05 November 2005

Mexico: Coral reef set back 100 years by Wilma

A fragile coral reef off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula could take more than a century to recover from a thrashing by Hurricane Wilma last month, the government said on Friday.

Mexico's National Protected Natural Areas Commission, known as Conanp, said the storm's three-day rampage across the eastern region in late October damaged a 25-mile (40-km) stretch of delicate reefs off the island of Cozumel.

"The area was hit hard by the storm and it could take at least 100 years for the reef to recover," Conanp regional director Alfredo Arellano said in a telephone interview from the resort city of Cancun.

"Whole colonies of coral were torn from their original site and tossed into the abyss," he said.

Cozumel's delicate coral gardens form part of an archipelago of reefs stretching for hundreds of miles (km) southward to the coast of Honduras, comprising the largest reef system in the hemisphere.

Arellano said a team of 10 divers and conservationists had begun rebuilding sections of the damaged reef, using pneumatic drills to bore holes in sea-bed rocks to reattach loose coral fragments with epoxy cement.

He said the restoration work was painstaking and that Conanp hoped to volunteer sport divers in the Cancun area would help.

"It's a slow job and help would be very welcome," he said.

Source: www.heraldnewsdaily.com


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