As a child growing up in Jamaica, Belinda Morrow remembers snorkeling amid large schools of neon-colored fish nibbling on healthy coral just beyond the white sand beaches of Ocho Rios.
Now 55, Morrow is on a mission to help restore the pristine beauty of the Caribbean reefs as a volunteer with the White River Fish Sanctuary, which opened this year. The grassroots effort involves transplanting fast-growing staghorn coral along a fringe reef near the Jamaica Inn, a small luxury resort owned by Morrow’s husband, Eric, and his brother Peter.
On a recent glass-bottomed boat tour, we observed fresh growth from the first “plantings” of coral pieces tied to rocks along the reef — and more fish.
“It’s working,” Morrow said, beaming like a new parent. “If we can conserve this habitat, the fish will come and get bigger.”
Local fishermen serve as sanctuary wardens, managing the coral nurseries and reinforcing the fishing ban. With financial support from the Jamaica Inn Foundation, among other groups, the five-year, $1 million sanctuary project is an important step in what will likely be a long-term proposition to reverse damage to area reefs from overfishing, pollution and global warming.
The Jamaica Inn is also active in sea turtle conservation, as reported on their blog:
Our turtles are greatly loved by both the staff and guests here at the Inn. Mr Coombs, our Watersports manager has taken his great interest in turtles to higher heights by personally maintaining on site nests and educating our guests about Hawksbill turtle hatchings. After assisting Mel Tennant for many weeks with the nesting and hatchings both on our beach and the nearby Gibraltar beach, Mr Coombs has solely taken on the role of our on site turtle whisperer.
Mr Coombs facilitates the turtle hatching process by locating and tracking the nests, mama turtles and hatchlings. He monitors our nests and informs the staff and guests re our turtle notice board of upcoming nests and hatching dates on our main beach, bungalow beach and nearby Gibraltor beach. When asked why he loves the turtles so much his simple response was “It’s all about saving the turtles and it starts with you and me, we all have a role to play. When Mel asked me to take on the responsibility of helping turtles on our beach, my response was Absolutely!”
The Jamaica Inn blog gives regular updates on the resort’s environmental and sustainability programmes.