Coral Reef Relief
The focus of trying out a new, full-face snorkel mask soon turned to the underwater scene before me. The coral reef was not radiating rainbow colors as I had expected. There were splashes of color but there were also plenty of gray and brown coral skeletons. Dozens of multicolored fish swam among the coral which was a treat to see, along with rays, eels, turtles, and barracudas - the reef was teeming with life. This coral reef, a few dozen yards off the beach of Providenciales of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The coral was protected by buoys and rope, keeping human interaction at bay.
I swam around the perimeter of the protected, Bight Reef and peered into the coral, flanked by angel fish and curious parrot fish. Along the no-go border of the reef, anchored to the sea floor were flower pot-shaped objects with a few holes in their sides. These were placed by man to encourage new coral to grow from. Some of those starter homes showed evidence of new, living coral, but a few were nearly unoccupied except for the small, lifeless clumps of coral that didn’t make it. Since this coral reef, about the size of a football field, seemed to be hanging on to existence, I wondered if this was its last stand?
This reef is a restoration and protection project designated as A National Parks Reef Recovery Area. Those involved with this project and others around the islands, encourage snorkelers to visit the reef and to see and understand. There are a few reasons the coral of the Caribbean has been declining, but mostly because of the rise in sea temps. The coral is becoming bleached – a term used as the polyps that create the coral die. Will restoration projects be successful going forward? Time will tell. But for now, there is coral for exploring – and the aquatic life, and snorkelers, are grateful.