For more than 20 years the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat has invested time and money in marine research in order to improve and expand knowledge towards the treatment of marine animals and assist in rehabilitating damaged aquatic areas as a result of pollution and storms.
This is reflected in the breeding programs we have conducted with several marine animals native to this region, nurturing them to adult stage, then releasing them back to sea and continuing to track and observe their survival in their natural habitat.
These projects were a great success and led to cooperation with many researchers from both Israel and abroad.
Therefore, it is only natural that we look for better solutions to rehabilitate damaged coral reefs, damaged by pollution, storms, marine vessels and divers.
The obvious solution is to try and save the damaged colonies of coral, rehabilitate them and return them to their place at sea or to establish additional coral reefs combined with artificial ones.
Hence we started to rehabilitate fragments of broken coral, collected from the sandy sea bed, at the foot of natural coral reefs.
These fragments can be found in large quantities at the 50 meters section along the length of the coral reefs, where it is possible to collect between 100-500 coral fragments of all species, on a daily basis.
The vulnerability of corals are not only a result of the above mentioned activities, many fish also harm and break coral throughout the day and night.
The beauty is that a single piece of broken coral, even if it is less than 1 cm in length, can be grown in a relatively short time to a unique and colorful coral colony. This coral can then be transplanted to the artificial reefs, allowing a perfect breeding house for other sea specimens, at a highly successful percentage rate.
The establishment of coral reefs from fragments is unique and, was primarily developed by researchers at the Underwater Observatory in Eilat. After seven years of construction, rehabilitation of Eilat’s coral reef in this way, has proved to be the best global method in the rehabilitation of the coral reef.
What are Corals?
Corals are non- mobile animals. They live together in colonies made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Each individual colony is called a polyp, each with venomous hunting tentacles which feedi trapped prey to their mouths. The growth rate of coral colonies is several centimeters per year.
A colony of just tens of centimeters might be decades or even centuries old.
When a coral colony dies, a chalky skeleton remains that provides a basis for growing new coral colonies. This process has been going on for aeons, where by new colonies form and establish themselves on the dead chalky skeletons of their predecessors. We understand that apart from those corals we have saved, the solution needs to be far more extensive and shared by as many as possible.
So we, the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, decided in cooperation with the diving association, Keren Karev Fund, the Nature Reserve & National Parks Authority and with the help of Zvika Livnat, to share with and involve the schoolchildren in Eilat in this coral rehabilitation project. Thus, we not only save these corals but also have created widespread awareness concerning marine projects.
In the first year of the coral restoration project, we worked with two grade 6 classes from “Arava” primary school in Eilat. Every two weeks the children visited the Observatory and each class had an aquarium with damaged coral fragments collected from the seabed.
The schoolchildren treated, weighed, cleaned and monitored the coral’s growth rate and recovery.
At the end of the year, the team of Underwater Observatory Marine Park divers, with the help of the students, “planted” the corals on the coral reef, which is located in close proximity to the Observatory Tower’s windows.
The coral is planted by using a special glue, developed here at the Observatory. Students are able to track development of the restored coral for years by means of an identity number they receive. Anyone wishing to view the coral and rehabilitation process are invited to view the coral through the Tower windows (after the coral has been returned to its natural habitat) or alternatively in an aquarium display in the classroom, where the corals are still in the process of rehabilitation.
While working with the coral, children learn how delicate and how slow its growth rate actually is.
They learn to identify different species of coral and learn about the special needs that corals require in order to live and grow.
From a piece of coral that each child manages to rehabilitate, we educate about the complex situation of the reef in Eilat , the factors that interfere with the reef and how, by joining forces, we can improve and save the reef in Eilat.
This project has been ongoing for 13 years and currently we work with five schools in Eilat. Our ambition is to eventually work with all schools in the city.
The children participating in this project are from the fifth and sixth grades.
The involvement of these children who treat and rehabilitate the corals, raises awareness of our marine developments and perhaps, in a few more years, we can restore the coral reef in Eilat to it’s previous splendor.