Diver Everton Simpson grabs a handful of staghorn, harvested from a coral nursery (Photo: AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Carib - 'Coral gardeners' are painstakingly restoring Jamaica's lost reefs and are starting to see results

A series of disasters all but destroyed Jamaica’s coral reefs. But thanks to a dedicated team plants and fish are returning

Everton Simpson steers his motorboat to an unmarked spot he knows as the “coral nursery”.

“It’s like a forest under the sea,” he says, strapping on blue flippers and fastening his oxygen tank before tipping backward into the Caribbean. He swims down 25ft (7.6m) carrying a pair of metal shears, fishing line and a plastic crate.

On the seabed, small coral fragments dangle from suspended ropes, like socks hanging on a washing line. Simpson and other divers care for this underwater nursery as gardeners tend a flower bed – slowly and painstakingly picking off snails and fireworms that feast on immature coral.

When each delicate stub grows to the size of a human hand, Simpson collects them in his crate to individually “transplant” onto a reef, a process similar to planting every blade of grass in a lawn separately. Even fast-growing coral species add just a few inches a year. And it’s not possible to scatter seeds.

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