Seascape Caribbean was contracted by the Goldeneye Resort and Spa in 2008 to develop and implement a snorkeling garden and trail along the resort's extensive coastline, including fisheries management and coral culture initiatives.
This programme was subsumed by the local fishing community body when the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary came on-stream in 2012. Seascape Caribbean remains part of the sanctuary and coral enhancement progresses in part as the ecological advisor to the Oracabessa Foundation.
The coastal ecosystems of the Oracabessa Bay were heavily impacted by coastal development, dredging and reclamation through the 1960s and 1970s.
The corals of St Mary were heavily impacted by Hurricanes Alan (1980) and Gilbert (1988), in particular the branching corals.
The corals of the Oracabessa Bay were heavily impacted by disease through the 1980s, as was most of the Caribbean. Again, the worst to suffer were the branching corals.
Oracabessa is ostensibly a fishing community and the local reefs are heavily fished by spear, net and fish trap. In 2012, a fish of any species larger than one’s hand was uncommon.
Ecosystem is out of balance and coral diseases persist, often facilitated by corallivorous fish and elevated summer temperatures. Corallivorous snails and worms are also common.
Current reef system is dominated by microalgae, representing a stable-state disallowing a resurgence of coral. Reefs are the green-brown of algae rather than the bright golds and greens of healthy coral.
Algae is a poor fish or lobster nursery habitat as compared to coral, thus fisheries have been relatively unproductive.
Tourism product enhancement by investing in existing natural assets (coral and coral reef) for marketing, aesthetics and guest activities/recreation.
Reduce fishing pressure on the local reefs.
Kindling ownership and stewardship within the fishing community for both fish and habitat elements.
Kindling activism within the community related to poaching, litter, unsustainable development and identity.
Propagate and plant 2000 branching Acroporid corals per year into target areas for maximized recruitment of juvenile fish and shellfish.
Facilitate stewardship initiatives within the local fishing community. Seascape Caribbean initiated and facilitated the conversations that lead Oracabessa Bay to be designated a fish sanctuary in 2012, under management of the local fishing community members under the Oracabessa Foundation.
Train and employ three Coral Gardener reef maintenance technicians from amongst the local spear-fishers. A fourth is currently being trained through the support of Sandals Resorts and the World Bank's PPCR programme.
Develop an economically and socially self-sustaining attraction: the OBFS is to be the watersports provider to Goldeneye and other area hotels and villas by 2018 with the support of Goldeneye, the German people's CATS programme and Jamaica's Tourism Enhancement Fund.
To date, approximately 5000 such corals have been planted from an initial harvest of less than 150 3-5cm fragments in 2009 (see banner image). New funding has reset the nurseries in 2018 with approximately 4000 corals including new lineages sourced from the sister-project at Boscobel approximately 5000m to the east.
With the no-fishing sanctuary and new nursery habitats, total fish biomass increase of 16-fold between the 2012 and 2016 surveys. Larger predators such as Cubera snapper and tiger grouper are again seen on the reef, while macroalgae dominance is notably reduced.
With funding from the German people and the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the OBFS has built their own SCUBA and snorkelling shop to showcase and monetize the fish and corals that they have invested so much into. The shop should be open and accepting guests and generating revenue for Christmas 2018.