Reef Restoration in the Xcalak Reef National Park

Written by Rob Mukai on Nov. 11, 2016

Tags: Xcalak Scuba diving Xcalak National Reef Park Snorkeling Great Mayan Reef

A transplanted elkhorn coral

Last week we went to a presentation for a reef restoration project that is happening in Xcalak. It is being conducted by a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Oceanus. The founders Gabriela and Miguel were on hand to explain the program and take us to the sites where the program is being executed.

A coral grow rack

The technique that they use is a novel one. They find pieces of elkhorn coral that have broken off, but not yet died. They then break the pieces into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces they ziptie into a PVC fitting. The PVC fitting is then attached to a PVC frame that is anchored to the bottom near the area to be restored. They let the coral pieces regrow until the areas that were broken are covered with new coral growth. At that point, they take the PVC fitting off the frame and attach it to another fitting that has been attached to the reef. If all goes well, a new elkhorn coral will grow and create a habitat for fish and other reef creatures.

A broken piece of elkhorn coral

They selected the elkhorn coral, because it grows quickly and it provides structure for the reef as well as a good habitat. They have two sites here in Xcalak. One near La Poza and one near Portillas, two dive sites, as well as a number of sites along the Yucatan coast and as far as Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. Their goal is to do 10,000 new coral transplants per year.

Piece of elkhorn coral ready for transplanting

We are really excited about this project. If you would like to snorkel on the sites, please let me know and I can set up a tour for you to go check it out. If you would like to donate, you can do so here. They estimate that it takes about $25 USD per transplant.