There is an impressive number of organizations and movements that are fighting for the future of the environment, covering a wide variety of issues - plastic pollution, deforestation, and animal welfare to name a few. These groups work tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for their cause in hopes to reduce or eliminate the problem. In the words of Jacques Cousteau, “people protect what they love.”
One widely known conservation topic is coral reef restoration.
Despite covering less than one percent of Earth’s surface, the reef ecosystem holds the greatest biodiversity on the planet, and is home to over twenty-five percent of marine organisms (Coral Reef Alliance). They also protect shorelines from erosion, provide a nursery for juvenile marine life, and provide sustainable income for the diving ecotourism industry.
With rising sea temperatures, overfishing, and pollution, reef ecosystems are dying. Researchers have studied the effects of sunscreen chemicals on the corals, encouraging brands to become “reef safe”.
One pioneering organization is the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), a non-profit stationed in Key Largo, Florida.
Key Largo is the northernmost Key in the Florida Keys, and is home to North America’s only barrier reef, providing ecotourism opportunities for divers of all experience levels. With deep wrecks, shallow reefs, and plenty of marine life, Key Largo is considered the “Diving Capital of the World.”
Founded in 2007, CRF’s mission is to restore the reef by growing coral fragments and out-planting them, essentially rebuilding the reef.
With a team of volunteers and staff members, CRF maintains a coral nursery for small coral fragments, out-plants larger fragments on the reef, and records growth and mortality rates of previously out-planted fragments to monitor their efforts and progress.
As Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s motto states, “Awareness Inspires Conservation.” CRF knows how critical public education is, and hosts many citizen science programs throughout the year, encouraging people to sign up for and participate in coral restoration while working alongside the CRF team. They recently opened an education center as well, displaying their work and data to visitors.
The big annual event hosted by CRF is called Coralpalooza, a weekend-long program every June. There is open enrollment for the public to join the staff and volunteers in their efforts of restoration and research. Local dive shops show support for the event by donating to CRF through free dive trips and gear rentals for the weekend, encouraging more people to participate by reducing the costs of operation. This is an incredible movement that includes efforts out of not only Key Largo, but also Key West and Bonaire.
This dedication by Coral Restoration Foundation is incredibly promising and sets a fantastic example of the positive results of conservation and education. It is the world’s largest marine conservation non-profit organization, and they’re only growing stronger.
Check out CRF at www.coralrestoration.org to support them and find out how you can get involved in this inspiring initiative.
Writing and photography by @sharkdiver_kaitlyn