By: Rory McDonough
Law firm Stuarts Walker Hersant Humphries has announced its $15,000 commitment to supporting the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s long-term monitoring program (LAMP) and major maintenance for their Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS2).
With Chairman Andrew Hersant and Managing Director Chris Humphries serving on the Board of Trustees for the Institute, the local firm has been a major contributor for the local not-for-profit research organization.
The LAMP program has enabled CCMI to collect data on fish abundance, algae, and coral cover since 1999, providing essential historical data aiding the understanding of how coral reefs are changing over time, while identifying drivers of change.
Initially supported by the Dart Foundation, CCMI’s CREWS2 system, is a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) designed oceanographic system that sends out timely alerts about threats to the coral reefs and allows the researchers to assess the impact of these threats. Bleaching alerts, for example, trigger immediate surveys so that the team can track stress to the corals and report recovery from temperature stress.
First installed in 2009, it is the only oceanographic buoy in the Cayman Islands and one of only two such systems in the world, according to NOAA’s Dr. Karsten Shein. The integration of the CREWS2 and LAMP program has aided numerous research publications and helped to build an improved awareness of the importance of maintaining and protecting coral reefs.
“The data we are able to collect via our CREWS and LAMP programs is important to understanding and protecting coral reefs locally and globally,” said Dr. Carrie Manfrino, CCMI President. “We are very grateful to Stuarts Walker Hersant Humphries for their ongoing support, and for donating to these programs.”
This type of responsiveness has informed the group’s work on coral reef resilience, has helped to develop a coral bleaching threshold model that predicts future episodes of stress, and has enabled researchers to demonstrate that some coral reefs are capable of recovering from severe global climate stress events.
“For Cayman, coral reefs are a national treasure that brings great economic value and huge levels of positive public relations to the country,” said the law firm. “The work CCMI does aims to build a greater understanding of these unique ecosystems so that we can preserve that ecological heritage and wealth for locals, visitors, and future generations.”
CCMI has recently waded into the debate over the proposed George Town Port extension with CCMI Board of Trustees Chairman Peter Hillenbrand stating in a previous press release, “Based on this research, and the fact that coral reefs are one of the most dynamic, important, and endangered ecosystems on earth, it is the unanimous opinion of the board and CCMI officers that the Cayman Islands will need to find a solution that will better protect our endangered coral reefs.”