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Coral Restoration Site Hit by Boat Anchor

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

  • Critically endangered elkhorn corals that survived Hurricane Irma have been found fractured at their bases, pieces of them scattered and exposed on the ocean floor. A missing mooring buoy near the site indicates that a boat anchor was dropped and dragged across the reef.

  • When dropped, a boat anchor can decimate a vast area of reef in seconds. The result is often permanent loss of corals and additional years of recovery for the affected site.

  • Coral Restoration Foundation™ teams were able to assess the site and reattach viable colonies.

A key Coral Restoration Foundation™ restoration site, Pickles Reef, has been severely damaged by an anchor drag and drop, leaving well-established elkhorn corals fractured at their bases and scattered over the reef. It is evident from the damage assessment and a missing mooring buoy that a boat dropped its anchor and proceeded to drag the anchor over this critical site.

Jessica Levy, Coral Restoration Foundation™ Restoration Program Manager said, “We’re all saddened and upset by the incident here at CRF™. When our dive team went to Pickles Reef to monitor some of our new elkhorn outplants, we were shocked to see such major damage to these well-established colonies. The corals that have been destroyed were returned to the wild in 2014. It is devastating to think that these corals survived Hurricane Irma only to be wiped out by someone carelessly dropping an anchor on the reef.”

Pickles Reef before the anchor damage (left) and after (right).

Unfortunately, anchor damage to coral colonies is not uncommon. Centuries of reef growth are annihilated every single day by this type of disregard. If left unattended, damaged coral will move with ocean surge and quickly die due to abrasion and burial from sediment.

Even with this setback, Coral Restoration Foundation™ hopes to recover this site to give this story a positive outcome.  They are pleading with community members and visitors to be more cautious out on the water. A quick act of carelessness can decimate decades of coral reef growth. But a moment of consideration will ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful marine ecosystem.

Please use good practices when anchoring a boat including the following:

  • Research where boats can anchor or attach to a mooring buoy safely before a boat trip

  • Attach the boat to a mooring buoy

  • If there is no access to a mooring buoy, look for a sandy area that is away from a coral reef or seagrass bed

  • Ensure your anchor is set and will not drag

To be sure, work is occurring within and under permit from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and anchoring on coral is illegal in the sanctuary.

The CRF™ team repairing viable coral colonies on Pickles Reef.

For more information, please contact Alice Grainger:


Coral Restoration Foundation™

Coral Restoration Foundation™ (CRF™) is a non-profit marine conservation organization dedicated to restoring reefs to a healthy state in Florida and globally. Through large-scale cultivation, outplanting and monitoring of genetically diverse corals, CRF works to support the reefs’ natural recovery processes. CRF engages and empowers others in their mission with dive programs, educational activities, scientific collaborations, and community outreach.

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