Coral, Sea Grass, and Mangrove Restoration Galeta Lab, Panama

June 27 2017
Coral Reef, Sea Grass, and Mangrove Restoration Projects using Biorock Technology at Galeta Marine Laboratory, Colon, Panama
Preliminary Report and Recommendations
Thomas J. F. Goreau-Arango
Gabriel Despaigne-Ceballos

Biorock electric coral reef, sea grass, and mangrove restoration project are underway at the Galeta Marine Laboratory. This cutting edge new technology greatly increases the settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to stress of all marine organisms (Goreau & Hilbertz, 2005; Goreau & Trench, 2014; Goreau 2014).
The restoration projects are a Memorial to the first Panamanian marine scientist, Dra. Nora Isabel Arango de Urriola y Goreau, 1921-2016:

In Memoriam: Dr. Nora Goreau April 25 1921 – December 18 2016 – Mother of Coral Reef Science

They were built and installed in 2015 by two Panamanian divers, Gabriel Despaigne Ceballos, President of Diving Contractors Panama SA, and Dr. Thomas Joaquin Goreau-Arango, President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance. The coral projects are visible on live camera at the Galeta Laboratory web site:
It is crucial for the corals to have the extra energy provided by the Biorock process before coral bleaching affects Panama, which is expected soon since temperatures there have reached bleaching levels unusually early in the year. Biorock corals show up to 50 times (5,000%) higher survival after severe bleaching.

Results to date show that all coral species are have grown very well on the Biorock reef (Agaricia tenuifolia, Porites astreoides, Porites divaricata, Montastrea (Orbicella) annularis, Siderastrea siderea, Stephanocoenia intersepta).
In contrast only one coral species is doing very well on the control structure, Porites divaricata, while the other species have shown considerable mortality.
The Biorock structure is not rusting, and is growing limestone rock over the steel, becoming thicker and stronger with age. The control structure is rusting, becoming thinner and weaker with age. Eventually the control structure will collapse, and then any surviving corals should be transplanted to the Biorock structure.
Fish constantly move between the reef structures and the surrounding areas, so they are hard to count. However there appear to be more fishes, and especially more juvenile fishes, in and around the Biorock structure than the control structure.
Both the seagrass and mangrove projects had good growth of minerals on them. The seagrass bed on the reef flat was badly damaged by sedimentation during recent boat channel excavation, and most of the seagrass seemed to be dying, yet the Biorock seagrass was lush and green. This could be because the Biorock seagrass was less affected by sediments or due to more rapid growth. Loss of seagrass on the reef flat will result in increased erosion and reduced capacity to adapt to rising sea levels.
There was good growth of marine organisms, including corals, sponges, and oysters on the mangrove roots in the mangrove project area, as well as numerous juvenile fish, seemingly more than in similar areas further away.
The projects were all working well until February 2017. Shortly after that Trevor Mendelow of View Into The Blue sent Zachary Rago to maintain the camera. All 6 electrical cables to the projects were cut, and all of the electrodes and the sign on the project honoring the memory of the first Panamanian marine biologist, were missing afterwards. After the vandalism was found in May, all cut cables were immediately repaired and the stolen electrodes replaced. Only Goreau, Despaigne, and Mendelow knew where they were, and other than Rago no one else visited the site, which is under armed guard. An improved mounting for the charger was made. However, since the electrician was away we were unable to change the old, badly corroded electrical junction box at the base of the pillar to which the charger is mounted. This could leak in heavy waves, causing risk of electrical shorting. We bought a new outdoor junction box with seals and will replace the old one at the first opportunity. In addition, we will hard-wire the charger directly into the power line with its own on/off switch, so that both the outlets will be available to the lab (one is now occupied by the charger plug).

Recovery from sabotage:
Within a day after power was restored new patches of white minerals could be seen growing on the Biorock structure, while the control shows red rust spots. It is important to document the recovery of the project after several months without power. The Biorock corals should become more fluorescent, darker in color, and grow faster again.
There appears to have been an increase in stinging hydroids on the project while the power was off, similar to those seen on the control. Hydroids are common on artificial steel substrates in the ocean, but rare on Biorock reefs, so it is expected that they will now decrease on the Biorock but not the control.

The Colon area has been at near bleaching temperatures for a couple of months, unusually early in the year, and bleaching is likely later in the year when water temperatures usually rise. Because the benefit of the Biorock process is the DIRECT effect of the electrical field, and is not residual, it is especially important to maintain power continuously when bleaching hits.
The results so far (despite months without power due to sabotage) are so good that more naturally broken corals should be rescued and transplanted when the opportunity arises. However, it is very important that the size and color of the corals be documented photographically right away, so that future changes in them can be documented. The fish populations in both Biorock and control domes, and nearby control sites should be documented. Regular photographs of the corals are needed to measure growth rates, which would be an excellent project for a Panamanian marine biology student.
Because the charger is being used well under capacity, the projects can be expanded. We suggest use of long wires from the Biorock project to add a small trickle charge to the nearest natural coral reefs at the edge of the channel and see if their growth is also stimulated (as we have found in Indonesia). That way much larger areas of reef will benefit by faster coral growth, higher coral settlement, and higher resistance to sedimentation and bleaching from high temperatures.

Changes in seagrass biomass, growth, sediment carbon, and commensal organisms should be documented, but a comparable control site nearby needs to be selected. The Biorock method should be applied to damaged seagrass in the heavily sedimented area to see if their recovery is enhanced, as is expected.

It is hard to compare the effects of the mangrove project because it is in the middle of a mature mangrove that is impossible to walk through. It is recommended that new mangrove plots be established near the boat ramp, where sedimentation has raised the bottom into the intertidal zone and where mangroves are now spreading outward. Small Biorock and control plots can be established with Rhizophora seedlings transplanted in them, so that the effects on above ground and below ground mangrove growth can be documented. Both sea grass and salt marshhave been shown to have higher root and shoot growth with Biorock. Since most mangrove and seagrass transplantation projects fail because the roots fail to establish before waves wash the plants out, Biorock methods could greatly increase success of large scale mangrove restoration that will be increasingly needed when sea level rise accelerates. Small Biorock plots could be powered by a solar panel.
A graduate student from Ecuador, Fatima Andrade, is interested in doing a mangrove restoration project there for her Masters thesis, doing field work from February to August 2018. Since the project will become a long term one, a Panamanian student should be trained to continue the project. An application should be made to STRI for this proposed project with Stanley Heckadon and Tom Goreau as PIs.

The camera wiper arm is not working, and the dome was seen to be covered with sediment, blocking the view. This should be wiped clean from time to time. Whenever Trevor Mendelow, Zachary Rago, or anyone from VITB, comes to check the camera, they need to be watched closely at all times, especially when in the water, to prevent future theft and vandalism.

Below are all the photos of the project, in the interest of complete documentation, although some are repetitive. We also have video taken at these and other times. We will download these from back-up drives, edit then, and post them later.
June 13 2015

Old wine in new bottles, half truths, falsehoods, utter nonsense

Coral reef bleaching: More old wine in new bottles, half-truths, falsehoods, and utter nonsense
Yet another example of how old truths are ignored and distorted and outright fiction is generated and disseminated in the popular press about coral bleaching and global warming:

Coral Reefs Generate Half of Earth’s Oxygen — and They Could All Die Off by 2050
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: The second mass bleaching event in the last two years on the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral ecosystem on Earth, is a sign of the new normal for global coral. The days of vibrant flourishing coral reefs — homes to the most diverse ecosystems on the planet — are over:

“One crucial function we do know we’re losing: While coral reefs only cover 0.0025 percent of the oceanic floor, absorb nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide generated from burning fossil fuels.”

1) Old wine in new bottles
Since 1989 we have been able to accurately predict mass bleaching events from Satellite Sea Surface Temperature data alone using the Goreau-Hayes HotSpot method assessing thermal anomaly intensity and duration (Goreau, 1990, Goreau & Hayes 1994, Goreau et al, 2000, 2005 a, b, c). The GBR events last year and this, and many, many more events not reported, are typical.

Peter Glynn correctly concluded the same based on the 1982-1983 bleaching in Panama and Galapagos. At first we thought there might be something exceptional about the thermal sensitivity of these unusual coral communities, but we soon found out that they were typical.

There has been no change in the bleaching thresholds for 35 years and therefore no signs of temperature adaptation or so-called “resilience”, however there are now far less corals left to bleach, especially those with the most sensitive symbiotic algae Symbiodinium species.

Nearly 30 years ago I warned the Australians that GBR corals would die when they reached these temperatures, but they deliberately chose to ignore and suppress the information (the details of this history are so complex that a book is needed to outline it).

Now suddenly all of this old knowledge is an “astonishing” “unexpected” “new” “discovery” that “nobody expected”!

All of this was known nearly 30 years ago, but ignored see:

Three decades of unnecessary accelerating coral death from bleaching has been directly caused by the deliberate and systematic denial and suppression of the scientific data on coral bleaching by the American and Australian governments, funding, and research institutions, and their efforts to confuse and obscure the causes for political reasons.

