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  • Writer's pictureXPLORid

World aid project: BRANCH Coral Foundation in Curaçao

The coral reefs are in danger. In 2023, mass bleaching of coral reefs has been recorded in 54 countries. The previous bleaching happened in 1998, 2010 and between 2014 and 2017. Several reefs are at risk of dying. This is also the case in Curaçao. But not only because of global warming.

Fishermen often target predatory fish such as sea bass or red snapper. Because they are very rare around Curaçao, many fishermen switch to catching smaller, herbivorous fish. The more of these herbivores are caught, the greater the chance that the coral reef will become overgrown with algae. Algae growth is also caused by the discharge of wastewater into the sea. If there are not enough fish on the reef that eat algae, much of the life on the reef will be “suffocated”.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Kids learn the value of the coral in Curaçao

Condition coral has several consequences

The death of the coral can also have consequences for the local population. Corals are important for breaking waves. During storms and hurricanes, they can work together with the mangroves as coastal protection. Food security and local economies could also be at risk. Coral is important, not only because it looks beautiful, but mainly because fish go to corals. They lay eggs there and large fish come to eat small fish.

Corals keep fish stocks in order.

The residents are partly dependent on fishing for their food. In addition, income from tourism is coming under pressure.

On Bonaire they have successfully introduced “no fishing zones”. Fishing and diving are not allowed there. This gives nature time to recover. The tourist tax that Bonaire has introduced since mid-2022 is also a means of protecting nature. Unfortunately, Curaçao hasn’t taken such measures yet. Moreover, they still have a long way to go in the field of waste purification, enforcement and maintenance.

Coral trees and nurseries

BRANCH Coral Foundation is a local changemaker by standing up for the coral in Curaçao. BRANCH stands for Building Reefs And Nurseries for Coral Habitats. With coral trees and nurseries, they release 25 square meters of coral every six months at 4 different locations. That’s 200 square meters per year.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Kids clean a coral tree in Curaçao

Marine biologist Max van Aalst from BRANCH Coral indicates that with the knowledge of its biologists, coral growing in nurseries can grow up to forty times faster compared to coral in the wild. That’s important for a quick recovery.

We go out for a day to see how corals are planted. An intern and a volunteer are helping Max. Sam Pronk is following the higher professional education study Coastal and Sea Management and Menno Bas has a bachelor's degree in Biology (with a focus on Marine Sciences) and a master's degree in Bio Inspired Innovation. As a Biology teacher at a secondary school in Utrecht he’s having a sabbatical.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Joining a coral planting day in Curaçao

Because Ben doesn’t have a PADI certificate, we go snorkeling. For more than an hour we’re floating on the waves above the coral trees. Max, Sam and Menno are working hard below. Watch the adventure in this video. In Cas Abao we've been snorkling before and spotted another coral tree. We captured this day on video as well: from our private beach we swam to Bon Bini Beach and to the other side.

Many Antilleans cannot swim or snorkel. Let alone dive.

They aren't able to see the value that lies on Curaçao's seabed.

The BRANCH Coral Foundation collaborates with, among others, GreenKidz GreenKidz and Kolektivo. GreenKidz is an educational project that encourages local schoolchildren aged 6-14 years to actively contribute to a greener, cleaner and healthier Curaçao and to be proud of themselves, their school and their island. Kolektivo supports local “changemakers”. They have made money available to BRANCH Coral for 3 children to be trained to become advanced divers.

Together with four diving schools, Dive Center Scuba Do in Jan Thiel, Dive Center Pietermaai, Trunkdivers at Kokomo Beach and PortoMari Sports, BRANCH Coral also offers opportunities for local and international people to participate in coral restoration. Those interested can take a special PADI BRANCH Coral Restoration Diver course to learn everything there is to know about coral restoration and sustainable tourism. Anyone who can dive can take this course. Another initiative is the opportunity to become a “coral parent” of a “coral baby”. With a donation of 25 dollars you can adopt a growing coral and give it its own name. Larger organizations sometimes even adopt an entire “tree”.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Joining a coral planting day in Curaçao

Through the Carmabi Youth Rangers Programma, another partner of BRANCH Coral, 12 children recently obtained their diving certification. On May 9, 2024 they also did this PADI BRANCH Coral Restoration Specialty.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Kids succeed in PADI BRANCH Coral Restoration Specialty in Curaçao

Through Ruud and Tanja from diving shop Scuba Store & More we buy 13 diving goggles for these children and their guide at a discount.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Contributing through our foundation Stichting XPLORid

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Contributing through our foundation Stichting XPLORid

Foundation XPLORid also adopted 1/4 tree. Of course we would have liked to “plant” a whole tree, but for this we need more donations. We hope more people will take the special coral diving course in Curaçao and/or adopt a coral baby. The latter can be done here via Paypal, stating the name you want to give to your coral baby.

World Aid Project BRANCH Coral | Contributing through our foundation Stichting XPLORid

We still collect €1 per kilometer cycled. Unfortunately, donations are a bit behind. We hope to make up the difference now that we’re stationary for a while. So far we’ve cycled 37,981 km and raised € 21,430 in donations. Any donation regardless of size is welcome. You can donate via our website directly, via Paypal or via GoFundMe.


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