For centuries the coral reefs have been the very lifeblood of the community, providing stability, both economic for paycheck-to-paycheck residents and physical through coastal protection from storm surge.
Today, less than 2% of healthy coral cover remains due to damage from hurricanes, disease, and human interaction. As a result, NOAA and partners identified seven iconic coral reefs as the starting point for a bold, ambitious plan, Mission: Iconic Reefs, to restore the Florida Keys highly diverse and economically valuable marine ecosystem. These sites represent what was once the best of the Florida Keys and will demonstrate how restoration can support a vibrant, sustainable, local economy. This new approach will change the future of the reef and the interdependent Florida Keys community.
Sustainability must also be built into a project of this scale. Complementary education efforts will create change by teaching young people to be the next generation of environmental stewards and by providing opportunities for financial advancement. This stewardship is something the local community, and local students’ future, depends on.
In February of 2020, the United Way of Collier and the Keys (UWCK) announced a $3.5 million gift from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fund these cutting-edge and innovative projects in reef restoration and education. As the first significant funding towards Mission: Iconic Reefs, the project will catalyze this bold plan to restore and protect seven iconic reefs in the Florida Keys. The UAE’s gift to UWCK is part of the UAE’s pledged $10 million assistance to the State of Florida in response to Hurricane Irma in 2017. With these restoration funds, UWCK’s goal is to restore the coral reefs thereby providing physical and financial safety nets, as well as empowering the next generation to carry this work forward.
Photo Credit: Jessica Levy, Coral Restoration Foundation
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On May 20 at an event in Key Largo, UWCK announced a total of $2.1 million awarded to Reef Renewal USA and Coral Restoration Foundation for reef restoration efforts at Carysfort Reef off North Key Largo and Sombrero Reef off Marathon. Both are in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. More details are available in the press release. Click on the photo for more pictures from the event.
UWCK is pleased to coordinate the Restoring the Florida Keys through Reef Restoration and Beyond project, working with NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary's Mission: Iconic Reefs project. As part of our commitment to strengthen the community, UWCK aims to create an environment for Keys residents to thrive. From creating jobs, to providing opportunities for education, to rebuilding the backbone of the community - the coral reefs can help our Florida Keys residents achieve financial stability through this initiative.
We’re excited to see what our local coral reef restoration practitioners have in store for rejuvenating the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem that so many of us depend on for income and protection for our coastline. Education, outreach, jobs and internships will be included in these efforts.UWCK is pleased to work alongside the United Arab Emirates, reef restoration partners and the Keys community to restore our reefs and support our community’s future.
Questions about the UWCK Reef Revitalization project can be addressed to Jessica Dockery via email or at 305-619-6605.