We’ve always said that the methods they use to identify coral decline were so poor that it was only when the last corals died in the GBR that they would admit the truth. Sadly, that is exactly what has happened. It could have been avoided if they had respected the science, instead of being driven by politics.

2) Half truths and falsehoods
The article ignores known solutions, especially the only method that saves corals from high temperatures when almost all around them die, Biorock electrical stimulation, which causes greatly increased coral (and all marine organism) settlement, growth, survival, resistance to temperature, pollution, and sediment stress, by directly stimulating their natural energy generating mechanisms:                         

The claim that the only thing we can do is emissions reductions is ridiculous, no amount of emissions reductions can remove the dangerous excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, only increased sinks can:

3) Outright fiction and utter nonsense
The claims that coral reefs provide half the oxygen in the atmosphere and bury one-third of fossil fuel emissions are utterly false!

These absolutely incredible and absurd falsehoods seem to be based on newspaper interviews with Australian scientists with no understanding of the carbon and oxygen cycles.
What is true in this article is that we are very close to the end for coral reefs, as we predicted nearly 30 years ago, a lot closer than they say, for most it is just a couple of years away, unless we have a huge high-sulfur volcanic eruption or a very big asteroid impact imminently.

Biorock electrical marine ecosystem restoration methods to restore coral reefs against global warming, shores against sea level rise, and regenerative development to reverse climate change are now our only hopes to sustain coral reef ecosystems in the future.

We remain committed to working directly with local island fishing communities in the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia to help them restore their coral reefs, and not with those whose deceptions and obfuscation about the causes generated this crisis.

Coral Arks, Climate Strategy: Saving coral reefs in the short and long term

– Tom Goreau

Coral Arks, Climate Strategy: Saving coral reefs in the short and long term


May 7 2017. The Global Coral Reef Alliance / Soil Carbon Alliance urgently seeks funding during 2017 to support leadership in Geotherapy: global ecosystem regenerative development to reverse climate change, and for the Biorock Electric Reef Coral Ark Program with Indigenous Peoples (below).


Coral reefs are the most sensitive ecosystem to global warming and will be the first to become functionally extinct due to excess atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, imminently threatening the major marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shoreline resources of over 100 countries. The threat was fully understood by 1990, but was deliberately ignored for nearly 30 years by governments unwilling to solve the global climate change problem. As the result the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a death sentence for coral reefs. Restoration of lost reefs is a life and death matter for the Small Island Developing States, and especially the atoll nations.
Massive coral mortality from heat shock took place across the globe in 2015 and 2016, record hot years, at precisely the temperatures forecast nearly 30 years ago by the Goreau-Hayes satellite sea surface temperature HotSpot method. 2017 will probably be even hotter, and many of the few Great Barrier Reef corals that survived the severe 2016 bleaching have bleached and died unusually early in 2017. Many new more regions will bleach this year as the equatorial and northern regions warm up. Since hotter years will certainly follow, we now have only a few years left to protect the last of the most critically threatened natural resource of the ocean.
Even if all fossil fuel use stops today, we will still face millions of years of high temperature, sea level, and CO2, continuing long after IPCC’s model projection time horizons of 50 or 100 years, condemning future generations to extinction of coral reefs and flooding of low lying coasts where billions of people live, unless CO2 is urgently reduced to preindustrial levels.
Biorock Coral Arks are the only way known to save corals from high temperature stress during the interim period until regenerative development strategies can reverse CO2 increase. During 2016 almost all the corals on Biorock Coral Arks in Indonesia survived the bleaching mortality of more than 95% of corals on nearby reefs, and they grew back a severely eroded beach naturally in just months. Indonesian fishing villages with Biorock reef projects have not only restored their fisheries, they have been transformed from the poorest villages on their island to some of the most prosperous, because so many tourists come from all over the world to swim over their spectacular Biorock corals and fish.

An immediate crash program is needed NOW to restore our damaged reefs using methods that 1) greatly increase coral growth rates, and 2) greatly increase coral survival from high temperature stress, and 3) work directly with coral reef communities. Biorock technology is the only method that does so, and can be powered on any scale by developing our vast but untapped clean and sustainable wave, wind, solar, and ocean current energy. Biorock methods greatly increase coral settlement, increase coral growth rates 2-6 times, prevent coral death after bleaching from heat shock, speed up coral recovery, and result in much higher survival, up to 50 times higher (5,000%) in the worst cases.
All marine organisms and ecosystems, not only corals, benefit from Biorock electric fields because they directly stimulate natural biochemical energy production. Biorock reefs greatly increase fish populations, create new sustainable mariculture opportunities, and build growing, self-repairing reefs of any size or shape that turn severely eroding low island beaches into growing ones naturally in just months, allowing them to grow despite global sea level rise. All other methods of coral reef restoration and shore protection will eventually fail catastrophically under global warming and global sea level rise.
In order to prevent catastrophic loss of fisheries, shore protection, tourism, and biodiversity in the coming years a massive program of coral reef restoration is needed in all the coral reef countries, and especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Biorock Coral Arks are our last hope to maintain coral reef ecosystem services until global warming is reversed. There is no time to waste: failure means condemning around a billion people to become climate refugees.This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to

This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS, without any help at all from the rich countries or funding agencies. This is a long-term task, and only those really committed to long-term restoration of their immediate environment can do so. Only local people are seriously dedicated to restoring their own fisheries, shorelines, and natural resources over the generations that will be needed until global warming can be brought under control. To be truly effective, all funding should be put directly into community- based environmental management initiatives supporting local efforts to restore and manage the resources they have lost, not to foreign or even national institutions, who will waste the money on bureaucracies, foreign consultants, and big international NGOs (BINGOs).

They should specifically NOT be under the control of those programs funded and controlled by the rich countries, which have spent 40 years systematically denying the massive declines of reefs that were already long known in the SIDS, denying their clearly proven linkages to global warming, and actively preventing any effective action to restore coral reefs with fiction about “resilience”. These groups are now attempting to control all reef funding, and if they succeed they will waste all the money by repeating their past failures.

GCRA Community-managed Coral Ark projects will be designed and built working directly with indigenous fishing communities who have already shown they want to act to restore their marine resources, and whose trust we have won through years, decades, or generations working with them on their coral reefs. These sites will be used to train other community-based environmental management groups who want to restore their coral reefs, fisheries, and beaches in their regions. Our first priorities are:

Jamaica is where coral reef diving research first began and where the decline of coral reefs, and all their causes, were first documented and understood. Jamaica is also where Biorock electric coral reef restoration was invented by GCRA researchers Wolf Hilbertz and TG 30 years ago, but unfortunately there have been no Biorock projects in Jamaica for 25 years. We have worked closely with Jamaican fishermen documenting changes on the reefs for 65 year., TG, a native speaker of Jamaican patois, wrote the integrated whole watershed and coastal zone management plans for both ends of Jamaica. We will focus on coral reef and fisheries restoration in Westmoreland, where the fishermen still remember the amazing coral growth and fish and lobster populations attracted to solar powered Biorock reefs we built with them 25 years ago. The former reef is now a barren wasteland, and the locals want to restore their collapsed reefs and fisheries.

The Guna Indians of Panama are lobster divers who live on 50 low islands, a quarter of which they are now abandoning due to erosion caused by global sea level rise. They are already global warming refugees! Our work there focuses on restoring coral reef growth to restore the lobster and fish populations, and growing Biorock shore protection reefs to save their islands from erosion and grow new islands. The Guna are a remarkable traditional culture that never lost their independence, have preserved all their cultural and political institutions, yet greatly value education and modern knowledge. Although TG is of Ngobe Indian descent (the largest and poorest indigenous community in Panama), his family have worked closely with the Gunas for generations, and he has complete authorization by the Guna Government to do environmental restoration projects there, something no other outsider has. The local will is there, but funding is nonexistent for independent Indigenous communities.

The Comca’ac (Seri) Indians of the Sea of Cortes are the smallest and most remarkable Indigenous culture of Mexico. They survived for hundreds of years in barren desert islands by diving for seafood, in particular, several unusual endemic species now on the verge of extinction. TG dived with them to understand the growth conditions of their unique biological resources and is working with them to develop their remarkable tidal energy resources to produce electricity, fresh water, Biorock building materials that consume CO2 from the atmosphere, and much more productive Biorock mariculture of their threatened native species.

Indonesia has the world’s largest, richest, and most biodiverse coral reefs, yet around 95% have been badly damaged. Our Indonesian team has built around 300 Biorock coral reef restoration projects in many islands of Indonesia, including Bali, Lombok, Flores, Sulawesi, Sumbawa, Java, and Ambon. These have created prosperous ecotourism communities, restored fisheries, preserved coral reefs from dying from global warming, grown back severely eroded beaches in months, and won many international environmental awards, including the United Nations Equator Award for Community-Based Development and the Special UN Development Programme Special Award for Oceans and Coastal Management. The Biorock Indonesia team is developing plans for large Biorock mangrove restoration projects in areas destroyed for shrimp farms that will become Orang Utan habitat in Kalimantan (Borneo) as well as major mangrove peat carbon sinks, restoring areas damaged by mining in Sulawesi and Halmahera, and restoring eroded beaches in Raja Ampat, West Papua. We have trained hundreds of Indonesian students in the new restoration methods, but there is no funding for them to help the fishing communities all across this nation of 17,000 islands and 250 million people that are asking for training to also re-grow their reefs, fisheries, and shorelines as the first communities we trained have done.

