Guess who helped cleaned coral trees hung with fragments growing toward becoming vibrant, healthy, future reef with Caribbean Coral Restoration to finish off this doozie of a year?
I was invited to help for the second time to clean PVC “coral trees”, structures hung with coral fragments stationed at around 45ft of depth between the island archipelago where I live, in Caribbean Panama’s Bocas del Toro. This time we went to a site set between my “home” Bastimentos, and Isla Solarte. The underwater trees, adorned with staghorn coral fragments hung with zip ties from the pipes, have urgently had to be moved from their original, shallower location to 45 feet of depth after a 4-day bleaching event that occurred this winter. This event bleached out a great deal of reef ecosystems around the area, many might never recover. Along with these, a number of hard-won and exceedingly fragile staghorn fragments fell victim to soaring water temperatures before the trees were relocated to deeper waters by the CCR team.
To be a part, no matter how small, of Caribbean Coral Restoration’s ardent and grand-scale mission of restoring Bocas del Toros declining coral reef ecosystem is not just an honor, it’s how I feel better about being part of the problem.
Trying to neutralize the ecological sinkhole of a footprint I am responsible for as another US-born human is not a mere footprint anymore..our lives are just what I said years ago in a frustrated blogpost. I complained, back in two-thousand tickety eight, something along the lines of how each human added to our exploding population is a gash in the stomach of Mother Earth..every new one of us humans adds yet another. I continue to write things along those same lines on my blog site reserved for bitching about my exasperation at how we’re treating Mother Earth. If you can stomach it, check out earthwillprevail.wordpress.com.
It is devastating and beyond frustrating to witness the terrible bleaching that has occurred in recent months and years of late. The lack of rain we continue experienced in what is supposed to be the rainy parts of the year (not to mention this is a La Niña year which signifies an especially wet year, not to mention drought from prior years from which nature is still trying to recover) has resulted in extremely high water temps that directly causes coral bleaching. What is lost of this ecosystem cannot be replaced in time to outweigh the ever-increasing losses. And these losses can make null all the tireless efforts and investment for the future that Caribbean Coral Restoration has envisioned.
While cleaning the PVC pipe “branches” hung with staghorn coral fragments collected under permit by Caribbean Coral Restoration, I have them to thank for the new Best Friend Forever I made that day: a giant gray angelfish staring intently at me as it hung out within arm’s reach for the entire tank of air. Like many of the Bocas angelfish I’ve had the honor of getting to know in the past 2+ years, this one seemed quite curious about me, every now and then stopping from staring at me to grab a chunk of algae off a nearby coral. And along with the gray, I made friends with a big bright porkfish, an in-your-face yellow-tailed snapper, the ever present slippery dick and striped parrotfish and the occasional adult stoplight parrot fish chased off by the uppity three-spotted damselfish. So basically, I had my own personal peanut gallery giving advice on spots I missed as I scrubbed at PVC hung with thee remaining living fragments of precious staghorn coral.
The fish abundance and diversity where we cleaned today was refreshing to see but the habitat around Bocas as I’ve seen it and heard from other long term folks living and snorkeling or diving here across the years has has become ever more ravaged and depleted, which means we will see the echo response of fish and other marine life that exist because of the habitat that supplied. Large scale, devastating and ever-increasing coral losses are *permanently* changing the underwater world—not just in Bocas, but worldwide. We are all one. We suffer together from the consequences of the corners we’ve backed ourselves into.
“Guilt. Just by being born, just by living, I am adding to the destruction of the planet. We all are. We begin marching to our own death as we emit our first exhalation. It starts small but then we learn that we are a middle class, white, american, and we buy our laptops and our ipods and cars, live in our overly air conditioned and heated homes and throw away our masses and masses of package waste. What would it look like if it followed us, if we had to step through it, drag it, wear it? Would we try harder to make sure it never even began? Every girl and boy comes to a point in their live where they are capable of the realization of their detrimental contribution to the earth and they can either do something about it or ignore it. Either way, so much has already been done. Every day, think about how many children are being born. Think about how each and every one of us is another bullet through the earth’s heart.”