A coral recovery and restoration project in the Florida Keys headed by The Nature Conservancy was selected for an Earth Day visit by Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the nation’s ocean agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA.
Dr. Lubchenco, several representatives of the Obama administration and Florida’s Congressional delegation, and other organizations involved in the project toured today one of eight underwater nurseries where threatened species of corals are being grown and prepared to be planted on nearby coral reefs—increasing the diversity and restoring the health of these areas. They also viewed locations where the coral would soon be attached to degraded reefs.
The long-term goal of increasing the production and diversity of the threatened staghorn and elkhorn coral will involve at least 12,000 coral colonies grown out in nurseries and transplanted onto at least 34 depleted reef sites.
The project is funded through NOAA by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and undertaken by multiple organizations: The Nature Conservancy, Nova Southeastern University, University of Miami, Coral Restoration Foundation, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mote Marine Laboratory, The National Park Service, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the University of the Virgin Islands and Penn State University.
In addition to 46 jobs created or retained through the project, it will have significant and tangible ecological impacts through an increase in local biodiversity and enhanced ecosystem for marine wildlife and ocean user groups, such as recreational divers and snorkelers, commercial dive tour operators, commercial fishers and recreational anglers.
“The scientific rigor guiding this project will directly benefit the recovery of these species and set the precedent for coral propagation,” said Jeff Danter, the Conservancy’s Florida director.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.