In Vanuatu, TG trained a fishing community to build a dozen Biorock reefs to restore their own coral reefs, which were dynamited, dredged, turned into an airstrip by the US military in 1943, and never recovered. Fishing villages all around Vanuatu, concerned about their reefs, have tried all other methods of coral reef restoration, and found that they all failed. Now, having seen the results of the Biorock pilot projects, they all want training too to develop their own community reef fisheries mariculture projects. Their eagerness to learn methods to be more productive and less destructive is incredible, and we are delighted to help them!

TG’s family has worked with local Aboriginal communities to document the health of their corals on the Great Barrier Reef for generations, and have photos of the same reefs from 1927, 1950, 1967, and 1998. We need to repeat these photos and videos again, now that most of the corals have died from global warming in 2017, exactly as we had predicted would happen. We will work directly with the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Daintree Forest, owners of Low Isle, where we stayed and photographed each time, to restore their dead coral reefs and establish their Sea Rights to all of their territory, underwater as well as above. TG is a hereditary member the Dhuwa Yolngu Aboriginals of Arnhem Land, the oldest culture in Australia, which has preserved knowledge of all the places they lived in the last 50,000 years, including those drowned by the sea after the last Ice Age.


GCRA is helping The Commonwealth Secretariat (CS), 52 countries with 2.5 billion people, a third of the Earth’s population, develop a strategy of Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change, for presentation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December. This aims to stabilize CO2 at pre-industrial levels in decades, to prevent runaway climate change impacts. Our Geotherapy book and recent FAO papers on factors controlling rates of regenerative drawdown and long-term storage of CO2 in soils provide the scientific basis of the strategy. We have also developed superior Biorock electric restoration methods for mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes, whose peat soils are the most cost-effective carbon sinks on the planet.
There won’t be any operational funding for strategy development or implementation until after approval by the Commonwealth Secretariat in June, and UNFCCC in December, but the CS has asked TG to advise them on marine issues and present the scientific foundations of the strategy to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon in March 2017 in Rome, the Society for Ecological Restoration Conference in Brazil in August, and at UNFCCC.
It will also be very important to make other such strategically critical presentations where needed to help support the strategy development in the coming months, especially with the majority of the Commonwealth nations, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific, Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. GCRA has worked directly on coral reef issues in almost every single SIDS in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, and has close contacts with may SIDS environmental groups and governments, starting with Jamaica, where GCRA originated. GCRA is therefore extremely familiar with the local environmental management problems and can identify the specific locations that would most benefit from regenerative development strategies in each of these countries.


GCRA, and its partner, the Soil Carbon Alliance, seek funding to complete three documentary films, and books, of critical importance to climate strategies:
DIRT RICH by Marcelina Cravat, Passelande Films, Berkeley. Shows how soil carbon is being increased by many methods around the world, and how it can reverse global climate change. Filming is already complete, and funding is needed for final editing and production phases, including soundtrack, narrators, promotion, etc. We have previously collaborated on ANGEL AZUL, about underwater art, tourism, coral reefs, dolphins, algae, and sewage in Cancun.
CORAL GHOSTS by Andrew Nisker, Take Action Films, Toronto. The history of coral reefs, the most climatically threatened ecosystem, from life to death, and hopefully to regeneration. Funding is needed for filming at critical sites around the world, in the Great Barrier Reef, Jamaica, Bahamas, Indonesia, Micronesia, Panama, the Red Sea, and others to compare with our underwater photograph collection, the world’s largest and oldest, in order to understand the causes of the changes at each reef, and show how to reverse them. We will focus on training local Indigenous fishing communities to restore their coral reefs and fisheries, especially the Kuku Yulanji Aboriginals of the Great Barrier Reef. We have previously collaborated on GROUND WARS, in production for The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, on health and environmental impacts of golf course chemicals on coral reef and human health.

SCIENCES OF LIFE, TECHNOLOGIES OF DEATH: THE 1970 MIT STUDENT STRIKE AGAINST WEAPONS RESEARCH AND THE MOVEMENT FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN SCIENCE by Tom Goreau & Videosphere, Cambridge, MA. MIT students in 1970 went on strike specifically over the issue of weapons research on campus, at a time when all other campuses were focused on the Viet Nam War. MIT succeeded in stifling debate on the issue by expelling the student leaders, but the undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty, and administration led the formation of many organizations focused on the social responsibility of science and engineering. The moral issues raised nearly 50 years ago are just as relevant today in the era of mass bombing and global warming, but have been effectively ignored since 1970. The various points of view of the many participants from all sides are being explored by interviews with the surviving leaders of the 1970 events on all sides.

GCRA/SCA is a global non-profit network of volunteers working with essentially no funding on direct action projects with local communities to protect and manage coral reefs, and all other ecosystems, all around the globe. For more than 25 years GCRA has provided cutting edge research on community-based ecosystem restoration and management in developing countries and indigenous communities, the impacts of global climate change on ecosystems, and helped invent important new technologies to reverse them and regenerate the ecosystem services providing our planetary life support systems, founded on restoration of natural biogeochemical recycling processes.

GCRA activities in 2016 are briefly summarized in:

GCRA planned programs for 2017 are briefly outlined in:

GCRA projects with Indigenous Peoples are summarized in:

For more information contact Thomas J. Goreau, PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance, at

New York City drain project approved that will severely damage ten year old Biorock salt marsh, mussel, and oyster restoration projects that could save the City billions of dollars in climate change adaptation costs.

DEC Approves MacNeil Park Outfall Pipe

Staff Writer : Queens Tribune

A proposed city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) storm water outfall pipe on the northern shoreline of College Point’s MacNeil Park has been granted a permit by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), despite the months-long outcry by local environmentalists.

The pipe would empty out near DEC-protected wetlands that are currently being restored and preserved by the College Point-based conservation group the Coastal Preservation Network (CPN). CPN has been restoring the sea marsh at the site for years, growing an ecosystem of oysters, mussels and shoreline grasses that the group argues helps reduce shoreline erosion caused by increasing sea levels. In October, the group led a protest, claiming that pollutants found in the stormwater flowing from the pipe could kill the carefully preserved marine life.

But the DEC disagreed after responding to 222 public comments. The permit was effective as of April 13.

“DEC carefully analyzed the substance of the city’s application, application materials and plans for the outfall; conducted multiple site visits to inspect the project area; and reviewed the responses shared during the public-comment period for this project—and found no potential for significant adverse impact to wetland habitat, oysters or water quality would result,” said DEC spokeswoman Erica Ringewald.

The pipe is part of a $132 million infrastructure project to reduce sewer drainage into Flushing Bay. Currently, three combined sewer outfalls in different locations overflow into the bay during heavy storms, releasing untreated sewage and rainwater. The new pipe, which would allow for the decommissioning of the three combined outfalls, would emit only stormwater—not sewage—creating less pollution in the bay overall.

But while CPN president and marine biologist James Cervino approved of the reduced sewage, he argued that the stormwater would still carry pollutants that would fall directly into the sensitive ecosystem.

“It’s not pretty little rainwater that comes off people’s drains,” Cervino said. “It goes into the street. There are oil slicks in the street; there’s animal feces in the street; there’s salt, de-icing chemicals on the street.”

In its response to public comments, the DEC acknowledged that the stormwater has some pollutants, but added that those pollutants are already being discharged at the site and that the water would be generally cleaner than water emitted from the combined outfalls.

But as the Queens Tribune reported in March, Cervino’s own tests of water near clogged storm sewers in College Point found levels of lead and zinc that exceeded regulatory levels. This is a sign, he argued, that the water entering the pipes may not be as harmless to the habitat as the agencies let on. He argued that the public comments were made by specialists in marine immunology who know the risks of such pollutants firsthand, and feared that no such specialists were consulted by the DEP.

Among the public comments was one from Dr. Thomas Goreau, who has worked on the project with Cervino, serves as president of the Global Coral Reef Alliance and was an advisor to the United Nations.

In an interview with the Queens Tribune, Goreau explained that the project was the “most successful that’s ever been done of its kind” since it pioneered a new method using solar panels to speed up the growth of oysters, salt marsh and mussels. Since those habitats can slow erosion, Goreau argued that the technique could provide an alternative to sea walls and other costly artificial structures for protecting shorelines from global sea rise. He said that the pipe would destroy his group’s work.

“I don’t know how they plan to absorb the toxic levels, illegal levels, of pollutants that are going to be in storm runoff, even if no sewage goes into it,” Goreau said.

The DEC told the Queens Tribune that “trained biologists” from the Division of Marine Resources and Marine Habitat Protection carefully reviewed the application and conducted site visits. The agency also added that the plan includes a splash pad—which serves to prevent erosion caused by the outflow of water—and 8,607 square feet of new sea grasses extending west of the new pipe, although Cervino and Goreau both said that pollutants could threaten the sea grasses already at the site.

