XCALAK - CORAL BLEACHING & REEF RESTORATION

Alas, a large problem also lies beneath the surface. The second longest reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Reef runs along the Atlantic coast of Mexico and Belize. The reef is vital to the ocean ecosystem, the protective nursery where the ocean’s young are born and raised. It represents the future.

But ocean acidification is causing coral reefs to bleach and die. Once coral dies, the road back is very long. Most corals are slow-growing; reefs can take decades to recover.

Corals are comprised of two parts: the hard substrate and the organisms that cover it. Bleaching occurs when the organisms leave and reveal the white substrate. It’s like bees leaving a hive in mass. There are several likely causes—changes in climate, carbon levels rising, water pollution, etc. Sometimes the organisms come back, sometimes they don’t. If they stay gone long, the reef they left will die and cannot recover. Coral replanting is meant to replace the part of the reef that has died.

Scientists are experimenting with new techniques to grow coral and pinpoint species with the best survival rates, bringing new hope to the fight to save our coral reefs. And they are already at work in Xcalak.

Oceanus AC is a Mexican non-profit organization committed to the conservation of coral reefs. Founded in 2006 by the Masters of Sciences Miguel García and Gabriela Nava, Oceanus’ mission is to develop and apply best practices to the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources. Their goal is to restore and grow coral colonies, increasing the resilience of coral reefs and generating benefits for local communities.

On our expedition, Gaby took us out to a site and showed us the stages of growth–from newly planted coral to 5 years old. It was amazing to see how fast their corals are growing and what a huge difference it is making. To date, they have planted 60,000 corals, which has impacted over 300,000 square meters of reef, which is 3/10ths of a square kilometer or 1/10th of a square mile. That may not seem like a lot, but if Gaby, her husband and 5-year-old son can do that much, think what could be done at scale.

We asked Gaby how we could help and she agreed her team needs more people to plant. How much does it cost to plant one coral? About $20. So, if we use the same formula we used for ocean trash, someone can buy one hat or shirt and plant one coral that will grow to 5 square meters? YES!

Instead of repeating our t-shirt/hat program, we came up with an idea called “Temples of Change.” The idea was to have an artist paint the inside of our frames and then donate a portion of the sale to the cause depicted. We asked artist Piper Nunn, one of our Bajío Team members, if she’d be interested and she jumped at the chance. She painted a coral reef design for one of our women’s frames and a fish design on one of our men’s frames. They’ll go on sale this fall, just in time for the holidays.

To learn more and help Oceanus AC with their project to protect Xcalak, visit https://oceanus.org.mx .

Stay tuned for updates on Xcalak and be sure to come back to read about our next expedition to Guanaja, Honduras.

August 06, 2021 — Captains & Cowboys