Conserving the Caribbean’s oceans with 3D printed coral reefs


A report by Tess for 3ders.

While 3D printing trends may come and go, this one is sure to stick and could even help to renew life and save underwater ecosystems. The trend I am referring to is that of 3D printing coral, an effort which was first tried and tested by the Reef Design Lab (RDL), an Australian organization dedicated to finding new ways to save coral reefs. With the success of the 3D printed coral in places such as Monaco and Bahrain, another organization, this time based on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire, is following suit.

Bonaire, which has become known for its innovative efforts towards preserving and restoring the Caribbean’s threatened coral reefs, is hoping to introduce 3D printed coral into the region to help replenish the fragile ecosystems which are being depleted by global warming. The 3D printing coral project itself is an initiative between ocean preservationist (and Jacques Cousteau’s grandson) Fabien Cousteau and Bonaire’s Harbour Village Beach Club.

Together, the two parties plan to 3D design and print pieces of artificial coral that bear the same shape, texture, and even chemical makeup of organic coral in the hopes that they will attract floating baby coral polyps and other species who rely on the coral reefs for protection such as algae, anemones, octopi, crab and many fish species.


Eric Ewoldt, Executive Director of Harbour Village, said of the project: “We are pleased to use advanced knowledge of prominent sea issues to make Bonaire an example for the Caribbean and other areas of the world. We know 3D printing efforts have worked in Monaco and the Gulf States among others. With the development of our Ocean Learning Center, now is the perfect time to launch this technology in Bonaire.”

What’s more, the 3D printed coral will be printed locally on the island through the Harbour Village’s Ocean Learning Center, which will reduce and effectively eliminate transportation pollution and costs. So far, the precise locations for testing the 3D printed coral have not been determined.

“3D printed corals can generate real change and establish real growth for reefs, one of the key attractions for visitors and divers alike in Bonaire,” explained Fabien Cousteau. “This technology is less labor-intensive that current coral restoration processes creating a larger impact in a shorter amount of time.”

The 3D printing coral project is part of a larger collaborative initiative between Cousteau and the Harbour Village Beach Club to raise awareness about ocean conservation, primarily for tourists and visitors in the Caribbean. Cousteau’s Ocean Learning Center, headquartered in New York City, was also expanded to Bonaire through the partnership and now offers a number of educational programs and events for guests.

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