Protecting species often seems to come with what some people view as a downside. To protect recently-deemed-threatened staghorn and elkhorn corals, that could mean tougher looks at beach widening, sewage discharge, ship anchoring and other coastal activities if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service goes through with a designating parts of southern Florida as critical habitat for these corals, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Florida reportedly has the third-largest coral reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the barrier reef in Central America near Belize. Many of Florida’s reefs have died off or suffered from bleaching. The staghorn and elkhorn corals in question have seen a 90% decline, according to the article. There is an economic importance in saving the corals, as well: NOAA has estimated the reef is worth $7.6 billion to the economy.
Read more at the article linked above….
Today, a state senate environmental committee is set to look at legislation that would phase out pumping sewage into the Atlantic Ocean.
Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are the only three counties that pump treated waste into the ocean, according to news from the Miami Herald, to the tune of 300 million gallons a day. The counties are supposedly balking at the idea of it, saying it will be costly and that there’s no proof the treated waste is harming coral reefs (although scientists have been studying that).
I don’t claim to know the answers about where the sewage should go, but there has to be a better place for it than the ocean. Even if you don’t do it for the coral reefs, or for the sea life, consider the economic impact. Florida’s main industry is tourism, no small part of that thanks to the beaches. If beaches have to turn people away because the bacteria levels are too high, that sends a bad message to tourists. It also tells residents we don’t care about cleaning up our own messes.
I, for one, don’t care to swim in a cesspool.
The coral reefs off Ft. Lauderdale’s shore have been battered by ships that anchor there near the busy Port Everglades. However, the U.S. Coast Guard just agreed to get rid of that anchorage near the coral reefs, the Sun-Sentinel reports. The article says about a dozen ships have gotten stuck on the reefs since 1994. According to the article, there are no complaints about removing this anchorage to protect the reefs and expanding another existing anchorage point that’s in deeper water. No complaints? Could that be a first?
Elkhorn and staghorn coral were deemed threatened and placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List last year but don’t have habitat protections in place as required by law. That will change with a recent legal settlement that tells the National Marine Fisheries Service to put those protections in place next year, according to a Naples Daily News article. Other marine species are part of the settlement, too.
In the past 30 years, the corals have declined 80% to 98%, the article says. No wonder they need protection!
Elkhorn coral photo by NOAA
When it came to the impact of hurricanes on coral reefs, people thought in general that hurricanes were bad news. The latest from NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, however, points to research that shows in 2005, Katrina and Wilma had a cooling effect on Florida Keys corals, which was good news. Warmer water can bleach corals, but the hurricane-cooled water was able to “alleviate thermal stress” on the marine environment. Good to know when the next hurricane hits.
” ‘4-H, you think of growing pigs, cows and chickens,’ [Ken] Nedimyer laughs. ‘We said, we’ll grow coral.’ ”
I love this coral restoration story, by NBC News. A Keys native who makes his living selling tropical fish online discovered endangered staghorn coral growing in his own tank. So when his teenage daughter needed a 4H project, they decided to work with Mote Marine Laboratory to help restore the coral, planting the staghorn to help revive dying reefs.
The article also mentions the Florida “Protect Our Reefs” license plate, whose funds go to Mote to aid in research on dying reefs — and that’s the license plate on my car!