CORAL REEF RESTORATION
Dr. Mendez founded the Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Project (CCRRP) in 2013 to conserve and restore all of Cozumel’s 35 coral species.
Originally a veterinarian, Dr. German Mendez came to Cozumel from Mexico City in 1982 for the same reason as so many others – to learn to scuba dive!
As he explored the underwater world of Cozumel, he became passionate about the 35 endemic corals and the animals they shelter. In 1994 the Mexican government threatened to build a cruise ship dock in the Cozumel Marine Park – which is supposed to be an environmentally protected area. Many residents of the island, including Dr. Mendez, came together to protest the development, but the government was unmoved.
About Cozumel Coral Reef Restoration Project
The CCRRP has a thriving coral garden, which is composed of artificial underwater platforms where corals that have been knocked loose from the reef (typically by careless divers or boats) can be rescued, safely attached, and regrown in a safe environment.
Volunteers take care of the corals with Dr. Mendez until they can be returned to the reef. The platforms are also home to corals that have been grown in the organization’s aquariums, where baby corals (polyps) are incubated to maturity. This is how we can boost declining coral populations, such as Acropora palmate – commonly known as Elkhorn coral – which is critically endangered. The CCRRP currently has 23 platforms in its garden, with over 10,000 corals restored since 2013.
As predicted, the cruise ship dock was immediately devastating to the reef – killing almost 97% of the coral surrounding the docks. Dr. Mendez resolved to save what he could of the reef, leaving the island to complete a PHD in marine biology at the prestigious Nova Southeastern University. He then returned to the island to found the CCRRP, where he works on coral restoration and educates the public – both locals and tourists – on the importance of conservation.
"97% of all the corals near the cruise ship docks were killed"
WITH THE MISSION
TO CONSERVE & RESTORE ALL 35 CORAL SPECIES NATIVE TO COZUMEL
Cozumel’s coral reefs protect the island and provide a living for its indigenous people. It is a nursery for other marine organisms and key to the ocean’s biodiversity.
Our mission is to conserve and protect Cozumel’s coral reefs from the human damage caused by development projects, cruise ships, and climate change. As coral reefs die off around the world, we’re trying to save Mexico’s most beautiful and important natural treasure.
The CCRRP also partners with several Mexican universities, conducting research projects that monitor coral growth and methods of conservation. Studies have included using electrolysis to stimulate more coral growth, coating corals in antibiotics to combat the recent devastating outbreaks of coral diseases, and studying which symbiotic species can help coral resist certain environmental threats. It is common to find marine biology students in the coral garden, collecting data or tending to the platforms as part of the CCRRP’s volunteer and internship programs.
Through our efforts we’ve managed to restore over 10,000 corals thus far!
Starting with 16 platforms in 2017 we expanded to 23 platforms today.
There are many threats to Cozumel’s coral reefs, all of them because of humans. Local threats include dangerous industrial chemical use, careless divers and snorkelers, sunscreen, the constant presence of cruise ships, unchecked commercial development, and a lack of wastewater facilities. That’s on top of the global phenomenon of human exacerbated coral diseases and the effects of climate change.
The CCRRP works with local residents, offering education programs on the importance of the coral and the impact it’s decline is having on the island’s underwater ecosystem. Dr. Mendez personally leads classes with volunteers, locals, and tourists alike, and leads scuba tours of the garden where he demonstrates the necessity of activism and conservation in preserving what we have left of the reef.
You can help support Dr. Mendez’s work by donating here, by reading through the materials on this website to learn more about coral conservation, or by paying us a visit. Contact us here for more information.