Coral Farm for Reef Restoration Opens in the Bahamas
By Coral Vita, Gator Halpern
2018/2019 Young Champion of the Earth
Coral reefs are dying around the world, with over half being lost since the early seventies. Based on current trends, scientists predict that ninety percent of coral reefs are on track to die by 2050. This ecological tragedy is also a serious socio-economic problem; reefs support one billion people and an estimated 25% of marine life while generating conservatively $30 billion annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection. The Bahamas, who welcome over six million visitors a year to their islands, beaches, and crystal-clear waters has embraced a new dynamic adventure they hope will change this outcome.
Coral Vita is a mission-driven company dedicated to restoring dying reefs, with a vision to create a global network of projects to sustain reefs into the future. They have started by creating the world’s first land-based commercial coral farm for restoration located in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Using cutting-edge ‘Microfragmenting’ technology, they accelerate coral growth up to 50x faster than normal rates, translating into months instead of decades while increasing species diversity and cost effectiveness. Combined with ‘Assisted Evolution’ methods, they also strengthen coral resiliency to threats like climate change.
On hand to officially open the facility was Deputy Prime Minister the Most Honourable Peter Turnquest, stepping in for Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis who was unable to attend. “Dr. Minnis asked me to convey his best wishes for the success of this project, and the Government’s full commitment to the preservation of our natural Paradise through environmental protection and conservation.” Speaking the opening’s audience, the Deputy Prime Minister also spoke to the importance of environmental change. “Unless countries around the world take serious and deliberate action, in less than a generation the reefs – which help feed the fish and conch that end up on our dining tables – could be gone! In The Bahamas, we’re doing what we can and must to play our part.”
Co-Founders Gator (left) and Sam cut corals for the land-based tanks they will grow in.
The farm will not only restore the island’s decreased corals reefs, which were featured in the Netflix film ‘Chasing Coral,’ but will also serve as a tourism attraction and education center, offering reef restoration opportunities to visiting guests, residents, and young students. With the ultimate goal to work in conjunction with other scientists, communities, coral farmers, businesses, investors, and governments around the world, Coral Vita plans to provide restoration projects with more diverse, rapidly grown, and hardier corals.
We’re so excited to be working with the community of Grand Bahama to bring the island’s reefs back to life. While growing corals to restore reefs, our farm will also be an education centre for local students as well as tourists, where guests learn about the importance of keeping corals alive and helping to restore and revitalize the ecosystems that sustain us all.
-Gator Halpern, Coral Vita Co-Founder
Welcoming everyone to the event was Coral Vita Co-Founder, Sam Teicher, who noted his company is focused on preserving coral reefs for future generations. “It’s an amazing feeling that after just a few years on from a back-porch idea in grad school with my co-founder Gator Halpern, Coral Vita is today opening the world’s first land-based commercial coral farm to restore dying reefs. We’re so grateful to countless members of the coral farming community, partners, and supporters who played a role in our journey, most especially the Grand Bahama Port Authority who took a huge step and partnered with us to support this model to protect and restore coral reefs here in Grand Bahama and soon globally.”
Coral Vita’s grand opening took place on 31 May 2019, making the establishment the world’s first coral farm.
The introduction of Coral Vita to Grand Bahama is a foundational building block towards diversifying the island’s economy, an accomplishment the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) and Grand Bahama Development Company (GBDevco) are proud to be a part of. “Coral Vita’s opening signals the start of a new and exciting era in Grand Bahama’s evolution,” said Rupert Hayward, Executive Director of the GBPA. “This project not only opens up a new sector in The Bahamian economy but also starts the process to repair one for The Bahamas’ most precious resources – our coral reefs. The project has global significance and the rest of the world is watching what happens here in Grand Bahama and I know I speak for The GBPA and GBDevco, when I say we are extremely proud to partner with Coral Vita on this project.”
Attending the opening were Government representatives, GBPA and GBDevco Executives, several schools, international environmental representatives like Mission Blue and Save the Bays, and a multitude of local companies who helped build the farm. Now open to fully start work on coral restoration, the team also planted its first coral in the canal that the facility overlooks.
Coral Vita was founded by Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern and is a mission-driven company that grows resilient corals to restore dying reefs. By working with community, scientific and government partners, selling restoration to reef-dependent customers, and supplying restoration projects at scale with more diverse, rapidly grown, and hardier corals, the social enterprise works to preserve coral reefs for future generations. For more information on Coral Vita, visit the company’s social media pages, @CoralVitaReefs, or website www.coralvita.co or contact [email protected] and [email protected].
A lifelong love for the ocean may not be the first thing that comes to mind when meeting someone born and raised in Washington, DC, but it was there that Sam got scuba certified when he was 13-years-old. After graduating from Yale College in 2012, he served as the Chief Operating Officer for ELI Africa, a Mauritius-based non-profit. There, he helped launch a coral farming project in partnership with the Mauritius Oceanography Institute with funding from the United Nations Development Programme Global Environment Facility. He interned for the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate Preparedness team, served as a fellow for the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), and was recognized as one of twenty two ‘Climate Trailblazers’ by the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit. Sam is an optimistic DC sports fan, an easy-going rugby player, and a PADI Search & Rescue scuba diver.
Growing up in San Diego, California, Gator spent as much time as possible at the beach as a child, and he’s happy to say that he still does. An entrepreneur and environmental activist at heart, he started his first company in high-school and has been building projects ever since, including international development programs in Brazil, Peru, and South Africa. While studying environmental science at Pomona College, Gator helped organize a fish-farming project in the Peruvian Amazon that distributed millions of fingerlings (baby fish) to remote villages while analyzing deforestation rates. He also previously served as a fellow for the World Wildlife Fund Global Marine Program, and was named a 2018 United Nations Young Champion of the Earth as well as a 2019 Summit Fellow. Gator is an avid Liverpool FC fan, and continues to emulate Steven Gerrard on the soccer pitch.