FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA– Coral reefs are dying around the world, with over half being lost since the early seventies. Based on current trends, scientists predict that ninety percent of coral reefs are on track to die by 2050.
This ecological tragedy is also a serious socio-economic problem; reefs support one billion people and an estimated 25% of marine life while generating conservatively $30 billion annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection. The Bahamas, who welcome over six million visitors a year to their islands, beaches, and crystal-clear waters has embraced a new dynamic adventure they hope will change this outcome.
Coral Vita is a mission-driven company dedicated to restoring dying reefs, with a vision to create a global network of projects to sustain reefs into the future. They have started by creating the world’s first land-based commercial coral farm for restoration located in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Using cutting-edge ‘Microfragmenting’ technology, they accelerate coral growth up to 50x faster than normal rates, translating into months instead of decades while increasing species diversity and cost effectiveness. Combined with ‘Assisted Evolution’ methods, they also strengthen coral resiliency to threats like climate change.
On hand to officially open the facility was Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, stepping in for Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis who was unable to attend.
“Dr. Minnis asked me to convey his best wishes for the success of this project, and the Government’s full commitment to the preservation of our natural Paradise through environmental protection and conservation.” Speaking the opening’s audience, the Deputy Prime Minister also spoke to the importance of environmental change. “Unless countries around the world take serious and deliberate action, in less than a generation the reefs – which help feed the fish and conch that end up on our dining tables – could be gone! In The Bahamas, we’re doing what we can and must to play our part.”
The farm will not only restore the island’s decreased corals reefs, which were featured in the Netflix film ‘Chasing Coral,’ but will also serve as a tourism attraction and education center, offering reef restoration opportunities to visiting guests, residents, and young students. With the ultimate goal to work in conjunction with other scientists, communities, coral farmers, businesses, investors, and governments around the world, Coral Vita plans to provide restoration projects with more diverse, rapidly grown, and hardier corals.
Welcoming everyone to the event was Coral Vita Co-Founder, Sam Teicher, who noted his company is focused on preserving coral reefs for future generations. “It’s an amazing feeling that after just a few years on from a back-porch idea in grad school with my co-founder Gator Halpern, Coral Vita is today opening the world’s first land-based commercial coral farm to restore dying reefs. We’re so grateful to countless members of the coral farming community, partners, and supporters who played a role in our journey, most especially the Grand Bahama Port Authority who took a huge step and partnered with us to support this model to protect and restore coral reefs here in Grand Bahama and soon globally.”
The introduction of Coral Vita to Grand Bahama is a foundational building block towards diversifying the island’s economy, an accomplishment the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GPBA) and Grand Bahama Development Company (GBDevco) are proud to be a part of. “Coral Vita’s opening signals the start of a new and exciting era in Grand Bahama’s evolution,” said Rupert Hayward, Executive Director of the GBPA. “This project not only opens up a new sector in The Bahamian economy but also starts the process to repair one for The Bahamas’ most precious resources – our coral reefs. The project has global significance and the rest of the world is watching what happens here in Grand Bahama and I know I speak for The GBPA and GBDevco, when I say we are extremely proud to partner with Coral Vita on this project.”
Attending the opening were Government representatives, GBPA and GBDevco Executives, several schools, international environmental representatives like Mission Blue and Save the Bays, and a multitude of local companies who helped build the farm. Now open to fully start work on coral restoration, the team also planted its first coral in the canal that the facility overlooks. “We’re so excited to be working with the community of Grand Bahama to bring the island’s reefs back to life.” said Gator Halpern, Coral Vita Co-Founder, “While growing corals to restore reefs, our farm will also be an education centre for local students as well as tourists, where guests learn about the importance of keeping corals alive and helping to restore and revitalize the ecosystems that sustain us all.”