Antigua Maiden Island Total Reef Restoration Page & Press Release

This press release is web based because the story here is an enormous and exciting accomplishment that is actually composed of many newsworthy component projects.  There are blue hyperlinks to other web resources throughout the release and red hyperlinks to more in-depth discussion on components of the project.  This project was awarded the Reef Ball Foundation's 2003 Overall Best Project of the Year.
 

August 2005, Photo Monitoring Update:

(Upper Left is "Grandpa" a transplanted soft coral, all others were propogated and started at a size that would fit into a 35 mm film canister...Elkhorn coral lower left and Staghorn corals right side)

Last Updated on Wednesday, January 31, 2007, St. John's, Antigua.  For Immediate Release.

Stanford Development Company Ltd. (SDC) and the Reef Ball Foundation, Inc. have created the world's largest fringing breakwater reef system from over 1,000 designed reef modules.  Constructed in just 2 months and planted with live corals during the same period, this reef system is an integral part of the development plan for Maiden Island, Antigua.  The Reef Ball Foundation a 501(c)(3), a publicly supported charitable organization located in Bradenton, Florida with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia was contacted to create the coral reef breakwater using specially designed Reef Balls tm, which are prefabricated concrete modules that are designed to mimic natural reefs.  These modules are constructed with built in adapters for planting live corals.  The Reef Ball Foundation has developed a system of reproducing live corals, and for this project the Foundation's expert volunteers created over 5,000 new coral colonies that were permanently attached to the Reef Balls to form a natural reef.  During the project, the Reef Ball Foundation identified other corals in Antigua that were imperiled by impending construction operations and was able to rescue an additional 17.5 tons of adult coral colonies, which were individually stabilized on the Reef Balls and saved.  Because Maiden Island's windward reef had been destroyed by Luis, a Category 4 hurricane eight years ago, there was an additional 4.5 tons of loose live rock that were secured to the Reef Balls so they would not damage the coral reef in the next hurricane event.

 

 

 



Reef Squid (Sepioteuthis sepioidea) laid eggs on the Reef Balls soon after being deployed.   The volunteers observed many squid over several days and most were displaying mating colors.  Above: The male (left) is displaying a white strip whereas the female (right) is displaying a partial saddle pattern.

The Reef Ball pictured above has three rescued and transplanted  soft corals colonies (Gorgonians, large plant looking ones), two rescued and transplanted Mustard Hill coral colonies (Porites astreoides, the yellow to brown hard coral in the upper right and at the base behind it), one stabilized piece of live rock (in the front hole) and four propagated coral fragments (Acropora spp., top of the Reef Ball).  The inch-sized depressions in the Reef Ball are used for transplanting additional corals or left to serve as protected resting place for sea urchins.

Science Helps To Build A Better Reef

The Reef Ball Foundation used the very latest in scientific techniques to achieve the remarkable feat of restoring a living reef system.  For example, with the help of over two dozen volunteers from the Antigua St. Johns Chapter of the Optimist Club, over 500 sea urchins (Echinometra lucunter) were added to the reef to act as 'janitors' to keep the corals free from algal overgrowth [Link to Scientific Study on Sea Urchins and Coral Health].  Scientifically designed larval lobster settlement substrates were added to the reef to enhance survivability of the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), an important species in Antigua.  Many lobsters have already been observed on the newly created reef.  Dr. Robin Sherman at Nova Southwestern University in Ft. Lauderdale previously studied the use of adding rocks to the center of Reef Balls to create additional complexity and habitat for small fish.  Following the recommendations of her work, many of the Reef Balls were filled one third full of rocks and they are exhibiting signs of enhanced juvenile fish populations. Dr. Richard Spieler and graduate students at NOVA  Southwestern are planning the addition of special invertebrate enhancers in a proposed scientific control section of the reef consisting of eight standardized reef balls and eight with the invertebrate enhancing treatments for a long term scientific study.  According to the latest management theories of fish stock enhancement,  a  fish 'corridor' was designed to help juvenile fish migrate from shallow to deep waters which ends at a specially designed reef  'pinnacle' to create a location for fish to spawn. (Video of Newly Placed Pinnacle)  The Pinnacles are located so that the prevailing trade winds will move recently spawned fish larvae back to the protection of the newly built near shore reef system for protection for predators.  Scientists have also advocated the creation of genetic coral banks...where different families from different locations of the same species are conserved in case of the need for replanting after a hurricane or other natural disaster when specific families of coral may be lost.  This was done for Staghorn, and Elkhorn corals on this project because these species are threatened Caribbean wide.  There are numerous proposals for additional long term monitoring, reef maintenance, public education and reef protection being considered by SDC for the project.

