Local fundraising campaign to finance the project raises $28,000 for supplies and other expenses; Cruise Line pledges $100,000 to keep the coral reef restoration going.
The news that Carnival Cruise Lines is pledging $100,000 to the Cayman Islands National Trust to support the ongoing George Town Reef Restoration effort has boosted the project’s small till and the spirits of the volunteers and dive operators who have been working diligently, with guidance by the Department of Environment, since September. The announcement was made Tuesday by the Cayman Islands Ministry of District Administration, Tourism and Transport, and the pledge will be added to the $28,000 already raised by the project volunteers with the help of the local community.
On February 27, they held a fundraiser on the George Town waterfront and nearly tripled their $10,000 goal for the night. The money was raised through private donations, raffles, silent auctions and a Lionfish dinner enjoyed on a festive evening under the Caribbean stars with music and camaraderie. Cayman Islands Minister of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment, the honourable Wayne Panton attended the event, as did staff members of the government’s Department of the Environment.
“The fact that Carnival is supporting the DOE and the volunteer partners on this restoration project demonstrates their appreciation of Cayman’s valuable marine environment and the need to protect and maintain it,” commented Minister Panton in the release by the Ministry of Tourism. “The Ministry thanks Carnival for this initial donation and we welcome their continuing partnership with us on this critical restoration work.”
“We applaud Carnival for this initial donation and we look forward to having the funds to complete this project when the Department of Environment deems the work to be done,” said Keith Sahm, Sunset House General Manager and one of the volunteer coordinators of the project.
“It is rewarding to see so many people come out to support the restoration effort. One of the objects sold at our fundraiser was a hand-made quilt donated by a diver who lives in Chicago, and she gave it to our staff at a recent dive show there. It’s really encouraging when someone who lives 3500 miles from the Cayman Islands cares about our reef enough to help us out,” he added.
Carnival’s donation will help keep the work going and the motivation high for a restoration project that is estimated to take a year. The reef was damaged extensively in August when the Carnival Magic cruise ship inadvertently dragged its anchor across a dive site. According to the government, the damage to the reef occurred when Carnival Magic’s captain was inadvertently guided by the Port Authority-licensed Pilot to drop anchor outside of the designated anchorage zone.
Since September, guided by the Department of Environment, the volunteers have put in more than 600 man-hours removing rubble from the site and salvaging live coral for replanting. Project co-coordinator Lois Hatcher, also Ocean Frontiers’ Photo Pro, is experienced with coral restoration and she has begun transplanting pieces of live coral. Dive operators such as Red Sail Sports andDivetech are donating regular boat trips to the restoration site and volunteer divers are also accessing it from shore. They’ve been footing the bill for equipment, fuel and supplies, including marine epoxy to attach the coral back to the reef.
The February fundraiser was also a celebration for the volunteers who, after six months of hard work, expect to be at it until the project is completed. The success of the fundraising campaign, and new friendships forged through a common goal, inspired them all.
“You go out on the boat with strangers and come back with 10 friends,” said Joey Avary, who has been a regular on the project dive boats and shore dives. “You don’t need to be a marine biologist to help, it’s learnable stuff – a volunteer can be productive.”
Donations for the Magic Reef Restoration Project can also be made online with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. Please select the Cayman Magic Reef Recovery option http://www.nationaltrust.org.ky/index.php/donate.
For more information on the fundraising campaign for the Magic Reef Restoration Project contact Keith Sahm at [email protected] or Lois Hatcher at [email protected]. You can also visit the Cayman Magic Reef Restoration Project Facebook Page @Cayman Magic Reef Restoration.