Both Cervino and Goreau had also suggested that the outfall pipe be extended a few 100 feet farther out, so that the stormwater runoff doesn’t fall directly onto the habitat. In response to these comments, the DEC argued that installing the extended pipe would cause more extensive damage.

“But they’d avoid all the long-term damage that’s going to happen from destroying the environment right at the coastline,” Goreau countered.

In a statement, Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said that he was unhappy that the DEC had not agreed to extend the pipe.

“While we appreciate the closing of the combined sewer overflow, which will increase the quality of the water in the area, the situation could have been further improved by including any of the pretty basic concessions that were ignored,” Vallone said.
On Monday, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that he was also disappointed, but understood the situation.

“I trust DEC,” Avella said. “I spoke to the commissioner several times about it and he assured me they did a careful review of the application and permit.”

Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, or @farrellj329.

NYCDEP about to destroy historic 10 year NYSDEC salt marsh, oyster, and mussel restoration at McNeil Park, College Point, Queens

March 31 2017,
To: NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos State Senator Tony Avella

New York City Department of Environmental Protection is racing ahead with irresponsible plans to destroy the most successful oyster, mussel, and salt marsh restoration project ever done in New York City, or anywhere else.

These projects, approved by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, have for 10 years pioneered new methods for restoring these valuable ecosystems, providing habitat for birds, fish, and shellfish, protecting shores from erosion, and improving coastal water quality, which could save the City billions of dollars in adapting to and mitigating global warming and global sea level rise (please see current photos attached).

The MacNeil Park projects have shown for the first time how to restore vibrant marine ecosystems to barren shores where everything had died from toxic waste dumping at the site for more than 50 years. They not only restored life to a wasteland, but showed for the first time how to grow these organisms under extreme stress conditions that they normally could not survive. Our team is now expanding the project to fill in all the gaps.

10 years of work will be destroyed if DEP puts the storm drain where they intend. This will not only flush water shown by chemical analysis to have illegally high concentrations of toxic lead, copper, zinc, hydrocarbons, and untreated sewage, but the water flow will wash away the beach sediment and cause severe local coastal erosion at a site that is a designated public recreational area and entry way for kayaks.

Using the Biorock restoration method, we had 100% survival of oysters during the winter when 93% of control oysters died. The few surviving control oysters stopped growing in winter, and their shells were chalky, crumbly, and dissolving due to cold acidic water, but Biorock oysters grew all winter, and their shells were bright and shiny with no dissolution.

The Biorock restoration method has grown salt marsh lower in the intertidal zone than salt marsh grass can tolerate, it grows taller, faster, greener, and spreads faster than controls, grows back in larger spreading patches after every winter when controls die, and has prolific root growth and mussel populations which bind sediment and prevent erosion by waves.

The mussel growth has been so extraordinary that in a few years we have raised the height of the beach where we are growing them by up to a foot, much faster than the rate of global sea level rise, about an eighth of an inch a year. Therefore, we are able to grow beaches upwards at places where they are now washing away from erosion.

Oysters have spontaneously settled near our projects, but not away from them, showing that oyster settlement is increased by the Biorock process. These oysters have shown exceptionally high growth and survival.

These incredible results show for the first time that it is possible to extend salt marshes seaward to protect coasts from erosion. All salt marshes in the US are rapidly eroding and collapsing into the sea due to global sea level rise and increased storm wave strength caused by global warming. Jamaica Bay is the worst example of this. The methods pioneered at the McNeil Park project could save Jamaica Bay salt marshes, and help protect Kennedy Airport from flooding by the sea and storm surges (remember Sandy!).

This destruction of a historic restoration project is entirely un-necessary! There is an existing storm drain at the site that runs out past the project to the low tide mark, built long ago to prevent contaminated water washing directly onto the beach. But instead of using it or upgrading it, DEP plans to dump polluted water directly at the shoreline high tide mark, and flush away 10 years of extraordinarily successful work with polluted water!

The bulldozers are right at the edge of the project, ready to move into action unless DEC can get them to responsibly act to save New York City’s precious green shorelines! We urgently appeal for your help to save the projects that will make New York the leader in natural shore protection.

Sincerely yours,
Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Follow up to September 14th 2016 letter:
Please Stop College Point storm drain killing world’s most important salt marsh and oyster restoration projects

McNeil Park is an important recreational area in Queens, that is now a pioneering environmental restoration and public education site. All photos were taken on March 29 and March 30 2017
Wildlife is now returning to a devastated area because of the restoration projects. These Green Shoreline ecosystems provide the best and cheapest protection of the coast against erosion and storm surges
The proposed discharge point for water polluted with unacceptable levels of lead, zinc, copper, and hydrocarbons, will also dump untreated sewage at the shore line onto the beach during storm events. right onto the public kayak entry area.
DEP has dumped pipes to flush contaminated water onto the beach right next to the restoration project signs (left), even though DEC has apparently not approved the drain project. So DEP cannot be unaware of the restoration projects!
This rock near the projects has about a dozen oysters growing on it, as well as many barnacles
This rock near the project has had around 20 oysters settle, grow, and survive on it. Such density of oysters is not found away from the projects
Mussel populations have dramatically expanded in recent years in the project area, and now cover the bottom in many places. They rapidly filter the water and clean it.
We are growing salt marsh lower in the water than it can normally grow, and the dense roots hold back the beach sediment and prevent it being washed away during storm waves. New leaves are now starting to spring up, and in a month there will be bright green salt marsh grass all over the area, unless it is killed by polluted storm runoff
The dense mussel and salt marsh growth has raised the height of the bottom by up to a foot in a few years
The salt marsh and mussels we have restored have raised the beach level by holding sand in place. Where they don’t grow, the sand and mud are washing away. Our goal is to fill the gaps and cover the entire area with growing habitat and fill in the spaces in between the clumps we have grown. The storm drain will flush polluted water right on top of the project, kill them, and wash away the sand. Eventually the sea wall will collapse because of erosion. Green shores are the cheapest and best protection
An old storm drain runs all the way from the shore right at the site of the new DEP storm drain. The new drain should do the same
The old drain goes all the way out into deep water past the low tide mark in order to avoid polluting the shore. Incredibly, DEP does not plan to do the same with the new drain, so they will destroy the habitat!

Dolphin Enclosures and Algae Distributions at Chankanaab, Cozumel: Observations and Recommendations

Dolphin Enclosures and Algae Distributions at Chankanaab, Cozumel: Observations and Recommendations

Thomas J. Goreau, Ph.D. President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

Reposted from: June 6 2003

NOTE: Videos showing the conditions around the site at the time of this study, and at other similar locations, can be seen in the accompanying video:

Tourism, Water Quality, and Coral Reefs


Even though Cozumel has been a major diving destination since the late 1960s, there have been few long-term studies of change in Cozumel reefs, as regular monitoring by the Cozumel Marine Park only began in recent years. Algae overgrowth that kills corals has been an increasingly severe problem around the Caribbean for several decades, but has not been reported to be a major problem in Cozumel until recently.
In 1968, soon after the first dive shop, Aqua Safari, opened in Cozumel, a set of underwater photographs of Cozumel reefs were taken by the late Robert Harper. In 1999, his widow, Katherine Harper donated them to the Global Coral Reef Alliance. Soon afterwards, Harper’s photographs of these sites, primarily from Paraiso and Palancar Reefs, were shown to groups of the oldest divers on the island, including those shown in the original photographs. They were able to identify all the sites precisely and to recognize many of the individual sponges, gorgonians, and corals shown in the photos as still surviving. These sites were recorded in digital video film by Thomas J. Goreau, in cooperation with Aqua Safari and the Cozumel Marine Park, along with sites at Colombia Reef and Micro Atolones, to develop a permanent record of long term change. Later, Dr. Goreau examined even older underwater photographs from Cozumel taken by the late Ramon Bravo, with the help of Maria Bravo.
Comparison of the 2000 videos with the 1968 and older photographs indicated that although the reefs of Cozumel had changed less than any other sites known in the Caribbean, clear changes were nevertheless obvious. The most dramatic change was a clear increase in the abundance of sponges and a decline in corals. While most of the corals appeared to be very healthy, and showed low signs of disease overall, many were being over-grown, under-grown, or bored by sponges. This change is likely to be due to relative changes in the food supply of sponges with regard to corals. While corals rely on capturing zooplankton for their food, and on the photosynthesis of their symbiotic algae, sponges are extremely specialized filter feeders that eat bacteria, as shown by the work of Henry Reiswig in Jamaica around 1970. The dramatic increase of sponges in Cozumel, which has also been noted by the author in Jamaica, is therefore most likely due to increased concentrations of bacteria in the water. While in Jamaica the kinds of sponges on the reef have dramatically changed, in Cozumel the main change appears to be in increased abundance rather than different kinds of sponges. In Jamaica, ocean currents are slow and land runoff is high, so the source of bacteria feeding sponges is probably related to increasing coastal pollution. In contrast, Cozumel sponges and corals grow in very rapidly flowing open Caribbean waters with little surface runoff. The increase of sponges therefore suggests that large-scale, long-term changes in open water food chains has taken place in open Caribbean waters, leading to increases in bacterial food supplies for sponges. This hypothesis needs to be checked by direct studies of the bacteria, zooplankton, and nutrient availability in the waters flowing past Cozumel.
Although algae cover in 2000 was still very low in comparison with other sites in Quintana Roo (Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Contoy, Puerto Morelos, and Banco Chinchorro) and other areas of the western Caribbean (such as Jamaica, Belize, Cuba, Florida, and Panama) fleshy algae had distinctly increased since the late 1960s. Very high levels of fleshy algae, that had overgrown and killed large amounts of large corals in shallow water, were found at only two sites, Colombia and Micro Atolones. The high algae levels at Colombia appeared to be localized in areas near the entrance to the Colombia Lagoon, and are thought to be due to elevated nutrient outflows from the lagoon probably caused by septic tank drainage into the lagoon from increasing development around it. In contrast, large dead corals overgrown by fleshy algae at Micro Atolones could not be ascribed to local nutrient sources. This area faces the open Caribbean, has no local population along the shore or water inputs from lagoons, and is subject to minor fishing effort due to its high wave exposure.
This unusual pattern was also found at Banco Chinchorro, where the reefs along the protected and heavily fished western side, which faces populated mainland coasts, were coral dominated, while the eastern side of the atoll was almost completely dominated by fleshy algae. This suggests a remote nutrient source from the open Caribbean water. It was proposed that the most likely source was the massive erosion of soil and nutrients from Honduras following Hurricane Mitch, which caused catastrophic flooding and severe erosion of deforested mountain soils. Runoff from Honduras heads east in coastal currents, but then turns westward at Cabo Gracias a Dios when it encounters the main Caribbean currents, and heads directly towards Quintana Roo. If this hypothesis is correct, long distance sources of nutrients, not local ones, may have caused the algae overgrowth of corals in eastern Cozumel and Banco Chinchorro, as well as the outer reefs of Belize, which have also become algae dominated in recent years (McClanahan, personal communication). Nutrient measurements in these water masses are needed to confirm this hypothesis.
In 2002, new problems were noticed in Cozumel by local divers and by the Marine Park staff. These included a dramatic increase in algae near Chancanaab, apparently after the new dolphin and sea lion enclosures had been established as tourist attractions, and the apparent “bleaching” and mortality of around 90% of the hard corals at reefs near Colombia Lagoon.
On May 14 2003 the author worked with Jose Juan Dominguez Calderon to view the Cozumel Marine Park’s photographic archive of “bleached” corals and algae, and a rapid survey was made of areas where algae problems were reported.


