Florida Disease Coral Rescue Project
Florida’s coral reefs are currently experiencing a multi-year disease-related mortality event. The disease is being call “stony coral tissue loss” disease. First observed near Virginia Key in late 2014, the disease has since spread to the northernmost extent of the Florida Reef Tract, and south into the Lower Florida Keys.
In July 2018, DEP Florida Coastal Office, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program hosted a coral disease workshop to develop a response plan for the ongoing coral disease outbreak in Florida. A primary intervention recommendation from that workshop was to “rescue” representative healthy corals ahead of the disease boundary and place them in land-based aquaria, to: 1) prevent them from becoming infected;2)preserve genetic diversity; and 3)serve as source stock for propagation for future restoration activities, when appropriate. Callaway Marine Technologies is currently performing consulting work for this coral rescue effort. We are providing scientific divers, dive vessels and topside vessel support for coral rescue activities as well as scientific and support staff to help prepare corals for genetic testing and transportation. CMT also provided scientific staff and vessels to perform surveys prior to the pilot study in order to help identify potential collection sites.