only place that has been affected; parts of the world are reporting coral bleaching that have never experienced it before and the Maldives has not escaped.
As reported in the last Newsletter (Newsletter #37) we experienced a prolonged period of very warm water and because the Maldives water temperature is already quite high for coral, it was pushed to the extreme and caused widespread coral bleaching. Once coral bleaching starts there is very little that can be done except monitoring the situation. Unfortunately after a few months we found that a huge proportion of our coral was bleached so badly it had no chance of recovery. After the bleaching an algae infestation sets in, if this were left the algae would engulf not only the bleached corals but also the healthier surrounding corals.
Drastic action was needed and we began to strip the dead corals from the frames. For some this may only be one or two pieces, for others unfortunately it is the whole frame. There is no pattern to which corals have survived, with older frames just as susceptible as newer frames.
Over the past couple of months we have been working to strip away any dead coral and clean the frames of any algae infestation. The problem now arises of replanting frames; we need thousands of healthy coral fragments. Finding a healthy coral is difficult so we can only work as they become available in our nursery. We are working to replant all the frames with the healthy coral, which we hope is more resilient that previous fragments, but it is a long slow process.
At this time I ask that you stick with us; we really are doing all that we can for the project with several hours a day spent tending to the frames. It is heartbreaking to see our hard work destroyed by something we have no control over but it highlights why we started the project in the first place.