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Reef balls placed in Great
Bay, coral transplant soon

PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten is a step closer to having its own manmade reef with the placing of 150 reef balls made by the Nature Foundation 1.5 miles northwest of Great Bay.

The next step is to properly position the reef balls and to transplant coral from Proselyte Reef to the artificial reef soon. It is hoped that there will be a blooming manmade reef in approximately five years. A similar project was successfully carried out in Curacao a few years ago.

The reef balls, made of special cement, were placed next to the island's most popular dive site: a sunken barge named Carib Cargo which sank to its watery grave during Hurricane Luis in 1995.

The foundation with the help of divers will properly place the reef balls within the next two weeks in anticipation of the coral transplant, to also be carried out with the help of volunteers, Assistant Marine Park Manager Paul Ellinger told The Daily Herald.

The manmade reef was funded by the Hurricane Lenny Recovery Fund allocated by the Dutch Government for the specific purpose of carrying out tourism-based projects.

The project took approximately six months to reach its present stage. Guidance on executing the project and making the reef balls was provided by Reef Ball Development Group Limited and Foundation Inc.

The manmade reef will enhance the island's marine and diving environments while easing the stress on the island's "almost over-utilized" coral reef, a popular vacation stop for many tourists.

Ellinger thanked Ray of Bobby's Marina for providing his barge and forklift to aid in the loading and transporting of the reef balls, Robbie Laurence and Michel Deher for their support to make the project a success.

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