It usually has something to do with a deep rooted love for the ocean. Waking up every day and calling the deck of a boat our office is as close to living the dream as we can imagine. Whether we’re free diving at the reef to discover spiny lobsters tucked under a coral ledge, kayaking through mangroves or marveling at yet another legendary Key West sunset, we feel a kindred spirit with the natural world. And we love sharing this unique and diverse ecosystem with you, our customers.
We are proud to be Blue Star Operators in Key West, a distinction bestowed by NOAA certifying that we are dedicated to coral reef education and conservation, and we’ve proudly organized a number of offshore cleanups.
We’ve also partnered with Mote Marine Laboratories on an exciting coral reef restoration program. Founded in 1955, Mote is dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans and they’re doing some incredible, important work on our reef. We’re donating a portion of every snorkel ticket sold to their work, and we’re already seeing the fruits of these labors through coral nurseries and forests in the waters of Key West at the Sand Key Lighthouse and in Summerland Key.
Coral reefs support as much as 40% of the world’s marine life and Key West is home to the third largest barrier reef system in the world. Since the 1970s we’ve lost as much as 90% of our indigenous coral coverage in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean Basin.
What has caused such an alarming decrease in our coral? There are a number of factors that play into this.
- Climate change and global warming
- Water quality and pollution
- Ocean acidification
- Diseases resulting from the above stressors
- The loss of 98% of our spiny urchins in the 1980s. This keystone reef species are grazers, meaning they eat algae accumulated on hard coral keeping it clean and healthy for coral spawning. Without them, the coral substrate is covered in algae, which leads to bacteria and infections, and prohibits coral from spawning and growing.
In order to reverse this crisis, Mote is working on coral restoration, spiny urchin restoration and water quality improvements and initiatives. Mote’s coral nursery offshore in Summerland Key, which we support, has produced over 12,000 pieces of coral in four years with a success rate of 85-90% of corals alive and growing. Through our partnership with Mote, the nursery in Sand Key was established a few months ago and we’re starting to see the corals grow with great success. We’re restoring reef building corals, such as staghorn, elkhorn, brain and star coral.
In the future, we hope to create a trip where we can bring our patrons out to our coral nurseries and forests and teach them about the science of this incredible process. Mote’s overall goal is to plant one millions corals over the span of ten years, and we want to be apart of this important work.
Stay tuned for updates and more information as we embark on this exciting journey. After all, we want the reef to be here for generations to come, not only to enjoy and share with you, but also to support the marine life of the world’s oceans. Enjoy these pictures of Mote and Fury’s coral nurseries and forests.