COLE BAY–School and fun were abundant in equal measure when women divers dove into the waters off St. Maarten in observance of PADI International Women’s Dive Day on Saturday. The event, part of an international initiative, was hosted locally by Nature Foundation and Ocean Explorer’s Dive Center. The initiative aims at closing the unnecessary gender gap that currently exists within the scuba diving community and the contribution and importance of women to the scuba diving industry is celebrated and recognized.
The women divers visited the Coral Nursery on the dive site “The Bridge” and learned about cleaning and research efforts to maintain the nursery and its corals. On the second dive, initial coral mapping of Elkhorn corals in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park was conducted by divers. “This type of research is very valuable to recolonize and recover corals on the reefs of St. Maarten,” said Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
Participants were educated about coral restoration and research initiatives organised by Nature Foundation. They went scuba diving and learned about the coral restoration efforts of the Foundation that is a part of the three-year Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality RESCQ project funded by the European Union Best 2.0 Programme.The project will restore Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) corals by establishing coral nurseries to grow coral fragments and transplant corals at selected restoration sites. Until the 1980s, Acropora coral species dominated the near shore zone of many Caribbean islands including St. Maarten, with cover estimates of up to 85 per cent. However, these coral reef zones have almost disappeared from most islands in the region due to diseases, climate change and habitat destruction. Acropora corals are currently listed as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems and Species. The loss of corals has had large negative effects on biodiversity, biomass of fishes, and coastal protection as well as a significant decline in the attractiveness of shallow near-shore coral reefs. Nature Foundation reminds scuba divers to keep their distance from the coral nursery without supervision of the Foundation as the corals are very fragile and easy to damage.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/67844-women-divers-give-coral-education-below-waves