Coral nurseries and artificial reefs are a form of active restoration aimed at increasing coral health, diversity, or abundance. Corals are colonial organisms which reproduce primarily asexually to grow larger or to repair damaged tissues. Thanks to this asexual reoroduction, we are able to grow new coral colonies from smaller or broken pieces of coral called fragments. Many large coral colonies can break naturally due to many different threats such as large storms and waves, boat anchors and collisions, fishing nets, or irresponsible diving and snorkeling practices. These broken corals, when rolling around the sand, have almost no chance of survival, and usually die. But, by securing these fragments in areas that provide the corals with proper growing conditions they can be rehabilitated, nursed back to a mature colony size, and then transplanted back out onto the reef or artificial reef structures.
It was Charles Darwin who first realized this about corals. He noticed that corals rolling around under his ship quickly turned white and died, but by securing the loose coral to a piece of bamboo pounded in the sand they would survive. For this he is credited with being the first coral restorationist. This is the basis of our coral nursery program initiated in 2007, with our first site placed in Ao Leuk Bay. Our materials and methods have changed considerably since the time of Charles Darwin, but the ultimate goal is the same - secure dying corals before its too late.