SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -
In 2019, NOAA announced Mission: Iconic Reefs, an initiative to restore nearly 3,000,000 sq. feet, about the size of 52 football fields, of the Florida Reef Tract - one of the largest strategies ever proposed for coral restoration.
Earlier this week, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and NOAA awarded a grant of $5 million dollars to MOTE and its partners to help restore Eastern Dry Rocks, one of seven iconic reefs located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
“It’s going to help support all of the propagation, grow out and outplanting of the species that we need to put back out onto Eastern Dry Rocks in order for that coral ecosystem to recover,” says Dr. Erinn Muller, Senior Scientist with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
This project will include the addition of 60,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals. Mote’s partners will monitor the restoration’s success and its benefits to coastal resilience. Coral reefs provide substantial protection against coastal storms and storm surge by reducing wave energy by an average of 97%.
“Some things that we do at Mote is to ensure that the corals that we put out on the reef are going to be able to withstand water temperatures as they continue to increase,” says Dr. Muller.
Florida’s iconic reefs are the basis for thriving ecosystems underwater and the critical tourism economy on dry land.
“It’s estimated that the Florida’s coral reef is worth about $8 billion dollars to the state economy and helps to support over 70,000 local jobs,” says Dr. Muller.
There are ways that you can get involved to help support these coral restoration efforts.
Dr. Muller states, “you can actually partner with dive shops throughout the Florida Keys and you can participate in restoration activities through site preparation, monitoring propagation and fragmentation. You can also become a steward for those reefs by being a part of those programs.”
If you’re a Florida driver, you can help support Florida’s underwater treasure with the purchase of a Protect Our Reefs license plate. Each plate sold in the state of Florida provides a $25 donation to Mote Marine Laboratory and helps to fund coral reef research, restoration, education and conservation.
Mote is partnering with The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Mote’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration on Summerland Key, and the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) to make sure that NOAA’s Mission: Iconic Reefs is nothing short of a success.