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CRF™ Launches New Satellite Program in St. Croix, USVI

Updated: May 3

From April 16th to the 23rd, Coral Restoration Foundation™ embarked on an exciting new chapter in St. Croix, USVI with the launch of our next Satellite Program. Restoration team members worked diligently to install our first coral nursery in St. Croix - nicknamed “Sandy West”.

Sunset view of the east end of the island, Teague Bay. Photo by Lindsey Smith.

St. Croix, a picturesque tropical oasis known for its vibrant waters and lush landscapes, faces significant ecological challenges. The local coral reefs are now experiencing degradation similar to that seen throughout Florida’s Coral Reefs.

This decline is driven by factors like coral bleaching, disease, and deteriorating water quality. In response, regional conservation efforts have intensified, highlighted by the formation of groups like the Virgin Islands Restoration of Coral Squad (VI-RoCS) to focus on ecological rehabilitation.

The CRF™ Global team prepares to collect samples of wild coral colonies in St. Croix for nursery fragmentation and propagation. Photos by Jessica Levy. 

Commencing on April 16, with all necessary permits secured, the restoration team began constructing our first St. Croix coral nursery dubbed “Sandy West”. Efforts throughout the week were focused primarily on installing structures, laying the anchor grid foundation for the nursery, and the collection and propagation of corals, leading to the establishment of an in-water coral nursery with diverse coral structures including tables and Coral Trees™. 

After a week of intensive work, totaling nearly 75 hours underwater, the Sandy West Nursery is now operational. Modeled after our Coral Tree™ nurseries in Florida, it features 16 structures, including nine branching Coral Trees™, two Spiral Trees, and five cache tables hosting 18 different genotypes of elkhorn coral, and 18 other boulder and mounding coral genotypes.

A CRF™ team member works on a branching Coral Tree™ propagating one of the 18 elkhorn genotypes collected throughout the week. Photo by Jessica Levy.

The success of this project was made possible through vital collaborations and funding. We are grateful for the timely and necessary grant received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the Infrastructure Act, which has been instrumental in enabling our efforts. Additionally, local operators such as Dive Experience and St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures have been indispensable in assisting with the logistics and operations necessary to establish and maintain the nursery.

A Coral Restoration Foundation™ member overlooking one of the wild elkhorn colonies where genotypes were collected from. Photo by Jessica Levy.

Moving forward, we are eager to continue collaborating with the passionate practitioners in VI-RoCS, working with local divers to expand our nursery operations, and eventually outplanting at Long Reef, a vital restoration site in front of Christiansted Harbor. As we forge ahead, our collaboration with VI-RoCS and other local partners continues to strengthen, promising a brighter future for St. Croix’s coral ecosystems.

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