TCHTA Adopts 30 Coral Reefs in Commemoration of 30 Years

Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands – The Turks & Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA) has embarked on a robust calendar of initiatives in 2022, memorializing its 30 years of service to the industry as a non-profit organization.

The month of November – TCI’s Tourism Environmental Awareness Month (TEAM) – sees the association involved in their signature “Hello Tourist” program plus a donation to the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund’s “Adopt a Coral” program. On Monday, November 21st, TCHTA’s CEO, Stacy Cox, and Sustainable Tourism Committee Chair, Mona Beeson, presented a cheque for $2000.00 to TCRF Director Alizee Zimmermann. As a result, the TCHTA has officially adopted 30 corals to commemorate its 30th anniversary. This donation was facilitated through the Graceway Communities initiative, which allows shoppers who remember to use their reusable bags to pledge tokens to a program of choice.

For years, water sports operators, avid scuba divers, and stakeholders have pointed out that the vibrant reef we know so well has begun to see some marked deterioration. This has been due to both climactic and weather events, but also due to human negligence. The issue is not just a local one but a global occurrence. Naturally, development, overfishing, and added pressure from the growing visiting population lend to this problem, and mitigation is needed to save our reefs.

Enter the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund’s RESCQ (Restoration of Ecosystem Services and Coral Reef Quality) effort. In 2014, the foundation began installing in-water coral farms. The farms are home to multiple coral ladders and two large rope nursery structures growing endangered staghorn corals at dive sites at Northwest Point. Staghorn is one of two primary reef-building corals in the Caribbean that White Band Disease has nearly wiped out. The farms allow fragments of these corals to be harvested, maintained, and later transplanted to reef sites for repopulating damaged areas.

For many years, The TCHTA’s Sustainable Tourism Committee has played an integral part in promoting sustainable practices through its member efforts and work with industry partners.  There is a rich history of collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), the National Trust, and the Turks and Caicos Reef Fund (TCRF).

Committee Chair Beeson says that Sustainability is a tenant of the association’s work, and the donation is a gesture of the TCHTA’s continued commitment to the environment, the care for the islands, and the country’s tourism product. “This donation is quite meaningful for us as an organization. We have worked very hard over the years to champion efforts centered around maintaining the beauty of this country, both land, and sea. We take our committee’s mandate very seriously, as we know just how careful we must be with the fragile ecosystem we are fortunate to enjoy.” Beeson continued, “The Reef Foundation’s work is critical, and we are proud to support this initiative. Today’s efforts will ensure that the TCI we all love is here for future generations to enjoy.”

The association’s Sustainable Tourism efforts have a long, successful history. Their bi-annual TCI Shines event is in its 13th year and sees TCHTA member resorts and businesses dispatching teams to conduct clean-ups. The effort is magnified with the engagement of community groups who are given garbage bags, gloves, and water by the TCHTA to participate in the exercise. In addition, school competitions, reef-safe sunscreen research, deployment of garbage receptacles throughout the island, and the “no plastic straws” campaign have been a part of the organization’s efforts. The Adopt a Coral donation will mark the second 30-year focused item for the Sustainable Tourism committee, the first being planting 30 juvenile Mighty Mahogany plants throughout the islands for Earth Day 2022.

Also present for the official donation, TCHTA Stacy Cox shared her excitement, “The work carried out by the Reef Foundation has a significant impact on our islands and our ability to maintain what people marvel at and come to enjoy when they visit our destination. This will certainly not be the last collaboration between the TCHTA and the TCRF as we work collectively to preserve the beauty and vitality of our country’s natural treasures.”.

The TCRF is expanding its nurseries to the beloved and heavily visited snorkel site of Coral Gardens in Grace Bay, allowing visitors and residents alike to experience the world of growing corals. All this is accessible from the beach and on snorkel.

Accepting the donation, TCRF Executive Director Alizee Zimmermann said, “With one ladder already installed, the support of the TCHTA in adopting 30 corals for its 30th anniversary is allowing us to install a 2nd ladder here. A huge success for accessibility to coral restoration! We are so grateful for the support shown by the TCHTA and excited to see these corals grow and be ‘planted’ back onto the natural reef!”

For a small donation of $50, any person or group can participate in the Adopt a Coral program. The TCHTA encourages the wider corporate community to donate where possible and join the fight to preserve and protect our magnificent reefs.


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