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

Coral Surveys Completed at Grounding Site Next to Golden Beach

By John Evered
Reef Injury Prevention and Response Program Coordinator

John Evered assessing one of the hull tracks at the Anzhela Explorer grounding site. Photo: Dave Gilliam
John Evered assessing one of the hull tracks at the Anzhela Explorer grounding site. Photo: Dave Gilliam

On October 11th, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Coral Reef Conservation Program (FDEP-CRCP) staff, working with staff from the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) at Nova Southeastern University, assessed the condition of the Anzhela Explorer grounding site. The Anzhela Explorer, a 73’ motorized catamaran, ran aground in March 2007 in about 25 feet of water, causing extensive damage to the reef and hardbottom communities off of Golden Beach in Miami-Dade County.    

The vessel initially sank on top of a nearshore coral reef where the vessel hull and swim platforms directly impacted the coral reef habitat. The vessel was then forced approximately 350m westward towards land by strong winds and heavy surf. As a result of the sinking, extensive physical (fractured and gouged reef structure) and biological (broken and dislodged reef biota including hard and soft corals and sponges) injuries occurred on the reef. The Anzhela Explorer’s twin hull design meant that two parallel trenches (in some sections up to two feet deep) were gouged into the reef.

FDEP-CRCP and NCRI staff completed underwater surveys that were designed to quantify changes in the biological community composition of hard corals, gorgonians, and giant barrel sponges as a result of the grounding. Video transect data was also taken so that the percent cover of different functional groups can be calculated. The data collected will be statistically compared to data from nearby control sites, providing a quantitative description of the current rate of recovery from this grounding event. After three years, the damaged area was still seen to be almost totally devoid of stony corals or giant barrel sponges. The tracks left by the hulls of the catamaran were still clearly evident, as seen in the picture above. Similar benthic surveys have recently been conducted at other grounding sites in Broward County, indicating that there are still significant statistical differences in coral cover between the injury sites and nearby control sites, many years after the grounding.       .          



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