Healthy Reefs

CCMI works to protect healthy coral reefs and vibrant oceans for the future. We believe we can save coral reefs for the future, if we act now. Our Healthy Reefs efforts in 2019 and beyond seeks to build engagement throughout the local community – without whose support, the future for corals is uncertain.

With more than 70% of the world’s coral reefs under threat, the now is the time to take action for our reefs. Much of our work is dependent on understanding the health of the reefs. We have lots of exciting plans in place for the Healthy Reefs campaign including:

  • survey and monitoring of coral reefs
  • development and implementation of a coral reef ‘health check’ programme
  • sharing latest research and findings from the Little Cayman Research Centre with the public through the Reef Lecture Series, Reefs Go Live programmes, educational posters, and fun events that get everyone involved!

Join our Healthy Reefs effort! No matter where you are in the world, you can play a part in protecting coral reefs for future generations.


Coral reefs are often referred to as ‘rainforests of the sea’ because of their tremendous diversity of species, vibrant colours and tremendous levels of productivity and interconnectedness. Unfortunately, due to changing environmental conditions and increased human activity near tropical coastlines, once vibrant reefs that teemed with dozens of species of fish are in decline. This is a worldwide occurrence where more than 70% of all coral reefs are under threat, and it is time to help our reefs stabilize and return to a healthy state.

But what does that look like? If a reef was healthy, you would expect to see:

  • high percentage of coral cover
  • low levels of macroalgae
  • high diversity of reef fishes and invertebrates
  • high density of reef fishes and invertebrates
  • clear waters (low levels of sedimentation)
  • no coral disease or bleaching
  • 3D reef structures that provide crevices for reef inhabitants to hide



When CCMI first started in 1998, we undertook a three island survey, where scientists conducted a baseline study using the Atlantic & Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) protocol on the status of Cayman’s coral reefs. We measured and counted fishes, algae and corals to species level, as well as recorded coral health and mortality. Twenty years later, researchers again headed underwater to assess the same sites using the same methods, comparing the results from the two surveys.

Looking back over this time period CCMI is pleased to report that while there is evidence of decline in Cayman’s coral reefs (particularly in Grand Cayman), some of the metrics indicate stability in reef health. For the Sister Islands, coral cover, coral size, fish density and fish size for the most part indicate no significant changes since 1999. Given the concerns regarding increasing sea temperatures and increasing human pressure, it is a relief to see that reef health has not declined significantly between 1999 and 2018. Similarly, the decline in coral disease, particularly on Grand Cayman, is one very positive result of the surveys; corals appear healthier despite the various disease epidemics that have affected the region recently.

Please see the full Cayman Islands 20-Year Reef Survey Report here.


In the Cayman Islands, coral reefs are not only beautiful, but they provide a lot of value and support for our islands.

  • Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean but are home to more than 25% of all marine species. This biodiversity is truly vital to healthy ocean ecosystems.
  • The marine environment generates $69 million USD from tourism every year in the Cayman Islands (Wolfs Company 2017)
  • The reef is responsible for $5 million USD protection to infrastructure in the Cayman Islands from storms and wave erosion each year (Wolfs Company 2017)


No matter where you are in the world, you can help support and take action for healthy coral reefs!


  • Leave shells and pieces of coral on the beach and in the water. They’re homes for our precious wildlife and also provide important structure on the beach to help prevent erosion.
  • Use physical barriers (such as hats, rashguards, buffs) and “reef-friendly” sunscreen- sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate
  • Pick up and properly dispose of marine debris you may find – both on the beach and in the water
  • Avoid contact with reefs and marine life while enjoying time underwater diving or snorkelling


  • Return CayBrew bottles to the brewery, rather than throwing them away or recycling- they will be reused, which cuts down on carbon emissions and reduces waste in the landfill
  • Volunteer with a local organisation to help with beach clean ups or other activities to help the envrionment
  • Support small businesses and shop locally
  • Consider buying an electric car or used car on island
  • Buy locally grown produce at a farmer’s market