Algal species abundances were examined in the lagoon at Chancanaab, along the coast both north and south of the dolphin enclosures, and all around the enclosures.
The lagoon (cenote) had clear water with low turbidity and phytoplankton, and while most of the bottom was clearly visible, there were large mats of algae visible in some shallow well-illuminated areas. These algae were of marine species, largely composed of Chaetomorpha linum and Hypnea sp. (probably H. valentiae). The first species is an indicator of high phosphorus, and the second of high nitrogen. However, both species were senescent and dying back at the time they were observed based on their color and form. When they are growing fast in response to high nutrients the former is dark green and the latter is dark red. But when observed the first was pale yellowish green and the latter pale reddish brown. At the time they were observed it was late in the dry season. It is likely that these algae had grown rapidly in response to nutrients in the freshwater layer during the previous rainy season, and were dying back, but they could grow very rapidly again if nutrients are added in fresh water during the next rainy season. While there did not appear to be significant nutrient inputs to the cenote or the adjacent seawater from the overlying freshwater lens of the island at the time of these observations, this is likely to have a strong seasonal variation.
The area south of the dolphin cages showed high abundance of algae indicative of high nutrients. These increased steadily from the southern edge of the park towards the dolphin cages. By far the most abundant algae were large gelatinous clumps of the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) Lyngbya penicilliformis. These were especially common covering the rock ledges as deep as 7-8 meters, perhaps because they are likely to be washed away by wave action in shallower water. Corals were being overgrown by Lyngbya, and there were large numbers of dead gorgonians overgrown by Lyngbya. High densities of cyanobacteria are indicative of excessive pollution, in particular of phosphorus, and are common near sewage inputs. Macro-algae that were common included species indicative of moderate or high nutrients like Hypnea musciformis, Enteromorpha flexuosa, Bryothamnion triquetrum, and Ulva fasciata. On deeper sand areas the algae were more typical of lower nutrients, primarily Halimeda, Udotea, and Penicillus species.
The area to the north of the dolphin cages had a dramatically different algae population. Lyngbya was rare, and most corals and gorgonians had little algae overgrowth. The dominant macroalgae were species indicative of moderate or low nutrients, primarily Dictyota pinnatifida, Laurencia poiteaui, Halimeda sp., Udotea sp,. and Penicillus sp.
The fencing material that made up the outer and inner parts of the dolphin cages were completely covered with thick mats of Lyngbya on the southern side, and along the western side except for the very northern end, where it was notably less thick. The northern side of the cages had much lower abundance of Lyngbya. Lyngbya mats were dislodged to see which way they were transported by the currents. On the northern side of the dolphin cages they moved slowly into the cages, from north to south. On the southern edge they moved in the same direction, that is away from the cages. On the western side they moved parallel to the cages. This shows that although there is a very strong south to north current offshore, the inshore areas have a weak countercurrent moving in the opposite direction, from north to south. This is supported by observations of water turbidity. Water turbidity south of the cages steadily increased from south to north and was highest next to the cages. In contrast the water to the north of the cages was much clearer. Large schools of fish were observed congregating around the southern side of the cages, but not on the north, presumably reflecting available food supplies being carried by the currents out of the dolphin cages.


The types of algae found and their spatial distributions, in conjunction with the turbidity and the movement of the water, suggest that there are excessive nutrients, especially phosphorus, that are coming directly from the dolphin cages. These are likely to be due to a mixture of dolphin excrement and the rotting of uneaten food (frozen fish). Excess nutrients carried by the currents from the dolphin cages appears to be causing serious coral reef overgrowth by weedy algae (eutrophication), especially by cyanobacteria, in the reefs to the south of the Chancanaab dolphin cages. Although this decreased southward, it extended as far as observations were carried out (the point at the edge of the park), and the southern limit of its effects were not determined.
During the dry season there appeared to be little nutrient input to the coastal zone from the freshwater lens of the aquifer. But such inputs could be significant during the rainy season, especially wherever the aquifer is polluted from septic tank overflows.
The “bleached” corals in Cozumel in 2002 were in fact not bleached but killed by White Plague disease. This bacterial disease is rapidly spreading across the Caribbean, and is of great concern because it kills more species of corals, at a much faster rate, than any other coral disease. Outbreaks tend to be localized and most intense in the warmest times of year. The fact that this outbreak was limited to a small area that had unusually high water temperatures, according to the surveys made by the Cozumel Marine Park, fits this pattern. The epidemic appears to have ended, but killed about 90% of the corals in the affected area, according to Jose Juan Dominguez Calderon. Continued monitoring of diseases and water quality is needed to understand the impact of such diseases, but few management recommendations can be made at this time.


The dolphin cages appear to be a point source of nutrients that are damaging the coral reefs to the south, based on the species of algae, their abundances and distributions, the turbidity of the water, the water movement patterns, and the fish distributions. This should be confirmed by direct measurements of nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate) in the cages, and in north-south transects north of the cages and south of them. Chlorophyll measurements would indicate if phytoplankton growth is being stimulated, as well as bottom-living algae. Oxygen measurements would indicate if decomposition is depleting oxygen in the water. The patterns of nutrients from land offshore should also be measured, especially during the rainy season, to determine if land-based sources of nutrients are also contributing. Nutrients should also be measured on the eastern side of Cozumel to determine if the algae overgrowing corals at Micro Atolones result from transport from long distance nutrient sources. The distribution of algae in west Cozumel reefs indicates that nutrient sources are limited to the vicinity of local point sources. Systematic water quality studies should be carried out at different seasons of the year to identify all point sources of nutrients, and the backgrounds of nutrients from groundwater and from ocean currents should be determined. These data should be used to devise management strategies to reduce nutrient inputs to the reef and prevent the sort of severe eutrophication that now is typical of most western Caribbean coral reefs. Such steps are important to maintain Cozumel’s reputation as a superior quality diving destination.
The most cost-effective way of making such measurements would be to use portable, real-time, continuous monitoring devices (see appendix). One instrument is needed to measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, turbidity, and possibly hydrocarbons. A second instrument is needed to make instantaneous measurements of ammonium, nitrate, and phosphorus nutrients on extremely small samples. These instruments, which would cost approximately around $20,000, would allow each source of nutrients to be determined all along the coastline, using small boats. Nutrient pollution could be tracked directly to the sources (such as sewage pipes, lagoons, and cruise ship dumping) and the instruments could be used to determine if management measures to reduce sources are having the desired effects. Such instruments could be used to rapidly measure all major water quality parameters along the entire western coast of Cozumel in a few hours. They would be very cost effective if they were shared between the Cozumel Marine Park, the Isla Mujeres Cancun Marine Park, the Contoy Marine Park, the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and the Puerto Morelos Marine Park on a rotating basis. Such instruments would allow the Parks to rapidly monitor the water quality along the entire coast and determine the effectiveness of control strategies for the first time, revolutionizing the practice of coastal zone management.
These observations indicate that dolphin enclosures, which are increasingly common in tropical tourist areas, are a significant local source of nutrient pollution and ecological damage to coral reefs. There appear to be only two ways of reducing their impact. The first is to close them down. The second is to enclose them with solid walls to prevent nutrients escaping into the coastal zone. Fresh seawater could be pumped into them, but the effluents should not be permitted to flow back into the sea until they have been treated to remove the nutrients. This could be accomplished by pumping the effluent into large shallow tanks or flow-through raceways, exposed to full sunlight, in which marine algae are grown at high densities to take up the nutrients. To prevent the nutrients entering the coastal zone these algae could be used on land. Composted algae make an excellent source of nutrient rich fertilizer for agriculture or ornamental plants once the sea salts have been leached out by rainfall on concrete platforms. Recycling the nutrients on land would have many environmental benefits, including preventing pollution and damage to coral reefs, eliminating the need to import costly fertilizers, and greatly improving the organic material, nutrients, and water holding capacity in poor soils such as those found on Cozumel.
The cenote should be monitored for increases in algae (and nutrients) during the rainy season. This would indicate if there are significant inputs of nutrients to the sea from freshwater flow from the Cozumel aquifer. This would be highest in areas where septic tanks leach into the aquifer.