Left: Optimist Club members gather sea urchins for the new reef 
Right: Spiny Lobsters in 'Layer Cake' style Reef Ball.

 

 

Left: Urchin seeking protection in Reef Ball depression.

 

 

Fish Are Breeding On The New Reef

(Video of Gray Snappers Schooling to Spawn) on Maiden Island at the new reef site near the Pinnacle.

Within weeks of being built, the pinnacle is hosting a documented spawning event of over 100 large Gray Snappers (Lutjanus griseus).  This is the first documented formation of a new spawning event. "Starting about two hours after sunset these fish hover near the ocean bottom. A dominant fish (in this case a very large Gray Snapper) appears to entice this group into making rapid ascents to the surface. The fast and spectacular ascents occur almost daily and are oftentimes accompanied by an explosion of eggs and milt. " (Spawning information from AquatechGroup). 

 

Fish inside of a Reef Ball in Antigua
Fish of 73 different species have already made the new Reef Balls their home including (left) butterfly fish that need live corals for food.

Seagrass and Mangroves Complete The New Reef

Seagrass beds and mangrove tree roots are integrated components of a coral reef system.  They serve as nurseries for many animals that live their adult lives on the reef.  One of the reasons Reef Balls were selected for this project is that the alternative would have been an armor stone breakwater that would have impacted thousands of square feet of seagrass beds. At the suggestion of the Antigua Department of Fisheries, the Reef Balls were chosen and designed with special open bottoms to allow sea grasses to flourish around and under the Reef Balls so that conch (Strombus gigas) habitat was preserved.  Additional measures are being included in the project to protect seagrass from damage by boat props. For example, most of Maiden Island will have Reef Balls placed around near shore shallow seagrass beds as a way to physically protect them from boat traffic.  Scientific studies have even documented where seagrasses are enhanced by reefs.    In the areas on the Leeward side of Maiden Island were the seagrass beds are being protected, Stanford Development Company Ltd., Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, The National Coral Reef Institute, and The Reef Ball Foundation are teaming up to conduct a mangrove planting project to further complete the system.  Over 7,000 red mangroves will be imported from Nova Southeastern's mangrove nursery in Ft. Lauderdale to Antigua and then they will be planted using specially made small reef balls to protect the seedlings from storm damage while they take root. 

Learn more about the Mangrove Planting Project on Maiden Island


Above, 'Mangrove Root Mimic Reef Balls'  will be used near the planted mangroves to provide an estuary type reef system. The delicate root mimics are re-enforced with fiberglass rebar and will be a host to a variety of filter feeders, estuary hardy corals, sponges and algae. 

The combination of all the latest successfully proven marine restoration techniques in this project has created a complete ecosystem.  The ecosystem restoration is so successful that The Antigua Department of Fisheries is now considering protection for the new ecosystem.  Such protection may include the nearby natural reefs, mangroves stands, seagrass beds, the 'Pinnacle' spawning grounds, and genetic coral bank reserves to create more abundant fisheries in all of Antigua and to protect valuable natural resources.  


One can see how the conchs can move under and around 
the Reef Balls, but the fish like the open bottoms too!

Creating New Corals and Saving Threatened Ones
Using Volunteers From Around The World... 

The Reef Ball Foundation activated its Coral Reef Propagation and Coral Reef Rescue teams which are composed of hundreds of experts from around the world willing to volunteer their time, when coral reefs are threatened.  For the Antigua project, over 274 volunteer man-days were used complete the coral propagation and rescue missions.  This effort included experts from Australia, England, Holland, Mexico, Curacao, France, Italy, Antigua, Florida, Georgia, New York, Arizona, Turks and Caicos, Mississippi, Malaysia and more. Local volunteers from Antigua greatly assisted the efforts, making this not only the largest reef restoration effort ever...but also one based largely on volunteers.   The volunteer teams did more than just transplant and propagate corals...they also did a biological census, reef clean up, created a genetic coral bank, rescued imperiled sea life, and educated  local Antiguans on the importance of the coral reefs and how to keep up the health of the new reef.  The volunteer teams documented 73 fish species, 71 invertebrates spp., 30 corals spp. and 26 algal spp. (plus a turtle) now on the reef.  Every day the species list continues to grow.  

