Coral Reef Restoration for Environmental and Economic Enhancement of the North Carolina Atlantic Coast Cape Lookout Region
Various reef systems, both naturally occurring and artificial, along the North Carolina Atlantic Coast and around the world have been in declining health since the past couple of decades due to coral bleaching, disease outbreaks, hurricanes, cold snaps and acute damage such as ship groundings. Reefs are vital habitat for rare species as well as commercially and recreationally important fish and invertebrates. They buffer the North Carolina coastal regions from the impacts of storms and attract divers and snorkelers from around the world. Prior to coral reef decline, many reefs were dominated by two hard corals: staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) and several massive boulder corals of the genus Montastrea.
This project is multi-year concept beginning with the Cape Lookout region and focuses on studying and determining whether propagated corals can be introduced and thrive along the 42 artificial reef systems along the North Carolina coast and the restoration efforts for these important corals. Staghorn coral will be grown in both undersea nurseries located along the coastal waters in the Cape Lookout region and inside a CRCF INC land-based facility. These corals will then be planted on reefs off the coast of Cape Lookout where they will create habitat for marine life, improve the aesthetics of degraded reefs and most importantly, kick start coral reproduction and reef recovery for the future.
At least 50,000 staghorn corals of varying sizes will be planted on reefs throughout the various 42 reef systems. A subset of these will be part of value-added scientific research to help increase the pace and efficiency of future propagation and restoration activities. An additional 30,000 small boulder corals will repair 3,000 dead coral heads using an innovative 'reskinning' technology. Staghorn and boulder coral propagation and restoration efforts will be designed to encourage the restored corals to reproduce on their own and reseed other reefs.
The Coral Reef Restoration for Environmental and Economic Enhancement of the North Carolina Atlantic Coast – Cape Lookout Region project will provide benefits to the local communities, the Atlantic Coast region, and the State of North Carolina. This project, while primarily focused along the North Carolina Cape Lookout coast initially, will have a broader benefit, if proven successful, to the 42 artificial reefs of North Carolina, and along other states coastlines in subsequent years. Restored corals will spawn on the various reefs and most of their larvae will be distributed by currents produced by the Gulf Stream.
The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries maintains 42 ocean artificial reefs and 22 estuarine reefs, 15 of which serve as oyster sanctuaries. Ocean reefs are located from ½ mile to 38 miles from shore and are situated so that they can be reached from every maintained inlet in the state. Click the link below to learn more.