Structures containing hundreds of coral settlement plates have been installed in the dredging footprint of the proposed cruise berthing facility, just in time for September’s coral spawn.
The Department of Environment (DOE) told Cayman 27 these limestone plates are part of mitigation strategies detailed in the 2015 Environmental Impact Assessment for the Cruise Berthing Facility in George Town.
The coral spawn is one of nature’s most magnificent – and mysterious – rites of reproduction. Once a year, under the cover of darkness, corals turn the underwater world into a veritable snow globe of eggs and sperm. A fascinating sight, but also a unique opportunity to preserve genetic biodiversity from an area slated for dredging. If indeed the cruise berthing facility is built in George Town.
“The idea is that in September when the corals spawn, the coral larvae will then settle onto those plates and then, should the port proceed, and they go ahead with the coral relocation exercise, they’ll be able to move those tiles,” said DOE Deputy Director Tim Austin.
He told Cayman 27 the coral relocation plates are similar to ones used in reef rehabilitation products elsewhere in the world.
He said the 28 racks containing some 600 plates have been installed. The plates, and any young corals that attach to them, can be moved to one of two alternate sites should the port project proceed.
“They’re made of limestone so they should be fairly natural to the reef they just attach the entire plate to the reef,” explained Mr. Austin.
With this year’s coral spawning dates weeks away, Mr. Austin said the plates are being installed at just the right time.
“They’re out there on the reef waiting for the spawning event in September which is predicted for either the 12th or the 13th, there is some additional vertical plates that are being installed sometime this week as well,” said Mr. Austin.
He told Cayman 27 the settlement plates are part of a coral relocation strategy that also calls for corals larger than 10 centimeters to be relocated from the proposed dredging area if the project proceeds.
The settlement plates are confined to the proposed dredging area.
In June, Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell told Cayman 27 government was still waiting on a financing model from firm KPMG. A pre-qualifications period for port bidders closed at the end of June.