A major announcement was made Monday about protections for the ecosystem lining Florida’s coastline. A new coral reef research and restoration project is underway in the Florida Keys and in Sarasota.
“Florida’s coral reef is really in trouble,” said Stephannie Kettle, public relations manager for Mote Marine Laboratory.
In fact, it’s on the brink of extinction. That’s why Monday – World Oceans Day – Mote Marine announced it will take steps to restore the reef in the Florida Keys.
“We are building the first coral nursery in Islamorada and going to be focusing more of our coral restoration efforts there in Islamorada,” Kettle said.
In 2018, WINK News traveled to Summerland Key where we got a firsthand look at how biologists cut pieces of coral to plant back in the water after growing it inside the lab.
“So we’re really picking the corals that have the best chance of surviving in a changing ocean environment,” Kettle said.
With that changing environment, time is of the essence for Florida’s ecosystem and economy.
“When you look at Florida’s coral reef, 50 years ago, it was about 50 percent living coral cover. Right now, it’s five percent or less of living coral cover, so trying to get it back to that healthy reef is a really long road ahead,” Kettle said.
“They provide habitat for species of fish that we love to go fishing for here in Southwest Florida; they help protect our shoreline during storms and hurricanes.”
Mote is also moving forward on building a coral gene bank where they can grow coral in east Sarasota County.