This summer I visited Mustique, a small island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, to celebrate my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.
We visited local craft markets and food markets, we snorkelled with turtles and sting rays, we went to cocktail parties and beach parties … we even participated in a competitive plastic beach clean!
Undoubtedly, it was one of the most memorable and one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
The island’s natural beauty is characterised by pristine white beaches and luscious green forests where you will find tortoises, lizards and land crabs as well as over 50 indigenous species of bird.
Yet the real magic of Mustique lies underneath the sea. Here you can swim alongside turtles, stingrays, lobsters and colourful schools of tropical fish.
Although Mustique has several coral reefs, these have suffered declines in recent years due to both natural threats (tropical storms) and human threats (pollution, warming waters, ocean acidification).
In response to the challenges facing coral reefs, Mustique’s Environmental Program have implemented a pioneering coral restoration project together with the Coral Restoration Foundation International (CRFI).
This restoration project has included the installation of two coral nurseries in Mustique where elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), blade fire coral (Millepora complanata) and staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) have been planted by the island’s conservation team.
I was fortunate enough to meet Nakita, the island’s Environmental Manager, who swam out with me to the nursery at Endeavour Bay and see firsthand the rejuvenation process.
These underwater nurseries consist of PVC ‘trees’ which are hung with coral samples from nearby reefs. The conservation team regularly cleans the samples and monitors their growth before out-planting them back onto the island’s restoration reefs, namely the “Cotton House Reef” and the “Fishing Village Reef”, every six – nine months.
Swimming with Nakita in Endeavour Bay it was promising to see just how well the samples were growing both on the trees in the nursery before being out-planted as well as on the Cotton House Reef after being out-planted.
What is especially exciting is that the nurseries in Mustique are now self sufficient. This means that when the conservation team remove the coral samples for out-planting, they leave small fragments on the trees. These fragments, just like the original samples, are carefully monitored and the growth cycle starts all over again.
Since 2015 around 2,000 coral samples have been out-planted and the CRFI hopes that this pioneering initiative will help to restore endangered coral species that are vital for marine life habitat in the region.
I look forward to returning to Mustique and seeing the programme continue to flourish in the future!