4th Spawning Workshop on the Riviera Maya
To kick-off the workshop, there are several lecture days prior to the practical work, mainly attended by students and newcomers, about coral reproduction, restoration and conservation. Then, this Friday, August 19th, the hands-on work will start in teams, with some participants already being troupers, who join the workshop for the fourth year now. During nightdives we will monitor coral spawning, collect the spawn, fertilize the eggs and sperm in vitro, cultivate coral larvae and finally raise baby corals in hopefully huge numbers. Lab work will be done at UNAM's Reef Systems Academic Unit and at Xcaret laboratories.
Our SECORE workshop is a joint effort of main local organizer Dr. Anastazia Banaszak and UNAM, Xcaret, Comisión Nacional de Áreas Nacionales Protegidas, and Instituto Nacional de Pesca. International partner aquariums are California Academy of Sciences, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, National Aquarium Baltimore, Shedd Aquarium, and Texas State Aquarium. Rounding off, participants from national universities―Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Universidad de Guadalajara, and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur―as well as from international ones―University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (both Netherlands), Antioguia University (Colombia), and University of Belize―take part.
This year we will have a film team on-site: Vanessa Cara-Kerr and Lena Höfig, both Reefpatrol, our indispensable comrades-in-arms for the new SECORE film. They will document the workshop and we will produce a film about the workshop and our joint efforts (Project Mexico).
Conservation and restoration efforts are urgently needed on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Like almost everywhere in the Caribbean, its reefs have faced disturbing changes within the last few decades (Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs). Coastal development, followed by land run off and pollution, as well as overfishing, sea-urchin die-offs―killing the gardeners of coral reefs―and coral diseases have led to degraded reefs in many areas. Reef-building species such as the endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals (Acropora palmata, A. cervicornis) have shrunken to alarmingly low numbers. In addition, natural coral recruitment rates are very low to non-existent.
Our workshop is embedded in a greater, nation-wide coral conservation and restoration program (Project Mexico) in close collaboration with UNAM, national stakeholders and international partners. We aim at establishing a large-scale restoration effort using sexual coral reproduction.
All photos are from last years' workshops by Paul Selvaggio, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
by Carin Jantzen