Restoration can’t justify destruction, says coral grower’s ex boss

| 29/11/2019
Cayman News Service
Dr David Vaughn

(CNS): Kevin Cooper, vice president of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Dr David Vaughn’s former boss, has said research into coral restoration is really important but such technologies should not be used “as routine justification for allowing the destruction of existing, healthy coral reef ecosystems”. Responding to enquiries by a concerned CNS reader, who contacted Vaughn’s previous employers about the claims he is making, they distanced themselves from the self-proclaimed coral miracle worker.

Cooper said that the restoration technology pioneered and conducted by coral experts like the Mote team is essential to restoring the vitality of coral reefs that are slipping into functional extinction in Florida, the wider Caribbean and around the world. But leaving existing reefs in place provides the best ecosystem functions and services for society at large.

Vaughn retired from Mote last year and has had no affiliation with it since, and Cooper said he does not represent the views of the organisation in any way. He said that Vaughn’s activities in Florida, the Cayman Islands, or elsewhere are “not endorsed, supported or affiliated with Mote, nor are they a reflection of Mote coral reef research, restoration and conservation activities”.

Vaughn is being placed front and centre by both government and the Verdant Isle group as the person who has developed a speed technique for growing coral and has made dramatic claims about not only replacing all the coral that will be lost in George Town Harbour as a result of the proposed cruise berthing facility, but that he will regrow ten times as much.

However, Vaughn’s work has not been peer-reviewed, and while there is interest in what he claims he can do, there is no evidence anywhere that Vaughn’s work would lead to the equitable replacement of the many acres of ancient pristine coral reef currently in the harbour.

Cooper is yet another voice among many experts in the field working on coral conservation, regrowth, restoration and relocation who challenge the claims made by Vaughn and point out that his work has not be tested. The Central Caribbean Marine Institute, based on Little Cayman, has warned that there is very little scientific research to support his claims

But Vaughn stands to gain a significant annual fee of around half a million dollars to establish a laboratory in Cayman to grow coral for this project. He claims that his microfragmentation technique, where coral is smashed into tiny pieces and allowed to regrow in a lab, then grows much faster when replanted on dying reefs.

He has spoken at various government meetings about the port project, where he has described “reskining” dead brain coral with live tissue, which led to the creation of his organisation, ‘Plant a Million Corals’.

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Comments (34)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    They will be killing coral that is over 20,000 years old. That is an absolute marvel of nature.

    Think about that for a second.

    Vote No.

  2. Anonymous says:

    How about God put it there and we should not be messing with his handiwork? I think that is enough reason.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just boggles the mind that these people can think that we are so gullible that we will believe this crap..Gotta love um for trying though..

  4. David says:

    They are not destroying a reef but protecting the outer reef they are forced to anchor on now. They are moving a small reef in front of the working port that no one can dive on to relocated to a site people can snorkel on. No one else in the Caribbean anchors large cargo and cruise ships on the outer reefs. Stop killing our own outer reef and allow large ships to tie up to a dock instead like everywhere else in the Caribbean. Use our vote to say Yes or No. Stop shooting at people trying to help whatever way we decide to go on our vote.

    • Anonymous says:

      David, you are really missing the point on this. Coral should not be moved, full stop. Coral spends hundreds of years growing and we as human beings should be respectful of that.

      All this man is doing is taking $10 million to help make this project “sustainable”, but nothing about his experimentation is sustainable nor in the best interests of this country.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For those looking for more information on Micro-fragmentation, please see the links below to peer reviewed scientific journals, published by Dr. Vaughan and other scientists from around the world. • Vaughan, D.E. 2014 A Quest to regrow a coral reef. In The New York Times, November 25, Vol CLXIV No. 56,696

    • Forsman, Z, C.Page, R. Toonen and D.Vaughan. 2015. Growing coral larger and faster: micro-colony fusion as a strategy for accelerating coral cover PEERJ 1313

  6. Anonymous says:

    Vote No

  7. Anonymous says:

    We have plan A and Plan B. One is build a cargo and cruise ship facility for the country. It will belong to the country, it will be controlled by the country. Plan B will be built somewhere else in the country by a wealthy or a conglomerate of investors. Central Mangrove or North Sound either would be good for the Cargo, cruise or tankers for fuel. We have to build the Sol and Rubis Terminals someplace else. You can put emotion above common sense but the reality would be different if an accident happened on South Church Street. It is also common sense to put these areas were there is the lowest possible danger to the public. Lowest population is Central Mangrove and North Sound.

    • Anonymous says:

      ∆∆∆ this fella right here either works for Dart or on behalf of him. This whole charade is a front to kill town so that he can make his second Caymanian bay town out where he owns a couple thousands bodden town/breakers acres with almost a thousand feet on the ocean. He’s no fool and he thinks long term strategy. Both sides of this debate are playing checkers, the big blue lettered group is playing chess.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry no I don’t work for anyone except myself. But since you brought that up. Two of your most vocal members of CPR have been meeting the tender owners at the Harbour House for over 14 months. They are most likely working for them. I just believe we need to stay on facts that have been given for a very long time. One of those facts is that the reefs are dying. We have a scientist who has proven he can grow coral faster. But we tear him down. We have other scientists who claim it can’t be done and no proof is offered? What is wrong with people? Can’t you understand you’re being lied to. Another EIA to tell you what? The only change is that there is going to be more pilings in deeper water. The area is pretty much the same. Stalling and causing more expense. Sad, very sad

        • Anonymous says:

          Ok, now that is complete BS. CPR has not been meeting with the tender boat operators at all.

