Mustique’s coral restoration project
As set out in the Mustique Act, The Mustique Company has always had a responsibility to protect the island, and it takes its stewardship very seriously.
Whether on land or in the sea, conservation of the environment, and protection of the flora and fauna, is a fundamental reason why the island of Mustique is as beautiful and “untouched” as it is.
A few years ago, a decision was made to try and restore the reefs around the island. They were rapidly disappearing over the years due a wide variety of issues, some natural and some man-made. Around the Caribbean, there were hurricanes and storms, sea urchin disease, overfishing of the herbivorous parrotfish, poor water quality due to sewerage run-off which all contributed to a decline in coral reef health.
Our environmental committee looked at various ways of combating these issues- installing waste water treatment plants to improve water quality, enforcing the conservation area rules where there is no fishing within 1000 yards of Mustique, thereby protecting marine life that contributes to healthy reefs. And lucky for us, the sea urchins are back in our waters!
But the biggest change came when Ken Nedimyer, a pioneer of coral restoration from the Florida Keys, was invited to Mustique to determine whether setting up a programme would be feasible.
Things are brighter, you have people who have been coming here for 10 – 20 years and they are so excited to get back in the water, to snorkel, to see life
We then created two coral nurseries, a collection of underwater trees designed to grow coral. In simple terms, a ‘tree-like’ frame is anchored to the sea floor and then suspended in the water with the use of a float. Our newly formed restoration team collected small fragments of live coral from existing reefs around the island and then hung from the trees using nylon and crimps. Over the course of nine months to a year, nutrients in the water enrich these fragments and help them grow, until they are ready for out planting back onto our reefs.
Mustique has one nursery in Endeavour Bay in front of the Cotton House and another nursery in L’Ansecoy Bay, on the north side of the island.
“We’re growing three different species of coral,” according to Nakita Poon Kong, our Environmental Manager, “Elkhorn coral, Staghorn coral and a little bit of Fire coral. Our Elkhorns do really well, and since 2015 we’ve actually out planted 7500 fragments, mainly on the north side and west side of the island. So things are brighter, you have people who have been coming here for 10 – 20 years and they are so excited to get back in the water, to snorkel, to see life.”
And the restoration continues, over the course of the next few weeks, Nakita and the watersports team will be spending hours underwater cleaning our nurseries with bamboo toothbrushes and harvesting them for out planting. We will check back in with her in a few weeks to see the results of the latest growth and how to transplant coral from the nursery to the reef.