Rooting for Curacao's Underwater Heroes

There’s an old expression, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” And for certain, the unique forest these stewards of the environment are planting shall never shade them. That’s because it’s underwater!

It’s no secret that the world’s oceans are at risk largely due to man-made threats. So it’s only fitting that mankind come up with creative solutions to restore the health of coral reefs so crucial to the entire underwater ecosystem. Elkhorn and staghorn coral are especially at risk, and they are needed to protect coastal areas and provide a valuable habitat for marine life. One such solution proving to be successful is called “coral reforestation.” So how do you plant an underwater forest? You start with man-made trees!

The Coral Tree Nursery® based in Florida developed a special framework made of synthetic plastic polymer – flexible enough to go with the flow when currents get rough – and they are shaped like little trees with branches. They are secured to the bottom of the ocean and fragments of elkhorn and staghorn coral are attached to them and encouraged to grow. So how do you get them to grow?

Like babies, they need nurturing and protection in this nursery, and the trees need constant cleaning to keep algae away, which can be an enemy of the corals. Fire coral can also encroach upon their health. It’s a delicate task, and the gestation period for a strong, healthy coral that can be later transplanted to a reef is around six to nine months. It took a few years of trial and error for this process to become viable, but now it is.

In May 2015, Ocean Encounters joined the Coral Restoration Foundation International and formed their own branch they called the Coral Restoration Foundation Curacao (CRFC). Their aim was to create the island’s first coral nursery reef and Lions Dive & Beach Resort Curaçao became their first sponsor. The founders originally hung 400 coral fragments from 10 trees. Since then, with the help of many volunteers, they have 1,250 corals growing. To celebrate their anniversary, they transplanted 360 juveniles strong enough to survive on their own between the Tugboat and the Sweet Bottom, and on the house reefs of Lions Dive and Sunscape Beach Resorts. They also invited the original founders of Coral Restoration Foundation International, Ken and Denise Nedimyer, to join them.

CRFC Project Manager Pol Bosch says: “What an amazing year! It’s a great feeling to give back to our delicate marine environment and to realize that together, we can make a difference. The health of our nurseries is extraordinary, and I sincerely believe that we will be able to transplant more than 2,000 corals in our second year.”

CRFC would like to thank all the volunteers and sponsors like Lions Dive & Beach Resort Curaçao and Curaçao Airport Holding that helped make this project a success. Maduro & Curiel’s Bank has also recently committed to supporting them for the next three years.

PADI certified visitors can learn the process via Ocean Encounters’ special “CRF” dive, or they can take the PADI Coral Restoration Diver course on Ocean Encounters’ house reef.

See great videos of CRFC in action shot by Turtle & Ray Productions here.

CRFC is a nonprofit foundation and always welcomes volunteers and donations to aid them in this important work. So let’s all root for these underwater heroes to ensure future generations will have a healthy, vibrant ocean. If you can help in any way, visit .

Happy World Oceans Day!