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coral reefs

Coral resembling a brain sits at the bottom of the ocean.
The Florida Aquarium / The Florida Aquarium

When it comes to finding a proper mate, Florida’s ridged cactus corals have the odds stacked against them. Between rising water temperatures, coastal pollution, and disease they’re practically doomed from the start.

But marine biologists at Tampa’s Florida Aquarium are trying to turn the tides in the coral’s favor by learning how to breed them in captivity.  

County and municipal marinas are closed, popular sandbars are empty for the first time in recorded history, and there are no cruise ships packed with passengers sailing out of South Florida’s ports. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot going on when it comes to life on the water, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

That’s on the surface.

Scientists investigating a devastating new coral disease infecting reefs from Florida to and throughout the Caribbean may be zeroing in on a culprit behind the unpredictable spread: ballast water from big ships.

Investigators are now poring over shipping records housed at the Smithsonian to confirm the connection and better contain it.

This week on Florida Matters, we share some of our favorite discussions about plants, animals and environmental challenges facing our state.

Come Monday, a national consortium of environmental groups will begin a major effort to transplant coral to South Florida's reefs.

The project is helmed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Ocean Service. But it wouldn't be possible without Tampa's Florida Aquarium, which earlier this year became the first to successfully induce Atlantic coral to spawn in a laboratory.

Sixty-five submarines have been lost since the U.S. Navy created an undersea force in 1900.

A new artificial reef recently opened off the coast of Sarasota honoring these boats and the more than 4,000 crew members who never made it home.

The Florida Aquarium recently announced they had induced Atlantic coral to spawn in a laboratory for the first time.
Florida Aquarium

Florida's coral reefs are in trouble. Scientists say they've been declining for decades.

But researchers have very recently come up with some exciting results that they say show promise in restoring these beautiful and important marine communities.

NOAA Fisheries

The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the National Marine Fisheries Service, saying the agency did not give 12 species of U.S. coral critical habitat protection that is required by the Endangered Species Act

Key West has become the first place in the mainland U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that have been found in some studies to harm corals.

"There are thousands and thousands of various alternative sunscreens that can be used. But we only have one reef," said Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, one of the sponsors of the ordinance.

It won final approval by a 6-1 vote Tuesday night.

After stony coral tissue loss disease reached the Lower Keys last spring, the disease seemed to stall. Reef scientists were hoping that meant it might peter out.

But it didn't.

Over the summer, Hawaii became the first place in the United States to ban sunscreens with chemicals that have been found to harm corals. Now Key West is considering a similar ban. And a group opposing the ban is fighting back — online.

If you're in Key West and open a video on YouTube, there's a new ad on heavy rotation.

Time is running out to save the world’s coral reefs from irreversible damage, according to numerous studies

They call themselves the coral whisperers: a global band of scientists working together to save the world's coral reefs.

Warming temperatures and ocean acidification are significant threats to coral reefs, but a new study by Mote Marine Laboratory researchers last month provides something of a silver lining.   Researchers found that ocean acidification could actually help slow the progression of a disease that kills corals.