coral reefs

Riane Roldan / WLRN NEWS

They call themselves the coral whisperers: a global band of scientists working together to save the world's coral reefs.

The captain of a charter boat carrying government scientists on an environmental research cruise near the Keys has been cited for violating environmental regulations.

At Mote Marine Lab's Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, Joey Mandara is like a baby sitter. But instead of children he tends to thousands of baby corals, growing in large, shallow tanks called raceways.

Mote has been doing this work for five years, raising corals from embryos into adult colonies, then planting them on Florida's reefs. Now, the emergence of a new, debilitating coral disease makes his work more important than ever.

Jack Fishman

Sofas, refrigerators, pipes and lobster traps all wound up littering the Keys reef and backcountry flats after Hurricane Irma blew through in September.

Now the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary wants to deploy volunteer divers to remove the debris.

Zack Ransom / Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Divers from a Key Largo environmental group and a Miami science museum removed an orangespine unicornfish from a reef off the Upper Keys this week.

The underwater rapid response team was put together to prevent another exotic species like lionfish from getting a finhold in South Florida waters. Unicornfish are popular in the saltwater aquarium trade, and are native to the tropical Pacific.

Millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year. And the trash stays there: Whether it's grocery bags or water bottles or kids' toys, plastic is practically indestructible.

Now marine scientists have discovered that it's killing coral reefs.

A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries — Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar — are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills.

A mysterious epidemic continues to sweep South Florida's reefs, transforming corals into lifeless skeletons and threatening undersea structures that support tourism, provide hurricane protection and serve as homes to a vast range of marine life.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Survey teams this week completed an assessment of the condition of the Keys reef tract, from Biscayne Bay to Key West.

"It's very much like what's observable on land," said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the 2,900-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. "In some places, the impacts are pretty dramatic and visible and in other places they are much less. So we're finding the same is true underwater."

Even in the same location, the hurricane's impacts differ.

At a time when the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs are facing unprecedented destruction, researchers in Australia have found a small ray of hope for the fish that make the reefs their home.

Fish are more resilient to the effects of ocean acidification than scientists had previously thought, according to research published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Every year in the late summer, the dive and tourism industries in the Florida Keys encourage people to come to the island chain and watch the reproductive act first-hand — on the reef.

Courtesy of Netflix

A new documentary came out on Netflix last week. It’s called "Chasing Coral," and it looks at the impact of coral bleaching on reefs.

Courtesy of Netflix

The new documentary "Chasing Coral" is set to debut on Netflix Friday, July 14.

For those in the Keys who don't have the streaming service — or want to see it on the big screen — the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary along with several marine conservation groups is presenting four free screenings along the island chain Friday evening.

The screenings times and locations are:

Caleb Jones / AP

A mass bleaching of coral reefs worldwide is finally easing after three years, U.S. scientists announced Monday.

About three-quarters of the world's delicate coral reefs were damaged or killed by hot water in what scientists say was the largest coral catastrophe.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a global bleaching event in May 2014. It was worse than previous global bleaching events in 1998 and 2010.

Joe Berg / Way Down Video


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