Turks and Caicos Reef Fund Receives $173,000 Grant to Pilot Terrestrial Coral Nursery

JThe Turks & Caicos Reef Fund (TCRF) has received a grant from the John Ellerman Foundation in the UK to establish an onshore coral nursery with the aim of creating a species survival program for hard corals that have been severely impacted by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD).

The $173,000 grant, which funds a two-year pilot project, will allow TCRF to collect live samples of the more than 30 reef-building corals that have been devastated by SCTLD for preservation and propagation in a nursery system that ‘they will establish at their office at South Shore Marina. The facility will also be open to visitors.

“The SCTLD has taken a heavy toll on TCI reefs,” said TCRF Executive Director Alizée Zimmermann. “With this grant, we can begin to preserve samples of many iconic coral species that have been the foundation of our reefs. The ultimate goal is to expand our terrestrial coral nursery program allowing us to propagate these important reef-building corals and ultimately restore them to the reefs around TCI.

SCTLD is a coral disease that has affected tropical Atlantic and Caribbean reefs. It is a rapidly progressive and highly fatal disease, the cause of which is still unknown. It affects nearly all major reef-building corals and has been identified on all TCI reefs.

“Our goal is to take small samples of remaining healthy corals that have been affected by SCTLD and store them in a closed nursery system until we can propagate them further and eventually reestablish them on the reefs of TCI” , said Ms. Zimmermann. “This project, in essence, provides an arch to preserve the genetic diversity of the reef. Ultimately, we plan to grow this project into a much larger nursery program that will allow us to restore many species of coral to TCI reefs that have been drastically reduced in numbers due to this disease.

TCRF will work with the Reef Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida to set up the nursery and train staff in nursery management. The Reef Institute’s mission is to promote coral reef conservation through education, research and restoration.

The John Ellerman Foundation was established as a generalist granting trust in 1971 to focus on the broad philanthropic interests of our benefactor Sir John Ellerman, while reflecting the changing times. The Foundation’s purpose is to advance the well-being of people, society, and the natural world, with a focus on the arts, the environment, and social action. The Foundation supports organizations whose work has reach and significance across the UK.

Founded in 2010, the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund is the only active environmental advocacy organization in the TCI. This is an organization that funds education, research, and conservation programs to individuals, organizations, and agencies that help preserve and protect the environment of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Anyone wishing to donate or help the TCRF in any way can contact it through its website, www.TCReef.org. Divers visiting the islands are encouraged to donate $10 by purchasing a dive tag that can be attached to their dive gear to show their support. Divers visiting the islands can show their support by purchasing a pink or blue silicone wristband for $5. Visitors can also support TCRF by purchasing a rashguard designed by a different local artist each year.

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