More than 1,500 Rescued Corals Given Second Life

Large rescued corals in underwater nursery

More than 1,500 coral colonies and fragments are destined for a new life following their rescue from a seawall construction project in Key West. Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West worked closely with Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary resource managers to make sure that planned repairs to a deteriorating seawall on the Navy's Mole Pier harbor would cause minimal impact to corals, which are protected by the sanctuary.

Navy staff and contractors, trained by the sanctuary in coral removal and handling, cleared a 425-foot long stretch of seawall of the largest corals, some of which spanned over two-feet wide. The corals, representing 19 different species, have been placed in the sanctuary’s nearby coral nursery and partner nurseries where they will be cared for until they can be placed into beneficial use projects, including the restoration of vessel grounding sites in the Keys and research projects.

“It’s critical that the Navy repair this seawall as it is an integral part of the Navy’s Key West fleet support facilities,” said Edward Barham, NAS Key West’s environmental director. “It’s a win/win/win situation, the Navy repairs its pier, the sanctuary protects natural resources, and the rescued corals will be used for research, education and reef restoration.”

Before nearshore construction occurs in the Florida Keys, the sanctuary reviews the proposed project and determines if any sanctuary resources, such as coral, will be harmed through construction. The sanctuary and works closely with local, state, and federal agencies to ensure that required permits are issued for projects while resources are protected.

“We applaud the efforts of the Navy to limit impacts to the healthy corals which thrived on its seawall,” said Lauri MacLaughlin, sanctuary resource manager. “Through our permitting process we were able to ensure that construction could continue, and that these valuable resources could be given a second life in research, restoration and education projects in the Keys, and across the country.”

In the next phase of coral rescue, permitted partners from accredited zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations removed from the seawall corals less than six inches in diameter, allowing the smallest of the corals to be showcased in educational facilities and used in research projects. Partners include: Florida International University, Georgia Aquarium, Mote Marine Laboratory, Shedd Aquarium, The Florida Aquarium, The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, University of Miami RSMAS and others.