The author thanks Maria Bravo of Isla Mujeres for first bringing this problem to his attention; Jose Juan Dominguez Calderon, Subdirector of the Cozumel National Park, for showing photographs and discussing field observations; Robert Cudney Bueno, Director of the Cozumel National Park, and Elvira Carvajal, previous Director of the Cozumel National Park for detailed discussions and encouragement; Ignacio Cureno Munoz, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Hernandez, and the staff of the Fundacion de Parques y Museos de Cozumel for discussions and help viewing the site and other locations on Cozumel; Bill Horn and the entire staff of Aqua Safari for discussions and help diving around Cozumel to examine long term reef change; Jens Ambsdorf of the Lighthouse Foundation of Hamburg Germany, and Rudolf Bittorf, Honorary Consul of Germany in Cancun, for assistance getting to Cozumel and suggestions. I also thank Prof. Robert K. Trench who first encouraged me to look at environmental problems in Cozumel, Roberto Iglesias Prieto of UNAM in Puerto Morelos for discussions, and Katherine Harper for donating the old photographs of Cozumel reefs taken by her late husband Robert Harper. I also thank Gerardo Garcia for the invitation to work in Quintana Roo, and the entire staffs of the Cozumel Marine Park, Parque Marino Isla Mujeres Cancun, Banco Chinchorro Marine Biosphere Reserve, the Contoy MarinePark, and the Universidad Nacional Autonomo de Mexico Marine Lab at Puerto Morelos for assistance in the field. This project would not have been possible without all their help.


The appendix below regarding instrumentation for a portable water quality monitoring facility was written more than three years ago. It needs updating regarding the latest instruments and costs.

May 14 2000 (updated June 4 2003)

To: Franciso Ursua, Parque Nacional Isla Mujeres-Cancun
Tomas Camarena, Parque Nacional Banco Chinchorro
Elvira Carvajal, Parque Nacional Cozumel
Parque Nacional Contoy
Reserva Biologico Sian Ka’an

From: Thomas Joaquin Goreau Arango, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

A real-time portable system for analyzing nutrients (ammonium, nitrate, and phosphate) along with chlorophyll, oxygen, temperature, and salinity is proposed for regular monitoring of changes of all land and ocean based nutrients to the coastal zone of the Mexican Marine Parks and related waters. This system will consist of two instruments packaged into a portable waterproof case, which can be deployed from a small boat. With addition of a GPS system, the results can be used to map, in real time, water quality and pollution sources on GIS maps. This equipment would allow continuous recording T, S. O, and Chl, and nutrients to be analyzed within a few minutes at any chosen site. It could be used in a small boat to produce complete records along 10s of kilometers in a day all along the coastline, identifying every source of nutrients, whenever needed.
The instruments recommended for this are:
a) A YSI-MA Model 6600 Multi-parameter water quality monitor, measuring temperature, salinity, oxygen, and chlorophyll simultaneously. Uses C batteries or 12V DC. With 12-hour data collecting and logging capability downloadable to a laptop computer, this will cost around $9,000.
NOTE: Newer versions of this instrument now also allow simultaneous turbidity and hydrocarbon analysis, and the cost has come down.
b) A portable nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate analyzer using a pumped through 12 v DC system to analyze these nutrients in-situ in near real time, using flow injection analysis with fiber optics spectrophotometer with computer data-logging capability, from Constellation instruments, around $30,000. This system would fit in a weatherproof suitcase and be powered by 12 Volt batteries, and would contain the housing for the other instrument as well. The sensitivity to nutrient levels would be to oceanographic levels, i.e. less than 0.1 micromoles per liter. The nitrate analysis would use an enzymatic reduction method, eliminating the costly and failure prone copper-coated cadmium columns, which generated toxic wastes and were a major cost and lab problem to maintain in top condition. These instruments, which use miniature fibre-optics spectrophotometers use very small samples, but give the full analytical sensitivity needed, using amounts of chemical reagents that are hundreds to thousands of times smaller than used in conventional labs, while eliminating all sample storage and handing errors. They are therefore far more economical and accurate.
NOTE: There are now many more manufacturers of this sort of equipment, and the costs for a basic field instrument (without telemetry features needed only for long term remote deployment) have come down considerably since the above was written. I can look into current prices and capabilities if there is real interest.


10% of GDP for shore protection against global sea level rise? There’s a better and cheaper solution!

Dear Ruben Carlo Asuncion and Minsoo Lee,

Your excellent January 2017 Asian Development Bank Economics Working Paper Series No.507, Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Economic Growth in Developing Asia, in concluding that shore protection could use up 10% of the GDP of Developing Asian countries, makes the point that shore protection against global sea level rise may be the largest, and the most ignored, cost of runaway climate change.

I have argued this very point in vain for nearly 30 years, but yours is the first systematic discussion I have ever seen of the crippling economic costs of shore protection against global sea level rise!

More than 25 years ago I met with UNDP, GEF, and other international agencies to find out who was helping countries with shore protection against rising sea level, and discovered that NO agency took any programmatic responsibility for the problem, but all were incorrectly sure somebody else must be……..

As a result there is essentially no proactive planning, only disaster responses, asking for immediate aid after existing seawalls fall down and roads, trees, beaches, houses, hospitals, and airports fall into the sea, in order to throw more concrete and rocks into the water, which only postpones the repetition until the next extreme storm event.

When I searched on “shore protection” to find out what the world spends to keep the waves from washing their beaches away, every single hit I got was for “offshore asset protection”: I learned nothing about shore protection, but found long lists of all the money-laundering banks in the world.

Your seawall cost estimate of $6 million per meter height protected per kilometer is close to typical figures of $10-15 million dollars per kilometer for typical sea walls that are 2-3 meters high.

In my view, your long term cost estimates are too low, because they assume sea level will rise at the present rate, when in fact dramatic increases are inevitable if we don’t reverse CO2 increase soon, which can be done at low cost and with great benefits:

Regenerative Development To Reverse Climate Change: Quantity And Quality Of Soil Carbon Sequestration Control Rates Of CO2 And Climate Stabilization At Safe Levels

New Soil Carbon Alliance White Paper presents first calculations of how fast climate can be stabilized at safe levels

The problem with sea walls is 1) they don’t work, and 2) they cost many times more than alternatives that do!

Every single seawall built in an atoll country has collapsed, or soon will, many fell down before they finished building them.

All coastal engineers know that sea walls are inevitably doomed to collapse and repeated rebuilding, because they concentrate erosive forces that wash away all sand in front of them, and then under them, until they fall down, but they think they have no other option. Our methods work like coral reefs do, dissipating wave energy that passes through them without being reflected.

I have worked with local teams on coral reef, sea grass, mangrove, and beach restoration projects in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Viet Nam, and many Pacific Small Island Developing States, including the Marshall Islands, Palau, Vanuatu, Samoa, and Fiji.

Restoring these habitats works far better to protect shores at much lower cost than sea walls do, while providing vast additional economic benefits in ecosystem services like fisheries habitat and ecotourism.

In 2016 in Indonesia we had almost no coral mortality on our properly maintained projects while more than 95% of the corals in nearby reefs died from heat stroke, we grew back a severely eroded beach naturally in just a few months, and socioeconomic studies showed that these projects had turned the poorest villages on their islands into some of the most prosperous because of the huge number of people coming from all over the world to swim in beautiful corals and fishes.

Our methods work rapidly where all other restoration methods fail because only our method causes much higher settlement, growth, survival, and resistance to environmental stress of all forms of life. These results are because only our method directly enhances their natural biochemical energy generating mechanisms.

Adapting to sea level rise need not be as costly as your study indicates when the new state-of-the-art ecosystem restoration measures are considered as an alternative to hard shoreline protection.

