Cocoa Island by COMO
Our Reefscapers Coral Project
Launched by Cocoa Island Resort in September 2013, the main aim of the project is to protect and develop the coral around the resort, and create awareness about the vulnerability of coral reefs.
This is particularly important in the Maldives, a country that has been built entirely by coral reefs, and contains some of the world’s richest marine and coastal biodiversity. Known as the “rainforest of the ocean”, the coral reef is the largest natural structure created by animals, and here in the Maldives, they are a highly important natural resource.
Although they cover less than 1% of the ocean, they host about one-third of all known marine species, serving as an essential habitat for a vast number of fish and invertebrates, and also provides food, jobs, and income for many locals. The reef also acts as a natural barrier against erosion, preventing sand from being washed off too rapidly.
Partnership with Seamarc
In addition to the natural threats to the corals, the consequences of human activities have also become radically detrimental to the coral reef’s health. Global warming, and in recent events, the monster El nino, have caused widespread bleaching to occur, and led many corals to die. In light of all these, helping the coral populations to recover would really enable the reef to regain its health again, and return the reef to its former glory.
To implement this ambitious initiative, Cocoa Island Resort has been working hand in hand with Seamarc, a marine consultancy company based in Male.
These Coral Frames are instrumental in enhancing the biodiversity of existing reef habitats as well as generating new ones. They provide a suitable substrate for coral fragments to grow on and help to avoid sedimentation as well as reducing coral predation.
Sponsored by the resort and guests, the transplantation process involves attaching coral fragments onto a metal frame which grow and mature into new colonies. The fragments are collected from broken natural reef corals, and later harvested from our own mature coral frames for the “second generation”. The proceeds from every frame go into an Environmental Fund to support the resort’s marine conservation research programs and local community environmental initiatives.
The growth rate is amazing! In just 2-3 weeks, the coral has attached itself onto the frame, and 2 months later, new coral growth is evident and fish have moved in! For every frame, we follow a strict monitoring process, taking regular photographs of the coral growth, and identifying the marine life that starts to colonise the frames. By propagating the most successful species, we are developing ever-more resistant coral offspring, better adapted to withstand higher sea water temperatures and so help the reefs in their fight against global warming.
Coral Frame Locations
The majority of the coral frames will be placed in the resort’s Coral Nursery in the lagoon area, where the corals will be allowed to attach and grow before being transplanted onto the reef.
The coral from these frames may eventually grow onto the natural reef substrate and therefore improve the coral cover.
After a few years of growth, the corals on the frames will be mature enough to spawn and produce small coral larvae.
These larvae will drift in the ocean for a few days, becoming part of the plankton, before settling onto a natural reef were they will grow into a new colony, thus helping to populate existing reefs in the Maldives.
Join our Coral Frame Sponsorship Programme
We’ll make and transplant your frame, and then upload photos of it onto this site every six months for you to monitor its progress.
Then when you next visit, we’ll be sure to take you out on a guided snorkel to show it to you in person.
What are corals?
Corals are colonial animals whereby many genetically identical polyps live together. Each coral polyp is related to sea anemones and jelly fish, and, similarly, they are sac-like in shape and possess tentacles that can sting small zooplankton living in the water. When the current is high, or when it is night-time, the polyps have to feed by catching zooplankton with their tentacles.
They also live in symbiosis with photosynthetic algae, or what is known as zooxanthellae. These algae can make food in the presence of sunlight, and they live in tiny pockets within the polyps; the excess sugars they produce from this photosynthetic process then feeds the coral.
There are two different types of corals. The hard corals, also known as reef-building corals, are characterized by a hard calcium skeleton which anchors and protects the polyps. The soft corals have no skeleton but the polyp are strengthened by calcium pockets called sclerites. Hard corals are the main reef-builders, and what we propagate onto the coral frames.
Corals are able to reproduce sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction means that there is a fertilization of eggs and sperms, which produces more genetically different corals – an evolutionary advantage. Polyps also reproduce asexually by budding. So new polyps split from older generation polyps to create a new coral colony, and, therefore, small broken fragments of corals are also able to reattach onto a new surface and regrow into large fragments again. When attached onto a new hard surface, such as the bar of the coral frame, the tiny colony of a coral fragment will be able to reproduce asexually and regrow into a large colony again.
Benefits of your Coral Frame on the Reef
Conservation of corals
Propagating coral fragments will help them survive when they could have bleached and died after being broken off, and also allow the corals to rebuild its population as the fragments regrow. Eventually, the coral fragments will reach a mature size, ready for sexually reproduction to produce new, genetically diverse larvae, and contribute to the population’s resilience.
Biodiversity and Habitat
Your coral frame provides the same ecosystem functions as the coral reef. This includes being a crucial nursery for young fish and other marine species, and a refuge area for multitudes of marine species such as moray eels, turtles and invertebrates from weather elements, strong currents and big predators.
Corals also help to recycle a lot of nutrients in the water as a result of their natural bodily processes, which is vital for the coral reef habitat and its inhabitants. Therefore, with each coral frame, we are contributing to an overall marine life diversity and an increase in productivity in the ecosystem reef.
Tourism and Recreation
The beauty and fish diversity attracts tourism. So you as a snorkeler or diver want to enjoy colorful healthy corals and a vibrant marine life.
Reef structures also act as a natural breakwater, which reduces the impacts of waves and erosion, and the coral frames are no less different. The frames do contribute to protecting beaches and helping to prevent excessive erosion. Having these complex structures thus make our coastline more stable and allows the beach to stay more intact.
Reefscapers Coral Frames at Cocoa Island
Here you can see the details and photographs of all our Reefscapers coral frames that have been transplanted around Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives.
We regularly check and maintain all of our frames, and photograph them every 6 months to monitor the growth of the coral fragments as they mature and flourish.
Some frames are missing their ID tags – we are working on this, and the tags will be added shortly.
How to view your frame photographs: Enter your name or email address or coral frame tag number into the search box and press ‘Submit’. For example, type a 3-digit tag number such as 012 and press submit.
Thank you to all our frame sponsors for supporting our important coral reef propagation work.