Cammy Clark –
Stimulus money has gone toward many things.
From Broward County to the Florida Keys, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, $3.3 million of it was used to create “singles bars” — for corals.
As part of the world’s largest reef restoration project, about 30,000 threatened staghorn and elkhorn coral colonies were grown in several underwater nurseries.
Now, about 10,000 of the fast-growing corals, ranging in size from a couple of inches to colonies as big as a soccer ball, are being strategically transplanted to reefs in eight geographical areas.
The hope is they will not only continue to grow, but spawn to make tens of thousands more coral colonies along the 300-mile reef tract.
“We’re just giving them a jump start,” said The Nature Conservancy’s James Byrne, the marine biologist who is overseeing the massive, three-year project funded by the American Recovery and Restoration Act of 2009.
“Now, if they can successfully reproduce, it will blow away anything we can do,” he said.
Ken Nedimyer of Key Largo, whose pioneering work in coral nurseries has been the blueprint for the project, already has witnessed his transplanted corals doing the wild thing at Molasses Reef, a popular dive site.
The federal stimulus funding, which created or supported 56 jobs for the project, has made it possible to turn his efforts and other successful pilot programs into a full-blown restoration.