December 20, 2011
The Florida Keys is a mix of ocean blue water, sugar white flats, coral gardens, fishy channels and patch reefs. There's no place more scenic or productive that offers the incredible fishing opportunities as the entire Keys chain. But with that distinctiveness is a sportsman's responsibility to keep this ecosystem healthy. And beyond that beauty, all boaters and fishermen must recognize there can be harsh conditions, even in paradise.
Damaged Corals Once Again Flourish
Following a 2002 boat grounding near Key West, restoration biologists assessed the damage and reattached broken corals.
Corals damaged in 2002 when a boat ran aground in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are now thriving following a restoration and near decade-long monitoring effort, according to a NOAA report. With hundreds of groundings happening each year in the sanctuary, lessons learned from this coral reef restoration and monitoring will guide future restoration efforts.
In August 2002, the 36-foot long boat Lagniappe II ran aground on a shallow coral reef near Key West, damaging approximately 376 square feet of living coral in the sanctuary. After sanctuary staff assessed the damage to the reef, restoration biologists used special cement that hardens under water to reattach 473 corals and coral fragments that had been toppled or dislodged during the grounding. The majority of affected corals were boulder star coral, a primary reef building coral in the Florida Keys.
To determine the progress of their restoration efforts, the sanctuary and the National Coral Reef Institute of Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center, used digital photographs and highly specialized computer software to count the types and amounts of coral in the damaged area as well as an adjacent unaffected reference site. Sanctuary biologists could then compare the restoration area with the reference area and note changes over time.
The sanctuary tracked coral condition at the restoration site over an 8-year period, beginning in 2002. By 2009, the reattached coral fragments were indistinguishable from the adjacent uninjured coral colonies. A year later, the amount of coral at the restoration site was higher than at the reference site.
“The monitoring allowed us to document changes to the restored coral and measure the success of this restoration,” said Hatsue Bailey, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary restoration biologist. “With continued use of these methods, as well as additional monitoring, we learn more about habitat changes at this location and improve upon existing restoration strategies.”
Hundreds of vessel groundings are reported annually in the Florida Keys. A boat hitting the reef can topple coral heads or grind coral colonies into tiny fragments, damaging and killing coral which may have taken centuries to build. Most vessel groundings are preventable through preparation, patience, and experience.
Charterboat Sinks, Killing One
The salvage of commercial dive boat Get Wet begins. Photo courtesy of the FWC.
Seven of eight passengers were rescued from a sunken charter boat called Get Wet near Islamorada, reported the U.S. Coast Guard. The eighth passenger, a 36-year-old woman, was pronounced dead. The incident was initially reported by NBC News Miami.
According to the Coast Guard, the 30-foot commercial diving boat started taking on water and then capsized at Molasses Reef. Two passengers became trapped within the hull.
According to the Coast Guard, a nearby boater also helped rescue the people. "The Coast Guard is thankful for good Samaritans on the water who maintain a watchful eye and stand ready to assist boaters in distress," said Coast Guard Capt. Pat DeQuattro.
Florida Sportsman members, especially those in the Keys, take notice when the ocean claims a person's life. FS member Lobstercatcher229 said, “I feel like I am as safe as in the Pope's arms when I am out diving, but things can happen and we all need to be careful.” Check out the thread.