POINTE BLANCHE--The Nature Foundation has
started a project to create an artificial coral reef
close to the island's coastline to ease pressure on
the natural reef. A total of 150 reef balls made of
cement, sand and gravel are being made with the help
of the Reef Ball Foundation, based in Atlanta,
The project will directly impact the island's
tourism product, since it will provide a coral reef
over time for divers and scuba divers to enjoy,
according to Nature Foundation Marine Manager Andy
Caballero. The reef will also help create awareness
of reef systems, while being a "nice place to go
Funding for the project is coming from the Dutch
Recovery Fund through the St. Maarten Tourist
Todd Barber, President of the Reef Ball
Foundation, and Kathy Kirbo, executive director,
are training and giving guidance to the local
foundation and its counterpart Nature Reserve of the
French side in making the reef balls.
Some persons from the nature park of Curacao are
also here to lend a hand. They also have practical
knowledge in this area after having carried out a
similar project on their island. A volunteer from
Texas University, who is a specialist in coral
reefs, is also helping out with the project.
The training will last for one week, after which
the local group will be equipped to make and place
more reef balls in the course of time.
The reef balls will aid the propagation of a
coral reef that is good for scuba diving, Barber
The mold used to make the balls will remain on
the island to be used in future projects of this
nature, said Barber, whose foundation has been
involved in 4,000 similar projects in 40 countries.
In total, the Reef Ball Foundation has placed about
half a million reef balls.
The Reef Ball Foundation's goal is to restore the
reef eco-system and create educational awareness for
the protection of natural coral reefs.
Persons interested in seeing how the reef balls
are made are invited to visit the site next to
Reggae Cafe. Persons who would like to volunteer can
contact the Nature Foundation St. Maarten at
542-0267 or www.artificialreefs.org