The sooner that they are, the sooner we can move forward to much more effective solutions with lower costs and higher benefits.

Best wishes,

Thomas J. F. Goreau, PhD
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
President, Biorock Technology Inc.
Coordinator, Soil Carbon Alliance
Coordinator, United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Small Island Developing States Partnership in New Sustainable Technologies
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Skype: tomgoreau
Tel: (1) 617-864-4226

Coral bleaching prediction capacity may soon be destroyed by US Government, Great Barrier Reef bleaching imminent

For nearly 30 years we have been able to predict mass coral bleaching accurately with the Goreau-Hayes Satellite SST HotSpot method (Goreau, 1990 US Senate Hearings on Climate Change; Goreau et al., 1993; Goreau & Hayes, 1994). We have routinely predicted, and confirmed, bleaching events that have never been documented by the coral list or NOAA. There were many such bleaching events last year in places that were hotter for longer than the GBR, but dive shops are now routinely concealing bleaching as “bad for business”.

In one large area of the Pacific where bleaching was certain last year, only one single dive shop would admit it had happened, but did not send photos, not one of the other dive shops would respond to a request for confirmation if bleaching was happening.

The NOAA data base and the web site that documents the HotSpot data is still up, but this may simply be an accidental oversight, as all US Government sites documenting climate are being shut down because the data contradicts the politically-motivated lie that climate change is not happening!

It is very important that other countries take the data leadership role that the US regime is now destroying, because otherwise no-one will have warning when their corals are about to bleach or die.

We can only hope that the European Union, Japan, and China take up the responsibility of real time HotSpot mapping needed to provide alerts.

If there is no database documenting coral death from heat stroke, Governments will continue to falsely say that 2 degrees C further warming is “acceptable”, they will continue to sentence coral reef ecosystems to death, and billions of people living along low lying coasts to become desperate migrants, so many that no walls will be high enough.

Below is the latest Pacific HotSpot map. In case it is the very last one that we will ever see it is important to realize that a large area of the South Pacific from the Great Barrier Reef, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga is warming rapidly and now is at or just below bleaching thresholds, although of course it will take about a month at present conditions for it to be generally noticeable, sooner if it continues to warm up, as normal at the very start of the hot season.


The current rate of warming is greatest in the GBR, bleaching temperatures have been reached unusually early in the season, and the hot season in Australia has not even started yet!

Barring miraculous cooling, there may be little coral left in the GBR later this year.

Ray Hayes and I have always pointed out that it is extreme events that cause bleaching, not mean changes, and the model based predictions of bleaching, which are based on mean rates of change, which say that bleaching might be a problem in the GBR in another 50 years, have proven falsely optimistic yet again.

When lies trump truth, the new dark ages begin.

In Memoriam: Dr. Nora Goreau April 25 1921 – December 18 2016 – Mother of Coral Reef Science


nora goreau
In Memoriam: Dr. Nora Goreau; Mother of Coral Reef Science          April 25 1921 – December 18 2016

Dr. Nora Goreau died peacefully at 95 on December 18 2016 in Old Waterford, Vermont.

Nora Isabel Arango de Urriola was born in Panama City, Panama, the middle of 9
children from a distinguished Panamanian family related to national heroes of several Latin American countries.

Nora was top student at the University of Panama Law School when an unexpected scholarship offer came to study biology in the United States. She attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Iowa State University, De Paul University, and did doctoral research in neurophysiology at the University of Chicago, publishing her first paper in 1949 on Inhibition of Brain Dehydrogenases by Acetylcholinesterases. There she met and married Thomas F. Goreau, a visiting researcher who was simultaneously doing a PhD in Ecology at Yale University and a MD at University of Pennsylvania.

Soon after they moved to Jamaica, where Tom taught Physiology at the new
University of the West Indies Medical School, training a generation of doctors for a
region with very few. He was the first diving marine scientist in the world, the first
to study the zonation of the reef, doing fundamental cutting edge work in every
aspect of coral reef biochemistry, physiology, ecology, and geology. While Nora
was not herself a diver, she was an equal partner in the research, specializing in
the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and histology of coral reef organisms Tom
found. Working in the field on weekends under primitive conditions without
funding while they taught in Kingston during the week, Nora identified the
specimens Tom collected in the microscope and set up experiments to understand
their biological roles in the reef.

To support their scientific research she also worked as a biology teacher in two
Jamaican girls’ high schools, Wolmer’s and Immaculate. Her ability to inspire
students was such that all her students achieved highest First Class Distinctions
in the British university entrance exams, except for one who got a Second Class
Distinction. This was despite the fact that she took on classes with no biology
background less than a year before the examination, and the schools had no copies
of the examination syllabus or curriculum, so she had to cover all aspects of
biology. Her students went on to become Jamaica’s first women scientists.

Jamaica was surrounded by pristine coral reefs, which were the first in the world
to be explored by diving, and they moved systematically all around the island to
study every reef. Tom and Nora founded their first marine laboratory in abandoned
naval warehouses in the old pirate capital, Port Royal, badly damaged by Hurricane
Charlie in 1951, which caused massive destruction to the coral reefs, and carried
away the roof of their home. They founded the Discovery Bay Marine Lab to expand
their research to the North Coast, which had some of the most magnificent reefs in
the Caribbean, with vertical canyons a hundred feet deep covered with corals (now
graveyards). Discovery Bay was named for Columbus’ arrival in Jamaica, but the
Admiral disappointedly called it Puerto Seco, or Dry Harbour, because they nearly
died running over the coral reef into the protected bay, only to find none of the
fresh water they were desperate for.

Tom and Nora built a laboratory in the abandoned toilet of the Puerto Seco
Fisherman’s Beach, useless to the fishermen because there was no water. They
arranged with a nearby resort to get water piped in for a lab they built, and for the
fishermen to rinse their catch and gear, building the toilet up with research space
and lockers for the fishermens’ gear. There they did the fundamental research that
made the Lab the world’s leader in tropical marine biology working next to the
fishermen, who were grateful for the knowledge they gained.

Their path-breaking scientific work resulted in Sir Maurice Yonge, leader of the
1920s Cambridge University Great Barrier Reef Expedition, and founder of modern
coral reef research, adopting them as his intellectual successors. Maurice had
been the world’s top expert on coral reefs although he had stopped working in
reefs in the 1920s, but he was re-invigorated by the way Tom and Nora constantly
pushed the science ahead with new methods. Maurice joined them out of
retirement to do fundamental research on coral nutrition, giant clams, on bizarre
symbiotic clams living inside coral skeletons, and returning to the Great Barrier
Reef with Tom in the 1960s to look at the changes there 40 years later.

Sir Maurice Yonge and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, the great aunt of
Queen Elizabeth II, kindly helped them get support from the Wolfson foundation in
England to build a modern research laboratory on the other side of Discovery Bay,
on land they got donated to the University of the West Indies by a bauxite company.
They designed the lab to be the best research facility for tropical science in the
world. Tragically, just before the lab opened, Tom suddenly died at 45 from severe
cancer, induced by exposure to nuclear radiation in 1947, when he had been the
diver who collected radioactive specimens from Bikini Atoll after the first nuclear
bomb test. Nora was left with three children to support.

The pace of their constant field work exploring the unknown world of coral reefs
left little time for writing, so Nora proceeded to publish their key findings in a series
of classic scientific papers on the ecology, geology, and biology of coral reef
ecosystems, describing how reef organisms interact and how they function at the
fundamental level of the carbon biogeochemical cycle. As the person who knew
more about corals than anyone, she single-handedly preserved and passed on the
knowledge of the past, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s trained new
generations of coral reef researchers who came from all over the world to
Discovery Bay to learn from her deep knowledge of coral reefs and seek her
research advice and constructive criticism.

A partial list of her many pioneering scientific accomplishments include:
Nora, the first Panamanian and Central American marine scientist, was the world’s
top expert on coral anatomy, histology, physiology, cell biology, developmental
biology, and biochemistry, an equal partner with her husband, who specialized in
diving, ecology, and geology of reefs. She and Tom pioneered understanding of
the complex symbiosis between corals and algae by developing analytical and
experimental methods to use radioactive isotopes to trace the complex pathways
and interactions of carbon through photosynthesis, feeding, excretion, and skeleton growth, gaining fundamental insight into coral physiology and reef
ecology that could have been gained no other way.

Nora was the first to discover the sclerosponges, from specimens Tom brought
back from caves in the reef 300 feet down. These living fossils had built reefs
hundreds of millions of years ago and were thought long extinct. After Tom’s death
her name was unconscionably omitted from the scientific papers describing her
discoveries, written by his US colleague.

She inspired graduate students from all over the Caribbean and the rest of the
world to learn from her at the Zoology Department of the University of the West
Indies, in Mona, Jamaica, and at Discovery Bay Marine Lab. With Dunbar Steele at
the University of the West Indies she did fundamental work on the regulation of the
symbiotic algae, and with Raymond Hayes, working at the University of the West
Indies, University of Pittsburgh, Morehouse University, and Howard University she
worked on coral immunology and discovered with electron microscopes how
corals form the minute embryonic seed crystals of their skeleton inside their cells
and then extrude them to continue to grow beneath them.

