When it’s thriving, the elkhorn coral native to the reef in front of Jamaica’s 129-room Round Hill Hotel and Villas spreads in thick branches that look like gilded antlers. “The entire seascape used to be a golden color,” says Andrew Ross, a marine biologist and managing director of the coral restoration organization Seascape Caribbean. When he noticed a few years ago that environmental damage was turning the reef green and brown, he approached Round Hill with a plan to restore it, by creating a coral garden and propagating seedlings for replanting. Eager to help, the resort offered to fund the project, and today, Ross is one year into a three-year mission to establish 5,000 new corals.
The multidimensional plan not only tackles environmental issues, but addresses social sustainability too, by persuading local fishermen to avoid the replanted areas – critical nurseries for young fish – and training them to become guides who will lead guests on snorkeling tours. “The elements of protection, building the ecosystem, and the return of fish are now being directly monetized by the community, giving them incentive to protect the reef,” Ross says. Round Hill plans to eventually let scuba-certified visitors take part in reef gardening with marine scientists and area fishermen.