What is the difference?

Trish Hunt gigi101 at bellsouth.net
Sat Aug 4 12:42:21 EDT 2001

It’s me again
for those of you that remember the letter to Gov. Bush.  I
have a few questions on a different topic, a new “soap-box” issue, if you
will.  I have already corresponded with some on this list about my new
issue.  I know I am fighting an uphill battle; but it is one that I hope,
with some help from other private citizens, that we can win.  I am hoping
someone can explain to me what the difference is between a worm reef and a
coral reef.

I am presently doing research on beach restoration projects, specifically
when such projects pose a threat of possibly burying near shore hard bottom
habitat.  Frankly, I am trying to find alternatives to a specific project.
I need to know the difference between a worm reef and a coral reef so that I
may better understand the permit applicant’s viewpoints on why it is ok or
of little concern if the habitat in this proposed project area is buried
under silt.  (Previous smaller projects in the area have already caused some
obvious damage to the habitat.)  I am asking why it has been stated, “It’s
only a worm reef,” or “It’s not like it is a coral reef,” when there is
occulina coral everywhere, some other corals that I do not have enough
education in the area to identify, there are many different species of
sponges, more urchins than I would ever want to count (wasn’t there a big
deal not long ago where urchins mysteriously disappeared helping to
contribute to an over abundance of algae?), many species of fish including
wrasses, damsels, angels, parrotfish, nurse sharks, and many others,
lobsters (quite a few), hermit crabs, coral banded shrimp, sea turtles and a
lot of other inhabitants that I don’t care to attempt to list.

I was of the opinion that a reef is a reef is a reef; and a reef system
included any and all inhabitants from microscopic plankton all the way to
the largest of game fish and more.  I am hoping someone from this list can
help to set me straight on the difference and perhaps provide some educated,
professional, scientific opinions (you may remain anonymous :-)) as to why
property owners on the beaches would justify possible reef damage by saying
it is only a worm reef.  I honestly do not understand what the difference
is; or why it would matter if there are worms present, as long as there is
coral present, why it is not “classified” a coral reef.

I would appreciate any response that may provide me with a better
understanding of all this.  I am just hoping that these ecosystems weren’t
given the name worm reef just for political reasons (I haven’t seen any
worms on the reefs yet and I have several different species of worms in my
aquarium on live rock that come out during the day), to keep the EPA from
being too demanding for information and alternative actions, so that their
beach restoration projects are more easily permitted.

Thank you in advance,
Patricia Hunt
Mother, wife, and student
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