She saved and maintained the definitive scientific collections of Caribbean coral
skeletons, microscope tissue slides and preserved specimens, papers, field notes,
and the world’s largest collection of underwater coral reef photographs from the
1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. These are in the hands of the non-profit Global Coral Reef
Alliance, which is seeking funds to preserve her legacy by scanning the entire
collection and making it available on the web as the definitive record of a now-
vanished world of pristine coral reefs.

Nora inspired everyone who knew her with her warmth, compassion, dignity,
humility, love of knowledge, insistence on rigor and excellence, and quiet
persistence despite hopeless adversity. For single-handedly preserving the entire
field of coral research, documenting it, and training new generations to build on
past knowledge, she is regarded as the Mother of Coral Reef Science.

She is deeply missed by sons Tom, Peter, and Stefan, daughters-in–law Margaret,
Clare, and Cheri, and grandchildren Maya, Marina, David, Lodi, Tara, Erik, and
Emma. Her ashes will be buried in the family tomb in Panama.



GCRA is a global network of volunteers working for more than 25 years on fundamental research on coral threats and on direct action projects to reverse environmental degradation, especially coral reefs. GCRA has done far more to save coral reefs and reverse climate change than all of the Big International Non-Governmental Organizations (BINGOs) put together. Unlike the BINGOs, GCRA does not have millions of dollars in the bank, has no big donors or benefactors, relies almost entirely on very small and scarce donations, has no fancy offices or salaries, and does not peddle glossy brochures, posters, coffee cups or T-shirts, so that we can put all of our efforts to work directly in the field with those who ask for our help to show them how to solve their own local problems.

We could get vastly more accomplished if we had donations! If you genuinely care about the future of the planet, please help us to help those who need to know how to manage their environment with more production and less destruction, instead of giving donations to BINGOs who will waste it on fat salaries, luxurious offices, glossy brochures claiming false credit for effective environmental protection, and TV ads with “celebrities”. Below are some of the major program areas GCRA will pursue in 2017 if we have any funding at all.


Indonesia has the largest and most biodiverse coral reefs in the world, it is the heart of the heart of marine biodiversity. While Indonesian reefs that are still undamaged are the most remarkable reefs anywhere, around 95% have been severely damaged by the entire range of anthropogenic threats at the local, regional, and global scales. In 2016 Indonesia suffered severe coral mortality from heat stroke caused by global warming, and many of the finest reefs lost up to 95-99% of their corals. Temperatures have not cooled down significantly and continue to hover around the bleaching temperature thresholds, so corals have little chance to recover, and new severe bleaching in 2017 is practically assured unless there is a sudden and unprecedented decrease in temperature. Micronesia was similarly affected, but dive shops are now refusing to report bleaching to protect business.

Despite the massive death of corals from high temperature in 2016, Biorock reefs in Indonesia maintained under 24-hour power suffered no noticeable mortality at all, making it the only method that protects corals from dying from global warming.
Because the current pattern of extremely high temperature will almost certainly cause severe bleaching when the 2017 warm season hits Indonesia, it is urgent to set up as many properly maintained Biorock Coral Arks across Indonesia as possible in order to maintain the species until global warming can be reversed. We are already growing around 80% of all the coral genera in the world, but we want to save all of the species.

GCRA has held 11 Indonesian Biorock training workshops and trained hundreds of Indonesian students in the new methods. They are eager to go out and use their skills to support community-based restoration and management projects, so every Indonesian fishing village can restore their reefs and fisheries the way we have done in the world’s two largest coral reef restoration projects in Bali and Lombok, with no funding at all from any international agency or government, purely with local support and small donations from tourists. But there are no jobs for them to use their knowledge and skills, because Indonesia is not yet supporting large scale community-managed restoration of fisheries habitats.

80% of Indonesia’s protein comes from the sea, but coastal fisheries are in collapse. GCRA urgently seeks donations to expand the Indonesia Biorock coral reef and fisheries restoration projects to the many subsistence fishing villages that need and want it. Vanuatu is also a major priority for these efforts.


Global sea level rise threatens all beaches and low lying coasts nearly as much as global warming threatens coral reefs and fisheries. GCRA has developed the only method known to result in rapid natural restoration of severely eroded beaches, by restoring coral reefs, oyster reefs, sea grasses, salt marshes, and mangroves at extraordinary growth rates in places when ecosystems would die from severe stress, or where there has been no natural recovery at all. Yet there remains no serious effort to protect coasts against the inevitable impacts of global sea level rise that will flood coastlines for hundreds of thousands or millions of years if action is not urgently taken to reverse global climate change. Policy makers are simply pretending the problem does not exist, because we have so far hardly felt the effects compared to what is inevitably to come unless atmospheric CO2 is reduced around 40% to safe levels.

GCRA is seeking funds to help communities losing their beaches to grow them back quickly and naturally, while restoring their fisheries and biodiversity at the same time. Our first focus is Negril Beach, Jamaica’s largest and most important tourist beach, whose loss would seriously impact the national economy. Another is St. Jean Beach in Saint Barthelemy, where millions of dollars have been spent pumping sand on the beach that washes away. These have been chosen because GCRA scientists know these areas intimately, and have been asked by local communities and governments for help.


Despite all the publicity about the Great Barrier Reef bleaching in 2016, many more places around the globe were more badly affected by extreme high temperatures. GCRA invented and developed the HotSpot method for accurately predicting coral bleaching from satellite sea surface temperature, and has been able to warn people of impending coral bleaching before it can be seen on the reef since 1990, when we first warned the US Senate Hearing on Impacts of Global Warming that high temperature is the major cause of coral bleaching and mortality and that we are already at or above temperature levels that will quickly drive coral reef ecosystems to extinction in a few years if urgent action is not taken to reverse climate change. Deliberate failure of governments to act on global warming now places this catastrophe only a few years away.

The urgency cannot be understated because more than 100 countries will lose most of their marine biodiversity and ecosystem services such as fisheries, tourism, shore protection, and sand supplies for beaches, and billions of people will be forced to migrate away from flooding coasts. Yet instead of taking action, many governments are simply sticking their heads in the sand and pretending that the problem does not exist. GCRA will work with communities who realize that their future depends on their own actions, not waiting for hand-outs that could largely be stolen by politicians and the cronies they serve.

GCRA, through its affiliate, the Soil Carbon Alliance, has been a leader in showing how the global carbon cycle can be stabilized at safe levels to prevent runaway global warming and sea level rise, and the critical factors that determine how quickly this can be done. GCRA works closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change Initiative, which represent 52 countries including most Small Island Developing States, and 2.5 billion people, a third of the world’s population. Major initiatives will be presented at the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Fiji.

GCRA is seeking funds to set up training programs in community-managed whole-watershed and coastal zone ecosystem restoration and management, especially in developing countries and islands who need it the most.


GCRA places top priority on working closely with indigenous cultures, especially sea peoples, around the world, to give them access to the best scientific knowledge and new techniques for restoring their own ecosystems, preserving their ancient knowledge, while acquiring new concepts and methods that can empower them to adapt to global climate change on their own terms. GCRA works for little or no money (but expenses) to help the First Peoples acquire the best methods to restore their lands, waters, and cultures. Working with poor indigenous cultures is more important to us than helping rich countries who could afford climate change adaptation measures if they chose to. Details of 12 of the different indigenous communities around the world that are the GCRA’s top priorities are listed in a separate document that can be found in the related document on Indigenous Restoration.

GCRA is urgently seeking support to help these ancient, but threatened peoples, to preserve their knowledge and cultures, while adapting to climate change, and using the most appropriate modern methods under their own terms for their survival and advancement.


GCRA has the world’s largest collection of underwater photographs of coral reefs from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, taken by the inventor of macro-photography who took the first good underwater photographs, Fritz Goreau (Goro) and his son Thomas F. Goreau. These include the first underwater photographs to document reef ecology and health of the Great Barrier Reef, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Red Sea, the West Pacific, and many parts of the Caribbean. It also includes nearly a thousand hours of digital video transects of coral reefs taken all around the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia by Thomas J. F. Goreau since the mid 1990s. The photos include the first underwater quadrat and line transect data for quantitative marine ecology. It also contains several other historic underwater photographic archives donated by the original photographers and their heirs. None of this material has been scanned or archived due to lack of funds. It provides the only global archive of a lost coral reef world, showing how the reefs looked before their damage and before any other marine researchers saw them.

GCRA also has the worlds’ most important historical photographic archive of the development of science in the 20th century, taken by Fritz Goreau from the early 1930s through the late 1980s. He invented many fundamental macroscopic and microscopic methods for photographic documentation to reveal previously invisible phenomena, and was regarded by all his colleagues at LIFE Magazine as the finest photographer in the world. Only a tiny fraction of these photographs were published by editors who were interested only in pretty pictures and not in intellectual information content. The archive is unique in the extraordinary way that every aspect of each fundamental phenomena from all branches of science is explored is complete explored, along with detailed documentation, making a unique encyclopedia of science of unequaled historical, educational, and scientific value.

GCRA is urgently seeking donations to scan, archive, safely store, and post the entire image archive on the web, linked to the metadata.