Day 197, 24th February 2018 – Coral Planting

It’s hard to say why, but the reefs at Velavaru are doing exceptionally well despite the bleaching even that’s occurred. Corals seem to grow rapidly along the reef slope as well as within the lagoon! As Shameem and I took a snorkel out in the lagoon to clean some of the coral frames, we caught a glimpse of a large patch of Acropora that oddly enough seemed to be growing from a sandy bottom. Usually, corals need a hard substrate for them to anchor themselves onto, and sandy bottoms mean a higher likelihood of eventually getting smothered and buried under piles and piles of sand. But there they were. I’m still puzzled, but perhaps the lagoon was deep enough and sheltered enough to not be affected by waves and severe fluctuations in sea temperatures? I’m not sure…

Because of the sheer success of coral propagation programs here in Velavaru, the island has multiple frames and nurseries for baby coral fragments to grow up gradually. It’s heartening to see rope nurseries with fragments that have grown so large that it makes the entire nursery sag with its weight. Shameem and I cleaned the Goshi frames a couple of days ago and today it’s time for us to transfer the large corals from the rope nursery over to the frames where they have even more space to grow larger. We’re lucky because we get a bit of help from Sylvia, my lovely roommate and an amazing dive instructor, today to help us slowly remove and transfer the corals.

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Sylvia hard at work trying to clip off some of the fragments from our nursery for transplantation onto the frames

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Shameem inspecting an Acropora coral fragment for transplantation

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Our haul from just three lines of the rope nursery! There were more corals on the nursery but we really couldn’t fit anymore into the basket…the remaining fragments will just have to be transplanted next time then!

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We used a lift bag to carry the fragments up towards the surface and then swam over to our new coral frames

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Sylvia making sure nothing falls out from the basket

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Our Goshi frame in horrible visibility! Goshi is apparently the Maldivian name of a basket cover used to prevent flies from accessing food. The frame reminded them of those baskets, hence the name

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Pre-transplantation…The frames look pretty bare. We attached corals with cable ties, spacing them out at regular intervals. Silly me, I didn’t take a picture at the end after we’d finish all the attachment.

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An incredibly adorable baby yellow boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) I found on our frames while transferring the corals

That was a particularly long dive…around 90 minutes? And although we were only at a maximum depth of 10 metres, I found myself shivering slightly towards the end. It was totally worth it though and even though we were all pretty exhausted and hungry after that, I can’t wait for these corals to overgrow their new home!

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