Coral Rescue and Protection Program

hands working with coral

Corals are protected within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, but sanctuary managers must balance that protection with the periodic construction or building that occurs in areas where coral is present. The sanctuary removes coral colonies from docks, seawalls, and shoreline stabilization projects, rescuing them from damage that would have otherwise occurred during construction. Rescuing corals enables permitted construction to continue, but also ensures that minimal damage occurs to corals in the process.

Since 2003, approximately 9,500 coral colonies and coral fragments have been rescued by the sanctuary and partners during seawall construction and repairs, marina and dock development, and shoreline stabilization projects.

Preserving Rescued Corals

There are several options for preserving rescued corals. Larger coral colonies are preferably transplanted back to the construction site or a nearby location with similar habitat after construction has concluded. Some corals are transplanted to depleted reef sites or placed in underwater nurseries to grow and propagate new colonies for reef restoration. Other corals are shared with public aquariums for educational exhibits or with universities and organizations to conduct research that will help protect coral reefs for the future.

Permitting Program Review

Before nearshore construction occurs, the sanctuary’s permitting program reviews the proposed project and determines if any sanctuary resources, such as coral, will be harmed through construction. The sanctuary may place conditions on the project to avoid or limit coral impacts, including design changes or rescue and relocation of corals prior to construction.  The sanctuary permitting program works closely with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that required permits are issued for projects while resources are protected.