Friends of the Environment would like to take a moment to address the concerns raised by Ms. Milanne Rehor about Mermaid Reef in your last issue.
For those that don’t know, Mermaid Reef is a patch reef located off Pelican Shores (near Marsh Harbour). Mermaid Reef is located approximately 250 feet off the coast; there are no other reefs like it along that shoreline.
Coral recruitment to the area is naturally very low, so the fact that Mermaid Reef is growing there is very special. Mermaid Reef is not very diverse – there are only a few types of coral growing there – and the bulk of the reef is formed by one type of coral.
Friends of the Environment and researchers from The Bahamas National Trust “planted” some other types of coral on the reef last year as an experiment to increase diversity on the reef. Some of these corals did not survive, while others are still recovering from being transplanted.
This may be what Ms. Rehor is referring to.
Additionally, the artificial reef balls are not growing a lot of coral simply because there aren’t enough baby corals moving into the area. However, the corals that we have planted on the reef balls as part of our projects with local students have been successful. The reef balls are doing their job by providing extra homes for the numerous fish found at Mermaid Reef, and by adding interest for visiting snorkelers.
FRIENDS representatives have been visiting Mermaid Reef regularly with student groups since 2006 when our education program started and we have observed no major coral die-offs. Overall, Mermaid Reef is healthy and the corals found there naturally are very resilient to temperature change, when being compared to other reefs in The Bahamas.
That being said, it is up to all of us to be stewards of the reef and to be responsible when we visit the reef. This includes not fishing on the reef, not standing on the reef, using the designated moorings instead of anchoring at the reef, and helping others to understand these best practices. As the reef falls within 200 yards of the shoreline, spear fishing there is prohibited by law.
Mermaid Reef is a community protected area – protected by the people, for the people. This is unique as most other protected areas have been designated through government action.
We thank Ms. Rehor for her concern and encourage all other visitors to Mermaid Reef to continue to keep an eye on it and share coral courtesy tips with others!
Olivia Patterson Maura
Friends of the Environment