 

Acropora (staghorn) coral planted on a Reef Ball

Baseline photos were taken of the coral plugs so the grow-rates and survival rates may be documented over time.

Click to Enlarge Photo showing range of Hard Coral Species Planted


Volunteer coral experts set up coral propagation tables where corals are divided
 and replanted into special plugs that are later attached to the Reef Balls.

Learn about the Reef Ball Foundation Coral Propagation and Coral Rescue Teams

Snorkeling, Diving and Public Education

Human needs were not forgotten in the construction of the reef either.  Stanford Development Company Ltd., and the Reef Ball Foundation created hundreds of yards of snorkeling and diving trails.  These trails provide visitors a complete tour of the reef  to see the wondrous and abundant reef life now present.  The trails are marked by Reef Balls that have a 12 inch by 12 inch square markings to make navigation easy, or for possible future educational signs.  There are plans to add mooring buoys so that anchor drops do not damage the new reef.

For a Complete Trail Guide to the Reef Click Here (You will need a browser with the ability to zoom in or else right click and download this jpeg to your hard drive and view with software that allows zooming). 


A local Antiguan enjoys the snorkeling trails which include featured areas such as 'Y' Canyon Pass, Walk About Pass, Sneak Through Pass, Flint Reef Trail, Coral Magic Trail, Elkhorn Alley, Tail Pass and the Diving Pinnacles.  The Reef Ball Foundation has asked locals to observe a voluntary 'look but don't take policy' until the Fishery Department of Antigua has time to pass a formal rule.  

Construction & Deployment of the Reef Balls

The Reef Balls themselves were built in Antigua by the Stanford Development Company Ltd. and assisted by trainers from Reef Innovations (Reef Innovations is a Reef Ball authorized contractor based in Orlando, Florida).  Captain Bailey skillfully operated the barge and tug daily and Vernon Krump provided the construction site, equipment and labor for Stanford.  The construction site had an average of 100 workers building Reef Balls 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  Using Reef Ball Foundation and local concrete experts, a special concrete mix was developed that allowed the Reef Balls to be cast and deployed within 24 hours while still retaining the special marine friendly formulations needed to create a perfect biological reef.  The Reef Ball Foundation uses special additives to make the concrete's pH match that of natural seawater so that corals and other marine life can grow on the Reef Balls easily.  The outside surfaces of the Reef Balls are textured so that coral larvae can easily attach and grow into adult colonies.  Even the holes in the sides of the Reef Balls are designed to create whirlpools so that the corals can grow faster since they rely on currents to bring food.  Reef Balls have been used in over 3,500 projects worldwide with over 0.5 million Reef Balls deployed in 47 countries.  Reef Balls are the most advanced designed reef modular system in the world and have been reef builders' material of choice for over 10 years.  Reef Balls can be adapted for a wide variety of reef building needs, but the Antiguan project was the first project to use nearly all of the technologies developed by  Reef Ball in a single place. 

 

Casting 24/7 in over 40 complex mold systems using a large variety of specialized techniques such as creating special anchor holes, 'Layer Cake' style reef balls, and 8 different sizes of Reef Balls...building over 2000 Reef Balls in 3 weeks!

More about the Construction and Deployment of Reef Balls

Engineering to Restore a Beach

As part of the overall project plan, Stanford Development Company Ltd. is going to fully restore the windward beach to its original condition.  About 50 years ago, non-beach compatible sand from dredging operations was placed on Maiden Island by the U.S. Navy.  The dredging was for the creation of a channel between Maiden Island and Antigua.  Therefore, Stanford Development Company Ltd. has removed all the dredged sand and will recover it with natural beach sand.  The breakwater reef was specifically engineered to lower the wave energy in the beach area so that the new natural sand will remain stable.  Stable sand means clearer water, which is healthier for the coral.  Many engineers were involved directly or indirectly in the design of the breakwater, including Greg Morris and Associates (Dr. Greg Morris), Caribbean Oceanography Group (Dr. Alfredo Torruella), and Dr. Lee Harris who is a consulting breakwater engineer and a professor at the Florida Institute of Technology. The U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center conducted extensive wave tank tests for a similar planned Reef Ball submerged breakwater demonstration project for Miami which had direct relevance to Maiden Island's design.