        • Anonymous says:

          10.10 you are the poster child for the pro port lobby, you even believe your own bullshit…amazing. Get off the kool aid.

    • Concerned says:

      Plan A means 2.5 million tourists and more p.a.
      Plan A means planning for a population of 100,000 and more.
      Plan A means planning for an extra 25,000 and more cars on the road.
      Plan A means an ever growing Mount Trashmore.
      Just vote No and stop the madness.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yet again Mac, Alden, Moses and their minions are exposed for telling Caymanians very damaging nonsense.

    They cannot be trusted.


  9. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  10. Anonymous says:

    Another poor decision by govt to allow outsiders to use Cayman as a science experiment just like what Alden allowed for the Genetically Modified mosquitoes

  11. Anonymous says:

    If we were a sane species no one would even consider “relocating” a coral reef. This is just a way greedy dirtbags can pretend to care or at least try to placate people who do.

    Given the extreme stress coral reefs are under worldwide from bleaching, pollution and climate change, there should be a strict hands-off policy here and everywhere.

    Maybe their minds are beyond repair, but one wonders if all these politicians and developers who are hell bent on destroying Cayman’s natural environment might feel differently if they scuba dived. I struggle to imagine how someone could do a few night dives off the Cayman wall and not feel something.

    Our “leaders” are cursed with the same blindness that afflicts the criminals burning down the Amazon rainforest. Perhaps we are wasting our time yelling at them and condemning them. What they really need is help, some basic education so they can understand how the Earth works and why things like coral reefs matter. Maybe they just need simple exposure to natural beauty, too. Not sure what the answer is, but they clearly need help.


    • Anonymous says:

      They need to stop thinking about getting more money and think about making things better for the people they are supposed to be representing.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is the fundamental issue with Capitalism.

      In order for there to be a profit, someone or something, is getting @%@%ed.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not true. You can invent and produce something that is both beneficial and make you some profit. With communism that would get confiscated by the ruling elite which would then make you never invent anything ever again. That same ruling elite would still @&#$&$ things for their benefit.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Why, why, why, why would anyone wilfully destroy these well established, natural marvels to create a concrete monstrosity? Not only is there really no sane reason for this from a environmental reason, but economically we do not even know that we (as a whole, not the chosen few) really stand to benefit. Truly and honestly, scandalous waste and wanton destruction.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The Israelis have extensive experience growing new coral in the Red Sea why not ask them if this is doable?

    • Anonymous says:

      @3:13pm….someone didn’t read that well.
      The man said, leave the things alone. Doesn’t matter who think they can “fix” it.
      Just leave it where it is.

      • Anonymous says:

        3:59 That was my point …. OK?

      • Anonymous says:

        3:59 You didn’t read my comment – that was the point. They’re proved you can grow coral but never, ever tried to transplant living coral. And you know why? Because it doesn’t work! Next time you post on here think about it and do a bit of research before slaqging someone off.

    • Anonymous says:

      How about “no thank you.” Cruise tourists spend money on Jewelry and TShirts. The stingray sandbar operators ONLY get $15 a head from cruise tourists while Carnival charges $80.
      Even our own tourism operators know that hotel guests are a much better bet!!

      Hog Sty Bay is globally unique and you cannot replant the wrecks.

      WHY do we need another 200,000 tourists that do NOT help local pockets to pollute our fair Islands.

      Anyone supporting the project simply has their head in the sand or is motivated by greed and politricks

      We know better. Stand up – don’t stay home on the 19th. If you stay home your vote goes to greed.

      Come ON cayman!! Seafarers and a survival country Say NO to greed and pollution please.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should we? No need to destroy it in the first place for the greed of the shop owners who will benefit to the tune of $120m annually out of this mess. Tell me average Caymanian, what will a port give you? They can take their Judas silver, it won’t give the reef back, which in this land is a God given treasure. Still, let them try to get their filthy lucre through the Pearly gates..they will surely go the other way.

    • Anonymous says:

      Red sea is not Caribbean sea.

      I don’t think anything could be or need to be added to
      “…such technologies should not be used “as routine justification for allowing the destruction of existing, healthy coral reef ecosystems”. Simple.

      • Anonymous says:

        Exactly anonymous at 4:35 pm !! I am no scientist but I still have some active brain cells. Why rip up well rooted, growing corals and attempt to replant them somewhere else? I believe that process should only be attempted if an area of coral is accidentally damaged or succumbs to natural death considering that only a small percentage might really grow. To deliberately rip it up to replant it to accommodate a monstrous cruise ship once a week during high season, if weather permits, is unacceptable. Why can’t these knuckleheads understand this? Are they really that callus. How much will they get out of it personally? I believe neither the Premier nor his deputy have any care whatsoever towards the Cayman Islands. Yesterday while watching the debate a Member of the Opposition commented on the amount of garbage that continually wash up on shore as fast as it is cleared up. He asked whether they (DEH) thought that it was coming from surrounding islands or if it could be dumped by cruise ships. Moses flailed his arms towards the high heavens in his attempt to debunk the thought that something like that could happen. I have walked the beach in colliers in East End and seen multiple items that are identical and obviously looked like someone cleared out their cupboards of empty bottles,cans, sponges etc.,all on the same day and threw them overboard. Instead of throwing up his hands in protest he should have said that the Tourism Department would remind the cruise companies to not dump their garbage in our waters. If he gave a hoot about Cayman beaches and environment he would have. I hope when the coast guard is up and running they will be able to catch them in action and that we will have a Minister of Tourism/ Environment who care enough to fine them for it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I thought they only made weapons and steal other peoples countries.