AP Photos: Saving Jamaica's coral, an undersea labor of love

DAVID PHILLIP
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What Can Be Saved Coral Underwater Photo Gallery

Diver Everton Simpson plants staghorn coral harvested from a coral nursery inside the the White River Fish Sanctuary Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The energetic 68-year-old has reinvented himself several times, but always made a living from the ocean. Once a spear fisherman and later a scuba-diving instructor, Simpson started working as a "coral gardener" two years ago, part of grassroots efforts to bring Jamaica's coral reefs back from the brink. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica (AP) — The tropical turquoise waters near the coast of Jamaica are beautiful and inviting, but they disguise the devastation that lurks beneath. After flipping backwards off a small wooden boat and diving toward the ocean floor, the damage comes into full view. The landscape looks like an underwater desert, with nothing but sand and rocks visible — no fish in sight. But swim a little farther and pieces of regenerating staghorn coral appear, strung out on a line, waiting to be tied onto rocks in an effort to repair the damage done to reefs by man and nature. Diver Everton Simpson kicks up some sand as he moves closer to the coral nursery and harvests some of the precious crop to be transplanted in a protected area. As he clears an area for the new coral and ties it to its new home, the current propels him back and forth, making the delicate process seem akin to trying to thread a needle on a roller coaster. The years of care that Simpson has devoted to trying to bring back Jamaica's coral reefs are shown by the cuts on his hands as he painstakingly works to transplant the new coral. One day, he and the other Jamaicans doing this work hope, the coral and fish will fully return and match the beauty of the water above.

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