WE NEED YOUR HELP
Life in the Florida Keys depends on a healthy ocean with thriving coral Reefs.
But, despite best efforts, our coral reefs are disappearing before our eyes.
Without these reefs, our economy and livelihoods are under threat.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has released a new series of plans to prevent the permanent loss of the marine life that supports lives and livelihoods in the Florida Keys.
These plans need your support, today.
Hurricanes, coral bleaching, disease, and heavy recreational use have led to a catastrophic decline in our coral reefs. Without corals, there would be no fish, no lobster, no turtles, and therefore, no diving, no snorkeling, no fishing.
We now have just two percent coral cover left in the Keys.
In order to save our community we need to take action, today, to protect and restore life along the Florida Reef Tract. The most important thing you can do today is to lend your support to the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary's Restoration Blueprint.
We’re watching our reefs disappear before our eyes, and along with them, our livelihoods.
Continuing with our current management plan is not an option if we want to save our community.
The new Restoration Blueprint is our chance to save our reefs and make sure that our children and grandchildren will be able to thrive in the Keys. They deserve to live the Keys life that we’ve had the chance to live. They deserve to earn a living from a healthy ocean. They deserve more than we’re giving them right now.
The proposed plans will not stop us from using our waters for things like fishing or diving.
They will help us protect our reefs, mangroves, and backcountry to make sure we can continue these activities in the future. Without action, our reefs, and therefore our fish and lobster, will be gone within the next few decades.
The proposed plans recommend actions like:
Creating areas where boats cannot drop anchor on critical ecosystems. When anchors are dropped, critical ecosystems like coral reefs and seagrass beds face irrecoverable destruction.
Reducing vessel speeds in protected areas to help prevent collision with valuable marine life like manatees and turtles.
Expanding protected areas to include Coral Restoration Foundation™ nurseries and restoration sites.
Incentivizing dive operators to become Blue Star Operators with special access to protected areas. Blue Star Operators are dedicated to education and habitat conservation, ultimately preserving our reefs and marine life for the future.
These plans do not come from the Federal Government level, they come from our community. From the people who have given their lives to Keys, and who have invested everything in the place we call home. It’s our economy that’s facing collapse, so it’s our job to take action.
We desperately need your help. We need you to raise your voice in support of these efforts to save the Keys' precious marine ecosystems from extinction.
Please take a moment to submit comments of support through the online portal at www.regulations.gov (docket number NOAA-NOS-2019-0094). We desperately need positive voices to outweigh the negative, which can often be the loudest.
If you’d like to show your support in-person, please attend the next public Sanctuary Advisory Council meeting on December 10, 2019, at the Islander Resort in Islamorada where you can give official oral and written comments in support of greater protection for our waters.
We have until January 10th, 2020 to submit public comments.
Please take a moment to help the Keys keep our reputation as one of the world’s premier destinations for diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Please submit your comments of support through the online portal at www.regulations.gov (docket number NOAA-NOS-2019-0094).
We desperately need to support the Sanctuary's efforts, which could be our last chance to save the Florida Reef Tract.
ROCK ON: A BOULDER CORAL UPDATE
As the year comes to a close, it’s time for reflection and looking back on the progress we have made in 2019! We have successfully submitted our annual reports, namely our 3-year NOAA grant and a report about boulder coral. These reports discuss multiple elements of restoration, most notably the number of corals outplanted across our nine restoration sites ranging from Carysfort Reef to Marker 32. This past year, we planted (drum roll please) 26,590 staghorn and elkhorn corals and nearly 1,500 boulder corals! This brings us to a grand total of 28,027 corals for the year, surpassing last year’s goal of 23,021!
While we have made great strides in coral restoration, we are continuously looking at ways to diversify our restoration and improve our methods. One way we are doing this is by ramping up our boulder coral production! Boulder corals were first introduced in our nursery three to four years ago. We currently house four different species - massive starlet coral (Siderastrea siderea), great star coral (Montastraea cavernosa), lobed star coral (Orbicella annularis), and mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata). The Orbicella species are of particular importance because, much like staghorn and elkhorn, they are a reef-building species that provide a strong foundation for the reef’s integrity.
Originally, we hung boulder corals on our traditional Coral Tree, but we have since transitioned to epoxying fragments to plugs that are then placed onto trays. This provides all the benefits of our traditional Coral Trees, while allowing boulder fragments to grow vertically. Because of this, we are now able to grow boulder corals faster! We have spent many days in the nursery fragging these corals in preparation for massive outplanting next year.
This past month, our restoration staff and interns went with Horizon Divers for a massive outplanting effort on Carysfort Reef. Once considered the premiere dive site of the Florida Keys, Carysfort has been impacted by compounding threats to coral reefs. But in just one day, our team outplanted a total of 1,200 staghorn and elkhorn corals! One of our volunteer divers had this to say after outplanting:
"Outplanting 1,200 corals really put the work CRF™ is doing into perspective for me. It was incredible to look at our work site at the end of the dive, and know that the corals will grow into a healthy, recovered ecosystem."
With hurricane season winding down, it's still been pretty difficult to have good days on the water for outplanting. So when we saw a window of good weather this past week, we grabbed our tanks and headed out! With such opportune weather and great group of volunteers, we were able to outplant our largest number to date in a single day.
"Bringing It Back" Editorial Intern
Krista is from Quincy, Massachusetts and is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington with degrees in Marine Biology and Psychology as well as a minor in Neuroscience. She grew up on the ocean and first got the conservation bug when she watched as horseshoe crabs and seagrass beds near her home began to disappear. Throughout her undergraduate career, she took an interest in animal behavior and neurobiology and most recently conducted research in lifespan changes in the brains of sharks. She has worked closely with the New England Aquarium as an aquarist intern and conservation volunteer, as well as the National Estuarine Research Reserve in Homer, Alaska studying the foraging ecology of sea otters. In terms of diving, she got certified in high school but attributes her passion for the sport to her internship with the Boston Sea Rovers. Most recently, she obtained her PADI Divemaster certification as well as AAUS scientific diver and was proud to serve as the President of her university’s SCUBA Club. Krista is overjoyed to finally combine her passions of marine conservation, diving, and outreach to make lasting impacts on the local reef systems through her internship with the Coral Restoration Foundation™!