Reef Relief took over management of Key West Marine Park in January 2012. The park is a 40 acre area on the south side of Key West, stretching from Higgs Beach to South Beach. It includes two vessel access lanes, one in front of Casa Marina and the other in front of the Reach Resort. Our responsibilities include outdoor educational signage, educational brochure distribution about the park, maintenance to parameter buoys and vessel lane buoys and participation in the Higgs Beach improvement programs with reference to the marine environment at Higgs Beach.
Additional goals include developing a year round educational program withthe Sigsbee Charter School 7th grade and Key West High School Reef Relief Club, working with MOTE Marine on developing new educational brochures and a coral nursery within the park, replacing the vessel lane buoys with green and red marker buoys, improving water quality at Higgs Beach, helping with designing exhibits with the future development of the Higgs Beach nature center and working with Casa Marina, the Reach Resort and Southernmost Hotel Collection on marine park education programs as well as the design and installation of an underwater interpretive snorkel trail.
Over the past year we have located all but a few of the anchors where the demarcation buoys had broken free. We have replaced all but two of the perimeter buoys. We have been unable to locate the anchors for these two. We are presently working to replace the vessel lane buoys. We have been in the water weekly to inspect the standing buoys for basic maintenance.
With regards to water quality, we at Reef Relief feel that there is a strong possibility that if we were to install metal bird deterrents on top of the old pier supports that extend above the water line, we could certainly decrease the amount of fecal material entering the marine park and lower the bacterial load. Also, if we can increase water flow through the area by cutting out sections of the metal wall support from the old pier, water flow would be increased, dramatically leading to better flushing of the site. With the support of Monroe County, we have placed dozens of bird deterrents on the old pier. It has been effective with keeping the birds from landing there. We are continuing to maintain the deterrents at least on a bi-weekly basis.
In partnership with the City of Key West, Reef Relief’s Stormwater Education Program has stenciled messages (No Dumping, Drains to Ocean) next to over 800 stormdrains in the city including the Higgs Beach area.
No sections of the old Higgs Beach wall has been removed as of yet.
Since January 2012, there have been zero advisories for fecal coliform.
Three outdoor signs are currently placed around the park. In the coming year, we hope to replace these with new signs. We are also in the process now of redesigning the educational brochure. Though we do have a few thousand park brochures left to distribute from the first printing.
Sigsbee Charter School
During the 2012/2013 school year, Reef Relief and the Sigsbee Charter School 7th grade classes have been developing a year round and ongoing educational program at the marine park. The students are learning to sample water, make observations of conditions within the park, learning underwater photography and species identification.
Future goals for the program include designing a webpage about the park that will include a virtual underwater trail and helping to design an exhibit for the Higgs Beach Nature Center.
Reef Relief staff, volunteers, students from the Key West High School Reef Relief Club and the 7th grade classes from Sigsbee Charter School have been conducting observations of the flora and fauna found within the park. We have found a large diversity of benthic organisms including hard corals, soft corals, algae beds, and many forms of benthic invertebrates such as queen conch, other species of conch, lobster, Bahamian sea stars, sea cucumbers, many different species of urchin, including Diadema (long- spinned urchin), and a large diversity of fishes. In terms of its biodiversity, the park contains species from a large number of phyla that are worthy of interpretation; in fact animals and plants are both well represented in the waters of the park. Representatives from nearly every invertebrate phylum can be found in the park from the sponges to the chordates.
• Monroe County has helped us with purchasing the bird deterrents and the wire used for installation.
• MOTE has offered to help fund the reprinting of brochures and possibly replacing the outdoor signage.
• Key West donated several buoys that we have used to replace parameter and vessel lane markers.
• Volunteers continue to assist Reef Relief staff with bird deterrent and buoy maintenance.
• All other expenses have been paid by Reef Relief including: boat expenses, tools, and buoy line.
• Our needs include one two line electrical powered hookah rig and accessories.
• We have had meetings with Casa Marina and Southernmost Hotel Collection about funding support.
Tips courtesy of Thank You Ocean, The Smithsonian's Ocean Portal, and WWF
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With our planet’s coral reefs in danger of extinction by 2050, why is the U.S. Government mining healthy reefs to use as building filler?
