Florida's Reefs

Precht, Bill Bprecht at pbsj.com
Mon Jun 25 10:18:13 EDT 2001

Dear Coral List:

Over the years there has been much debate (sometimes heated) over the causes
of reef decline/demise.  This debate has been especially strenuous over the
status and future of Florida's reefs.

Many of you are familiar with the arguments...and I certainly have voiced my
own opinion over the years.

However, no matter what your individual stance or opinion might be, I think
all involved in trying to fund a research program will find this editorial
of some interest. (see below)


Editorial: What's killing reefs?

The Palm Beach Post
Monday, June 25, 2001

Gov. Bush made an error in judgment when he vetoed a $1 million grant to
pinpoint sources of nutrients feeding reef-killing algae along Florida's
east coast and the Keys.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution scientist Brian LaPointe hoped to
expand a study already under way that seeks a link between the algae growth
and treated sewage being pumped underground by waste treatment plants and
dumped offshore through ocean outfall pipes.

Mr. LaPointe suspects the treated waste underground may be seeping out
along the reefs. He wants to test the codium and caulerpa algae for signs
of a nitrogen isotope that could link them to human waste.

The governor said he vetoes projects in the state budget based on whether
they provide a statewide benefit and have been openly and fairly debated by
elected officials. Harbor Branch lost about $3 million to the governor's

The study to locate nitrogen sources that may be feeding reef-killing
algae, however, would be of statewide importance.

Mr. LaPointe estimates 40 percent of the living coral at Looe Key National
Marine Sanctuary in Florida's Keys died between 1996 and 2000. Nutrient-
fed, fleshy caulerpa and codium algae also are appearing on the ocean floor
and on reefs along the coasts of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
The invasive underwater vegetation covers coral and takes up space on the
ocean bottom, crowding out good algae that fish eat, killing the coral and
taking up space where coral normally could grow.

The impact of dead reefs on Florida's economy could be staggering. Divers,
snorkelers, fishermen, tourists and residents enjoy healthy reefs and the
diverse population of fish and other marine life the reefs support. The
reef-lovers buy dive and snorkel gear, rent boats, hire guides, stay in
hotels and eat in restaurants -- all part of Florida's tourist economy.

Just as important, the coastal and Keys reefs make Florida a special place
on the planet. The reefs are Florida's treasure. They deserve to be
preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy. State and federal
agency scientists don't agree on why the reefs are dying. Mr. LaPointe has
a promising theory that deserves investigation -- and the state should
provide the money for research. <end; shown in its entirety>


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