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

CRCP and SEFCRI Partner with the US Coastguard to Reduce Impacts to 600 Acres of Coral Reef Habitat

Lauren Waters, Assistant Manager and Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts Coordinator

Top:  Diver Amanda Costaregni of Nova Southeastern University views a large commercial anchor on reef within the current Port Miami anchorage. Photo: CRCP/Lauren Waters
Top: Diver Amanda Costaregni of Nova Southeastern University views a large commercial anchor on reef within the current Port Miami anchorage. Photo: CRCP/Lauren Waters

Through a CRCP, SEFCRI, and United States Coast Guard (USCG) partnership that began in 2008, a proposal to reconfigure the Port Miami Commercial Anchorage has taken a major step forward. After several years of collaboration with Port officials and users, the potential new design will not only reduce impacts to reef resources but also improve the safety of vessel traffic.

In 2004, the original SEFCRI team identified a local action strategy “Project 8: Modify the footprint of existing anchorages to avoid hard bottoms.” That project was contracted to, and begun by, Dr. Brian Walker of Nova Southeastern University. His report on the status of Florida’s current commercial anchorages and how they could be impacting reef resources was completed in 2010. Walkers’ work found that there were approximately 700 acres of reef within the Port Miami Commercial Anchorage. He recommended alternative configurations that completely avoided reef impacts; however, there were concerns that those configurations, which were in deeper water and further from the Port, would cause economic hardship and make it more difficult for the USCG to respond to vessels in distress. There was also very little known about vessel traffic patterns in the current anchorage and or what, if any, impacts were occurring. 

A follow-up thesis study, in part supported and funded by the CRCP, provided the necessary vessel use information and resource impact information. That study, completed by Lauren Waters, found that impacts were occurring both to the stony corals and octocorals, as well as the habitat that they require to grow and survive. Further investigation found a serious safety concern with the current anchorage, as it has areas so shallow that vessels are “bumping” the bottom.

After the USCG received the necessary information to understand the traffic, impact, safety concerns, and needs of the users, they decided to move forward with a proposal to create two smaller anchorages – one placed in deeper water allowing for safe anchorage for deep drawing vessels, and another placed in shallow water allowing for safe anchorage for smaller vessels. This compromise will reduce impacts to at least 600 acres of coral reef habitat! This reduction of direct impact is a huge win for the reefs and it all started with the SEFCRI team.

The official Notice of Study and proposal of the new anchorages is open for public comment through February 1, 2016. To review the Notice and submit comments of concern or support to the USCG, please visit: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-12-01/pdf/2015-30406.pdf.



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