November 4, 2005

Mexico coral reef set back 100 years by Wilma

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A fragile coral reef off the coast
of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula could take more than a century to
recover from a thrashing by Hurricane Wilma last month, the
government said on Friday.

Mexico's National Protected Natural Areas Commission, known
as Conanp, said the storm's three-day rampage across the
eastern region in late October damaged a 25-mile (40-km)
stretch of delicate reefs off the island of Cozumel.

"The area was hit hard by the storm and it could take at
least 100 years for the reef to recover," Conanp regional
director Alfredo Arellano said in a telephone interview from
the resort city of Cancun.

"Whole colonies of coral were torn from their original site
and tossed into the abyss," he said.

Cozumel's delicate coral gardens form part of an
archipelago of reefs stretching for hundreds of miles (km)
southward to the coast of Honduras, comprising the largest reef
system in the hemisphere.

Arellano said a team of 10 divers and conservationists had
begun rebuilding sections of the damaged reef, using pneumatic
drills to bore holes in sea-bed rocks to reattach loose coral
fragments with epoxy cement.

He said the restoration work was painstaking and that
Conanp hoped to volunteer sport divers in the Cancun area would

"It's slow job and help would be very welcome," he said.