Elkhorn and Staghorn corals, on the critically endangered species list, are one classification away from being extinct in the wild. “The Caribbean without coral reefs is not some place I would like to imagine…The reefs really define our lives as islanders [our culture, the fish we eat, the snorkeling, our wildlife]…it’s not going to happen in my lifetime because I will continue to work…” said VI Native Kemit-Amon Lewis, Coral Conservation Manager for the Nature Conservancy Caribbean Program.

The coral restoration process used by Amon Lewis and SECORE Int’l grows larvae in nurseries, settles the baby coral on cement tetrapods to develop over a year or so, and out plants the new colonies to help reseed the ocean. New spawning methods have multiplied spawns from a few hundred to 25,000 corals. These new colonies can be found at Green Cay, The Buccaneer, Cane Bay, and several beaches throughout the east end of the island. To reverse the adverse effects of sea bleaching, scientists and citizens depend on out planting, identifying environmental threats and helping to remove them, sustainable fishing initiatives and sourcing sustainable seafoods, and avoiding the little things that impact our ocean and climate change – such as plastic waste.

Lewis urges the community to get involved in efforts to reverse sea bleaching. Visit Reefconnect.org to volunteer and snorkel in coral restoration out planting programs. If you snorkel and see bleaching, it’s as easy as dropping a pin on a map through the BleachwatchVI app at https://www.reefconnect.org/bleachwatch/. Through eco-friendly, sustainable choices, we as Virgin Islanders can work alongside these progressive scientists to save our reefs.