© 2015 Lindsay Cope

Coral Gardening Training with University of San Carlos


Divers at work

Divers at work

Recently I spent a week on Mactan Island in Cebu with the entire Coastal Resource Management sector from my batch and our Filipino counterparts. For three days, we learned about coral gardening techniques used by marine biologists at University of San Carlos. The process is straightforward: create a nursurey, monitor growth, transfer corals once they have recovered, monitor growth. Thought it sounds like a breeze, there were some challenges.

Scuba divers and snorkelers can collect coral fragments from damaged reef. This is easily done at places where the reef is damaged by anchors or from storms. For many of the Peace Corps Volunteers, touching anything in the sea is taboo and was a hurdle for some of us. As I approached the reef the first few times, I was unsure what to touch, what to take, and was intimidated by touching the corals. After some time, and observing our trainers, it became a lot more clear and a lot less intimidating. The site we gathered fragments from is a common anchor site for dive boats so there was, unfortunately, a lot of damaged corals that we could transplant.


Collecting Fragments

Once we filled the crates with corals, we swam the coral fragments to a shallow area nearby. Keeping the corals submerged, we attached them to a table made of steel and rope with metal wire. Again, easier than it sounds, you must try not to cause additional stress to the corals, so minimal handling is preferred, and tightening the wire around the coral so it was secure was hard to do and fragments would crumble in our hands. The nursery unit can accommodate as many as 500 fragments, so it can take some time to complete this task. Once the nursery is complete, divers then move it to deeper water (ideally in a protected area). Corals can be harvested for transplant after about three months of recovery.


Coral Nursery Unit


To transplant the coral fragments, we used cement nails and secured them in boulders and hard substrate and fastened coral fragments with zip ties. This was probably my favorite part. My team worked on a good sized boulder. As we hammered the nails into it, some fish emerged from inside and under the boulder to see what all the racket was about. As I secured coral to the boulder I couldn’t help but think, sorry guys, I’m gentrifying your rock. We are putting in some new real estate and pretty soon this rock is going to attract a lot of young fish who are also going to make it their home. The fish were not scared of us at all, they swam around us as we worked, some volunteers even said they were bit by damsel fish as they were hammering.

Hammering concrete nails to plant coral fragments

Hammering concrete nails to plant coral fragments


Over the week, we logged four dives and then when I came back to Pandan I went on two more dives with some of my friends and Niki (our awesome dive-guide/friend in Mag-aba). Some highlights of my past few dives include some playful grouper of notable size, a cuttle fish that scooted past us in Patria, flowering seagrass in Cebu, and an array of fans that were bigger than me!


Post Dive Photo-op


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    Posted April 28, 2015 at 5:28 pm | #

    I never knew about coral rescues! I’m curious, have there been studies done on their effectiveness? Are there plans for followup monitoring and such?
    Thanks Lindsay, keep posting!

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