Why Here, and Why Now?
June 12th, 2019
Don’t despair, but be alarmed: Reefs are not gone, but many are threatened. Nature can recover if we help it. There is still plenty of hope and plenty of tried and true solutions, as well as new creative ones at our disposal. We’re entering—and partly ushering in—a new era of ocean optimism.
OceanX has catalyzed an ambitious expedition, in collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Bloomberg Philanthropies Vibrant Oceans Initiative. We are collectively doing an end-to-end reef survey of the entire Florida Reef Tract to better understand what factors wield most influence on coral reef health—whether it’s external pollution factors, ecological factors, or microbiological factors—by taking the vital signs of the entire reef. But why this reef system, and why now?
Over the decades, the reef system has been pushed to its limit from impacts of climate change, overfishing, pollution, disease, and physical destruction. These multiple stressors have resulted in serious declines of reef health, and have likely contributed to large quantities of coral succumbing to the ongoing breakout of stony coral tissue loss sisease along the reef tract.
Although Florida has made significant strides in protecting the reef, there is more that can be done by improving water quality, curbing pollution, preventing offshore drilling and supporting coral reef restoration.
OceanX believes in ocean solutions driven by ocean exploration and discovery. We have hope that scientific knowledge from this expedition would actually give new information that can help people revive the once vibrant and now beleaguered reefs of Florida. More than 70,000 people’s livelihoods, and billions of dollars in recreational, fishing, and coastal protection value combine to make healthy reefs in Florida an essential part of the economy, and a symbol synonymous with Southern Florida community identity and life.
We are driven by knowledge that a shared prosperity between nature and people is possible. And by urgency. What solutions we implement or not for the oceans in the next 10 years will determine what the oceans look like in 100 years.
We are in Florida on the brink of a new decade dedicated to global oceans because we know there are solutions to even tough environmental problems. If we figure out how to revive the reefs in Florida, we can figure it out anywhere. Impacted by overfishing, pollution, climate change, physical habitat destruction, five percent of the original reef is still holding on. Regrettably, what’s left is now running the gauntlet between these offenses and an outbreak of coral disease. We will find which corals and which parts of the reefs are resistant to coral disease, which parts are able to bounce back (resilient), what is causing the disease and therefore how to stop it, and what types of human interventions are most helpful.
Ocean solutions often focus on interventions. Will reefs, our traditional interventions have been marine protected areas closed to fishing and trampling of the reef, and often laws that guard against water pollution. But now is an exciting time because we have more tools in our toolbox. There are various ecological, physiological, genetic, and other interventions that people can apply to coral reefs to maintain the integrity of reef systems.
Alucia deckhand George gets ready to take the team out for a night dive.
Northwind heads out for a night dive.
Alucia crew member waits in the zodiac.
Our expedition is critical right now for finding out which coral reef interventions will give hope for Florida’s reefs, specifically testing physiological, as well as genetic and reproductive, interventions. It will take a combination of reduced pollution, fisheries regulations, preventing offshore drilling, and increased funding for coral reef restoration research for the State of Florida to return the reefs close to their vibrant state that many remember from the 1970s. The lessons we learn here will be helpful for reefs around the world.
One last piece of food for thought: if people restore ecosystems, what do we restore them to? Do we ever truly restore to something that was once wild or do we restore and maintain something that is more like a curated garden? Is the future of the Florida Keys—America’s Great Barrier Reef—as a coral garden, forever managed by people, or a wild natural ecosystem? Or something in-between?
|CURRENT LOCATION:||Miami, Florida, USA|
|MILES TRAVELED:||0 nm|