Common Sea Fans (<em>Gorgonia ventilina</em>) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Common Sea Fans (Gorgonia ventilina) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Photo: Chantal Collier

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Photo: Joe Marino

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Southeast Florida Reef News

The Reef Injury Prevention and Response Program Completes its First Large-scale Coral Reef Restoration Project in Southeast Florida

Mollie Sinnott, Reef Injury Prevention and Response Coordinator & Melissa Sathe, Reef Injury Prevention and Response Technician

Left: A photo from one of the original grounding sites. Photo: Chantal Collier. Right: The newly restored reef complete with stabilized seafloor. Photo: CRCP/Melissa Sathe
Left: A photo from one of the original grounding sites. Photo: Chantal Collier. Right: The newly restored reef complete with stabilized seafloor. Photo: CRCP/Melissa Sathe

The latter half of 2015 proved to be very exciting for CRCP’s Reef Injury Prevention and Response (RIPR) program. In November, RIPR completed the first large-scale management-driven coral reef restoration project in the northern Florida Reef Tract. The Coral Reef Stabilization and Rehabilitation Project will promote habitat recovery at two historic ship grounding sites offshore Fort Lauderdale, FL. Both vessels grounded in 2006, and although emergency restoration was done at the time of the injuries, a 2011 study showed that the sites never fully recovered – primarily due to loose rubble that continued to roll around at the sites. The CRCP determined that direct management action was required to stabilize the remaining loose rubble and better recreate the natural substrate to allow for habitat recovery. This project was primarily funded from private settlements associated with the original injuries. Funding was supplemented with civil penalties collected through a provision of the Florida Coral Reef Protection Act which makes it illegal to damage coral reefs in state waters.

The project is especially significant because the original grounding injuries were so large that they continued to impact the system many years after they occurred. The stabilization of the rubble will help restore the reefs’ ecologically sensitive and economically important habitats.

In the early stages of development, the CRCP assembled a project team consisting of agency and university coral reef experts. Olsen Associates, Inc. was hired to design the project and Coastal Eco-Group, Inc. was subcontracted by Olsen to conduct permit-required assessments and provide construction oversight. Together, the project team and Olsen Associates, Inc. determined the best suited design. Before construction, all stony corals and octocorals greater than 5 centimeters were relocated to a safer location by Nova Southeastern University through funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Estuarine Subsection and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Callaway Marine Technologies, Inc., the construction contractor hired by CRCP, was then able to begin rubble collection, boulder placement, and concrete grout work to stabilize the impacted sites. Restoration construction at both sites was completed by Callaway in early December 2015.

The rubble removal and boulder placement have created a significantly more stable seafloor at the grounding sites and have provided a safer habitat for corals and fish to live and thrive. The CRCP plans to incorporate coral and sponge transplants at the sites in the near future when additional funding is secured.



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