  • Reduce dairy and meat consumption
  • Choose sustainable seafood (for some help, you can refer to the National Trust’s Cayman Sea Sense guide)
  • Reduce disposable plastic consumption; recycle/dispose properly of what you must use
  • Purchase items with no packaging or glass or reusable containers (including laundry soap, toothpaste, shampoo etc.)
  • Sign up for the Healthy Reefs Challenge to stay engaged with suggestions for changes you can make


  • Turn off lights and fans when you leave a room
  • Unplug appliances and devices at night
  • Take shorter showers and turn off the water when brushing your teeth
  • Reduce the amount of fertilizer you use on your lawn and cleaning products used in your home
  • Keep your vehicle well maintained to ensure maximum fuel efficiency
  • Reduce energy usage in your home/office by adjusting the temperature by 1 degree Celsius
  • Invest in renewable energy


  • Evaluate and minimise your significant travel such as flights and cruise travel
  • Contact your local politicians and encourage them to support environmentally friendly plans & legislation
  • Offset your carbon emissions with a programme that uses accredited verified carbon units (VCUs)


  • Support CCMI as we undertake the Healthy Reef campaign!


In 2018, CCMI started something. We got people involved in learning about and taking action for coral reefs during the third International Year of the Reef! Based on the high level of interest in events and experiences offered by CCMI, we are motivated to continue outreach opportunities across the Cayman Islands. We hope you will join us in promoting Healthy Reefs!

World Oceans Day Celebrations

6th June 2020

CCMI invites you to join us for a virtual World Oceans Day Celebration

CCMI celebrates World Oceans Day every year as part of our Healthy Reefs outreach efforts, and despite global lock down, we still intend to celebrate World Oceans – just in a virtual format this year. On Saturday 6th June, we will be bringing you all news of hope, resiliency and a clear pathway for corals reefs.

We have an exciting announcement to make and will release a host of materials that helps underpin our mission to unlock the secrets to coral reef resiliency as part of the campaign on the 6th June.

DATE: Saturday 6th June 2020
TIME: 10am (UTC -6)
LOCATION: virtually on CCMI’s Facebook page or YouTube channel

In addition, we will launch a virtual exhibit of underwater photography, which will be available for purchase through an online auction (6th – 21st June). The exhibit will be online 6th June – 6th July.

We appreciate the support of our sponsors and partners who are making this World Oceans Day celebration possible. Learn more about the events and activities for this year’s World Oceans Day celebrations here.

Stop Whining! Life as an ocean ambassador

with Ellen Cuylaerts

Join wildlife and underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts for a discussion on ocean advocacy!

Date: Thursday, 11 June 2020
Time: 10am Cayman time (UTC -5)
Location: online
Cost: FREE; registration is required

Join Ellen Cuylaerts in this free webinar as she shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change.

Ellen is a wildlife and underwater photographer and chooses to take images of subjects that are hard to encounter like harp seal pups, polar bears, orcas, beluga whales and sharks, to name a few. By telling the stories about their environment and the challenges they face, she raises awareness about the effect of climate change on arctic species, the cruel act of shark finning and keeping marine mammals in captivity.

During this seminar, Ellen will take you on a virtual trip and show you the stories behind the shots: how to get there, how to prepare, how to create the most chances to come home with a shot, and how to never give up!

This event is presented in conjunction with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute’s online photography exhibit and charitable auction.

Ellen Cuylaerts is an ocean advocate, underwater & wildlife photographer, explorer, and public speaker. Ellen was inducted into the Ocean Arts Society, accepted as a Fellow International in the Explorers Club where she serves as a member of the Flag & Honors Committee. In June 2017, Ellen addressed heads of state on World Oceans Day at the General Assembly of the United Nations, highlighting the plight of photographers and filmmakers engaging in protection of the oceans. She curates the United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition. Ellen was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2019, her work has been in exhibitions worldwide from New York to St. Petersburg. Ellen loves the arctic and telling stories about animals that need the ice for hunting and breeding, but she also loves the darkness and silence of cave diving.


Tremendous thanks for those who are partnering with the Healthy Reef campaign: