[Coral-List] Reply to Grace

Martin Moe martin_moe at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 27 12:26:06 EDT 2015

Hi Grace, I’m glad that you, and hopefully other serious students ofour changing marine environments, are taking interest in the problems thatbeset our marine resources. I am a long time member of the Florida KeysNational Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. I can give you a short answer tomost of your questions but like all complex issues dealing with a huge packageof science, conservation, exploitation, commercial, recreational, industrial,economic, residential, population growth, tourism, pollution and basically allthe environmental concerns produces by the effluent of our affluent modernsocieties; well, it’s complicated. I think the first thing you need to do, ifyou haven’t already done so, is to spend some time at the Sanctuary web site.You have dig deep into it, but you will find answers to many of your questionwithin it. http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/ Some quick answers from my perspective. Question 1. There are many scientists and laboratories thatconduct research on all aspects of the Florida Keys coral reefs and associatedecosystems. Our coral reefs are part and parcel of a great subtropical/tropicalecosystem that is affected by pretty much everything that goes on the Gulf ofMexico and the river runoff of the  southeastern United States, in particular the Everglades situation and theburgeoning populations of South Florida. Universities, NGOs, State and Federallaboratories all have research and restoration programs in operation. Question 2. The FKNMS, State of Florida, and Federalagencies all have enforcement obligations with the laws, rules and regulationsdealing with commercial, recreational, boating marine resources, research andpollution issues in the Keys. Question 3. There are many opportunities for publicinvolvement in the efforts to improve and maintain the natural resources of theFlorida Keys. In terms of policy, The Sanctuary Advisory Council (SAC) takesthe lead in providing public interaction with the Sanctuary staff andadministration. Below is the mission statement of SAC, and on the FKNMSwebsite, there is much more information available. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Councilis an interactive liaison between the residents and visitors of the FloridaKeys and the staff and management of the FKNMS. In this role, and with theunderstanding that a healthy ecosystem is essential to the economy and qualityof life in the Florida Keys, the SAC will promote restoration and maintenanceof biodiversity and ecological resiliency in the South Florida environment. Wewill strive to achieve a vibrant, ecologically sustainable ecosystem andeconomy through application of the best available science and balanced,conservation-based management. Question 4. There are “bushels” of scientific papers on theFlorida Keys environments. Again, many of these papers, such as a recent reporton the condition of the Florida Keys environment titled, "Condition Report2011 for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary" (an excellent summary ofthe marine environment of the Keys) are available on the FKNMS web site underthe heading of Sanctuary Science. On a personal note, I would like to reassure you that all isnot gloom and doom as far as the Florida Keys coral reefs and associated marineecosystems are concerned. Sure, there are great problems that we are dealingwith and solutions are not easy but we are making progress. In the last yearsthere has been a turn from monitoring declines in coral reef ecology towardworking on restoration of our ecosystems. The current reassessment of theboundaries, rules, and regulations of the Sanctuary (including marine protectedareas) are focused on restoration and conservation of these unique andeconomically valuable ecosystems. Coral restoration of branching corals hasadvanced very rapidly with many thousands of coral colonies grown and replacedon reef substrates. Technology on restoration of massive corals by skinningthese dead coral boulders with tiles of living coral polyps that survive andover grow the massive coral skeletal structure, thus replacing a coral colonythat took hundreds of years to grow in only a few years is also rapidlyprogressing. My contribution, as a retired marinebiologist/aquacultureist, is working on the technology for culturing thekeystone herbivore, the long-spined sea urchin that once maintained the balanceof grown between macro algae and corals on the reefs of the Caribbean, theBahamas, and Florida. and also conditioned the substrate that allowed forsettlement and survival of coral larvae and the larvae of sea urchins and otherinvertebrates as well. The vast populations of these urchins, Diademaantillarum, died in a disease epidemic in 1983 and perhaps due to changes inthe benthic ecology (macro algae overgrowth and other factors) have notyet  recovered to ecologically functionalpopulations. This is a difficult task but we are making progress. So I encourage you to continue with your interest, studies,and commitment to the betterment of our marine resources. There is nothinggreater than the promise, resolve, and dedication of youth to create solutionsto the apparently insurmountable problems that seemingly have always plaguedthe development of humanity. Martin Moe  

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