Seascape Caribbean was contracted by the Goldeneye Resort and Spa in Oracabessa, St Mary, Jamaica in 2008 to develop and implement a snorkelling garden and trail along the resort's extensive coastline, including fisheries management and coral culture initiatives. To our knowledge, this was the first privately funded nursery culture and enhancement project ever done.
This programme was subsumed by the local fishing community when the Oracabessa Bay Fish Sanctuary came on-stream in 2012. Seascape Caribbean remains part of the sanctuary and coral enhancement progresses as the ecological advisor to the Oracabessa Foundation and the Oracabessa Marine Trust.
The coastal ecosystems of the Oracabessa Bay were heavily impacted by coastal development and reclamation through the 1960s and 1970s, hurricanes in 1980 (Alan) and 1988 (Gilbert) and by the regional disease events in branching corals and urchins through the early 1980s.
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.
As such, the ecosystem is out of balance and coral diseases persist, often facilitated by corallivorous fish, worms and snails and elevated summer temperatures.
Unbalanced, the modern (2012) 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. This dovetails with both the resort’s James Bond connectivities and specific snorkelling and spear-fishing elements of Sir Ian Fleming’s writing process.
Reduce fishing pressure on the local reefs through fisher stewardship towards fish nursery and fish sanctuary developments.
Kindling activism within the community related to poaching, litter, unsustainable development and identity.
Propagate and plant 2000 corals of the fine-branching staghorn morphology (genus Acropora) per year into target areas for enhanced 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 two Coral Gardener reef maintenance technicians from amongst the local spear-fishers. A third was recently trained through the support the World Bank's PPCR programme.
Develop an economically and socially self-sustaining attraction: the Oracabessa Marine Trust is to be the watersports provider to Goldeneye and other area hotels and villas in 2019 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. New funding has augmented the nurseries in 2018 to approximately 4000 corals, including new lineages sourced from the sister-project at Boscobel 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.
The Oracabessa Marine Trust has built and equipped their SCUBA and snorkelling shop and trained three Divemasters as guides. The shop should be open and accepting guests and generating revenue for the summer of 2019.