 

(Wave tank tests at the Army Corps Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi)

Six different anchoring solutions were used, depending on the specific bottom type in the area to insure that the reef balls will be stable during hurricanes events.  Incidentally, the engineers were impressed that they did not need an underlayment / filter cloth or other support to keep the Reef Balls from sinking into the sand....the Reef Balls allowed the seagrass to survive and so the root system of the seagrass acts as a biological underlayment / filter cloth.  No engineering details were overlooked, for example, Stanford Development Company Ltd. used a 'Total Station surveying method', which is accurate to within centimeters.  This methodology allowed accurate  placement so that existing natural corals would not be damaged by the placement of the Reef Balls.  A special mark had to be established called the 'biological tide line', which is the water level at which marine growth stops.  The Reef Balls were made of different sizes so that the top of each Reef Ball would be exactly at the 'biological tide line.'  This makes for the most effective submerged breakwater, and also maximizes the biological growing surfaces for the new reef.

Reef Ball being deployed
Engineering required tight deployment tolerances and barge crews ran from first light to dusk every single day, rain or shine.

More about the Engineering of Reef Balls as Submerged Breakwaters for Maiden Island

Unparalleled Success: The Bar Has Been Raised

The amazing success of this project is reflected in the faces and comments of everyone that visits this special place.   Todd Barber, Chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation said, "The SDC's  Maiden Island Windward Reef Project is the most sophisticated designed fringing breakwater reef system on the planet....nothing even comes close.  If you had asked me 3 months ago if this would be possible I would have said it would be extremely difficult...but Stanford's people worked at a pace and with a sense of purpose to create this reef unlike I have seen anywhere in the world".
Todd Barber planting a coral on a Reef Ball
Todd Barber, CEO of the Reef Ball Foundation plants an Elkhorn Coral (Cervicornis palmata)

Scott Glendining, Chief Architect of the Maiden Island Project said, "Indeed, the Reef Ball project is shaping up to be one of the finest successes of our company. This is due to the expertise, commitment and cooperation of all those involved. Thank you for all of your help in bringing the world's largest Reef Ball project to fruition. As SDC takes on a more regional presence, this project will bode well as to the professional and environmentally sensitive approach that can be taken in land development and 'raise the bar' for all projects in the region".

 

 

 

 


R. Allen Stanford, head of the Stanford Development Company Ltd. talks about his first snorkel on the Reef Balls and how pleased he was with the project.

Harold Hudson of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) who many know as 'The Reef Doctor' and is a world known expert on coral reef restoration commented that after reading the list of accomplishments and the time frame in which it was done,  the word 'amazing' seems most appropriate to describe the new reef.   The output of the Reef Ball assembly line in particular would have made Henry Ford proud.   Watching the development of (the reef) in the coming years should give (everyone) even greater satisfaction.

layer cake reef ball being deployedlayer cake reef ball
Harold Hudson's 'Layer Cake' style Reef Balls were used to create ledge and complex void habitat types to make sure the reef was instantly balanced from a structural perspective.

Bill Horn of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Artificial Reef Program indicated that he watched the handling of the corals closely since our office must be involved to issue permits for a project like this in Florida and I was extremely impressed with the health of the coral and the whole process.

Bill Horn of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Artificial Reef Program exams a rescued coral for coral disease before it is propagated into hundreds of new corals.

Tom Maher of Marine Habitats, Inc. said, "Based upon a decade of experience with artificial reefs around the world, this reef represents the best and most complete natural reef mimic for an artificial system than I have every observed.

"

Tom Maher, left, teaches members of the Optimist Club of St. Johns about sea urchins.

The whole project cost less than traditional breakwaters, which are rarely environmentally friendly, yet produced an end result with far greater beauty, usefulness and environmental sensitivity.  Therefore, Stanford Development Company Ltd. and the Reef Ball Foundation have raised the bar for Caribbean developers.  It's now possible to leave our coral reefs in a better state after construction of breakwaters.  For more information about this project, go to the Reef Ball Foundation's website at www.reefball.org, then click on the World Mapping System, then click on the Caribbean Ocean, then click on the Reef Ball icon to the right of Antigua.  

>>>Go to "How 17.5 Tons of Corals Were Rescued and 5000 Coral Colonies Created in Antigua"


All photos on this page are available in High Resolution Digital Format (4 mega-pixel resolution) and can be obtained by contacting reefball@reefball.com.  There are many other photos to choose from, by going to http://www.reefball.com/map/antigua.htm you can see more pictures from this project.  You may freely copy and use this press release as long as it remains unchanged.  If you wish to write your own version, we would be happy to set up interviews, provide digital photos or even arrange a site visit.  Use of photos requires acknowledgement that the source is www.reefball.org.

                             

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