ADVERTISEMENT

Coral Gardeners Bring Back Jamaica’s Reefs, Piece by Piece

Almost everyone in Jamaica depends on the sea.

Published
News Videos
2 min read

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
Video Producer: Srishti Tyagi

Everton Simpson squints at the Caribbean from his motorboat, scanning the dazzling bands of colour for hints of what lies beneath. Emerald green indicates sandy bottoms. Sapphire blue lies above seagrass meadows. And deep indigo marks coral reefs. That's where he's headed.

He steers the boat to an unmarked spot that he knows as the "coral nursery."

''It's like a forest under the sea," he says, strapping on blue flippers and fastening his tank before tipping backward into the azure waters. He swims down 25 feet (7.6 meters) carrying a pair of metal shears, fishing line and a plastic crate.

ADVERTISEMENT
On the ocean floor, small coral fragments dangle from suspended ropes, like socks hung on a laundry line.

Simpson and other divers tend to this underwater nursery as gardeners mind a flower bed — slowly and painstakingly plucking off snails and fireworms that feast on immature coral.

When each stub grows to about the size of a human hand, Simpson collects them in his crate to individually "transplant" onto a reef, a process akin to planting each blade of grass in a lawn separately.

Even fast-growing coral species add just a few inches a year. And it’s not possible to simply scatter seeds.

A few hours later, at a site called Dickie's Reef, Simpson dives again and uses bits of fishing line to tie clusters of staghorn coral onto rocky outcroppings — a temporary binding until the coral's limestone skeleton grows and fixes itself onto the rock. The goal is to jumpstart the natural growth of a coral reef. And so far, it's working.

Almost everyone in Jamaica depends on the sea, including Simpson, who lives in a modest house he built himself near the island’s northern coast. The energetic 68-year-old has reinvented himself several times, but always made a living from the ocean.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

ADVERTISEMENT
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
ADVERTISEMENT