Once a month maintenance work needs to be carried out on the Phi Phi Island Coral Nursery. This month it was achieved thanks to the support of ten volunteer divers from Phi Phi Island. Since many of the divers have never had the opportunity to do this type of work before, we needed to give a special briefing on the procedures and the level of care involved when working with live corals.
The coral nursery is located at Phi Phi Island so only a 20 minute boat ride away and on route the rest of the guests aboard the Reef Ranger were briefed about their dive and the Coral Nursery and Artificial Reef program that has been running since 2006.
The plan is always to try and complete the work in one dive, since time is money and thanks to having so many divers the objective looked feasible.
The coral nursery is made up of two floating platforms that are tied to the sea bed and floated at a depth of around 6 meters. On top of the platforms are racks of coral that were collected and inserted in January 2015 as part of the Coral Rehabilitation program with students from the University of Missouri. The platform provides a location that reduces the threats from predators that graze on corals, such as parrotfish, crown of thorns, drupella snails. However due to the lack of grazing animals this also allows algae to grow onto the rack and potentially smother the corals, so the job for the maintenance crew is to ensure that the algae is cleaned each month.
Armed with brushes the divers clean the surfaces of the racks by carefully brushing away the algae. There are 28 racks with 1444 corals so the work can take quite a lot of time. Also important is to assess the percentage of survival of corals by inspecting and counting each one. The February survey produced a survival rate of 85% which is unusually low after only the first month since setting up. Although we would usually expect to note a higher rate of mortality in the first month(s) after transplanting to the nursery this is higher than average mortality rate so we shall be closely monitoring the nursery this year.
We only accept certified experienced divers for this work and we are always pleased to receive offers from volunteers.
If you want to follow more about this program visit the Phi Phi Island Coral Nursery page on Facebook.