Petitioners are calling for the U.S. Government to halt excavation of the healthy coral reefs that surround the Marshall Islands. Coral mining is taking place to provide building filler for the expansion of the Imata Kabua International Airport on Majuro.
Led by marine ecologist, Dr Dean Jacobson, those opposing the excavation say there are more environmentally-friendly options available to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Sections of this precious reef remain untouched for now. There is still time to act. Read more
Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3:57PM EDT
OTTAWA – A renowned Canadian scientist says there appear to be similarities between fish deformities found downstream from Alberta's oilsands and those observed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska and Florida's Deepwater Horizon disaster.
David Schindler of the University of Alberta has written two federal cabinet ministers pointing out the research similarities.
He's proposing that some chemical or suite of chemicals found in crude oil may be causing the malformations, and he'd like to see Canada take the lead in researching the issue.
2 April 2013
Canada's Information Commission is to investigate claims that the government is "muzzling" its scientists.
The move is in response to a complaint filed by academics and a campaign group.
BBC News reported last year instances of the government blocking requests by journalists to interview scientists.
Some scientists alleged that the muzzling could help suppress environmental concerns about government policies.
The former president of the Canadian Science Writers' Association, Veronique Morin, says that the commissioner's office will now have to find out if the federal government has in effect been operating a policy of censorship.
"Vital stories pertaining to the environment, natural resources, food safety, fisheries and oceans are not coming out in Canada because, for several years now, the government has imposed rules which prevents its scientists from speaking freely about their publicly funded research," she said. Read the full article
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico nearly three years ago, but the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil that it released are still killing dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life in record numbers, according to new research.
The report, “Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster,” found that dolphins were among the hardest hit animals. As of just earlier this year, infant dolphins were dying six times faster than they did before the spill. Scientists aren’t even yet sure of the extent of the massive spill, given that it was impossible to fully clean up the chemical-laden, carcinogenic oil.
“Three years after the initial explosion, the impacts of the disaster continue to unfold,” Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation and lead author of the report, said in a press release. “Dolphins are still dying in high numbers in the areas affected by oil. These ongoing deaths — particularly in an apex predator like the dolphin — are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem.”
An infographic summarizes some of the findings.
The NWF also highlighted these findings:
* Dolphin deaths in the area affected by oil have remained above average every month since just before the spill began. (The infant dolphin data was gathered in January and February of 2013.)
* NOAA called the dolphin die-off “unprecedented” — a year ago. While NOAA is keeping many elements of its dolphin research confidential pending the conclusion of the ongoing trial, the agency has ruled out the most common causes of previous dolphin die-offs.
* More than 1,700 sea turtles were found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012 — the last date for which information is available. For comparison, on average about 240 sea turtles are stranded annually.
* A coral colony seven miles from the wellhead was badly damaged by oil. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef. Read the full article
Nineteenth Century tools made from sharks' teeth suggest that two species of shark used to populate the Central Pacific but are no longer present.
Using artefacts from museums, a team of US researchers found that spot-tail and dusky sharks used to inhabit the reefs surrounding the Gilbert Islands.
The unusual historical data would help evaluate the success of ecological conservation measures, they added.
The findings have been published in the scientific journal PLoS One.
In their paper, the team from the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, and Columbia University, New York, said indigenous artefacts often represented an "under-utilised source of data". Read the full article
Marine biologist Daniel Fernando has been surveying Sri Lanka’s fishing industry for over two years. Today, he is in the western coastal town of Negombo, at one of the country’s busiest fish markets. He is passionate about saving manta and mobula rays from extinction. Fernando carefully examines a pile of rays on the pier, collecting DNA samples for population studies.
Researchers estimate that fisheries the world over net more than 100,000 such rays a year, mostly in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. Many catches remain undocumented. Until recent years, most fishermen avoided them. Their meat is cheap and they damage fishing nets when entangled.
But that has changed. The burgeoning demand for their gill plates in Chinese medicine – said to cleanse human blood of toxins – has increased fishing pressure worldwide, turning subsistence fishery into a commercial export industry. Read the full article