Hands-on experiences and the chance to be involved in a coral restoration project is crucial to understand and support the ongoing efforts to save our coral reefs. The main goal of the Bahamas Coral Innovation team is reversing the decline of Bahamian reefs, and to do so, they apply several restoration techniques while combining research with education. The BCIH team based at the Cape Eleuthera Institute at The Island School is supported by The Nature Conservancy and collaborates with the Perry Institute of Marine Science (PIMS) and PIMS’s Reef Rescue Network, which has over 30 coral nurseries around The Bahamas.

Through our restoration projects, our team promotes a connection between people and the environment in The Bahamas. As part of this effort, Coral Researcher & PADI IDC Staff Instructor Natalia Hurtado taught the PADI open water course to 5 participants of an extracurricular mentorship program at The Island School called the Young Men’s Leadership Program (YMLP). One of the participants said after the course “What I liked most about the open water course was being given the opportunity to explore the ocean.”

YMLP is dedicated to the success of young men in South Eleuthera. Through positive mentorship opportunities, exploration, place-based education and engagement with the local community, participants grow and learn while building confidence and strong leadership skills. One of the ways in which we achieve these goals is by engaging students in our research and building comfort and knowledge within our local environment.

Participants from YMLP learned how to scuba dive and their hard work was rewarded with some awesome dives. During their last open water dive, they had the opportunity to choose their dive site; instead of choosing a shark dive (a frequent favorite), they preferred to visit our ocean-based coral nursery and learn more about our coral restoration project. 

All participants successfully completed their PADI Reef Rescue Course certification and learned about coral nurseries, including essential facts about coral reefs, threats facing corals, how coral nurseries function and how to maintain coral nurseries. These young men are now ready to help maintain the biggest coral nursery of our Reef Rescue Network in The Bahamas.

Jake Munroe, YMLP coordinator said “The Reef Rescue course makes us all feel good, knowing that we are part of a community that cares deeply about the restoration and conservation of life in the ocean.” Once certified, Reef Rescue divers can volunteer and visit other nurseries sites. The Reef Rescue Network currently has 27 nurseries in Aruba, St. Lucia and The Bahamas (Abaco, Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Great Exuma, Harbour Island, Nassau, San Salvador).

One of the most important parts of our work in the Coral Hub is building awareness in younger generations about the importance of coral reefs and encouraging them to share their knowledge. Our team is eager to involve more local students from YMLP. With the support of CoExist, we will train more young men as Open Water and Reef Rescue divers in 2022 that can grow through positive mentorship and also build awareness and support for ocean conservation in their communities.