I’m excited to let you know that NOAA Fisheries, along with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and other partners, have launched a coral reef restoration effort titled Mission: Iconic Reefs. This effort plans to restore nearly three million square feet of the Florida Reef Tract at seven iconic sites in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The groundbreaking approach aims to revitalize the Florida Keys’ highly diverse and economically valuable marine ecosystem on an unprecedented scale. It represents one of the largest ever investments in coral restoration. Mission: Iconic Reefs is a decades-long effort that will rely on the work and support of numerous partners, investors, and interested stakeholders. Over the next year, NOAA will focus available funding to support this effort and work with outside partners to secure additional public and private funds.
Coral reefs in the Florida Keys have been significantly degraded. They have been affected by decades of stressors such as coral bleaching, disease, hurricanes, and high-impact uses on the reefs and in adjacent watersheds. Urgent action is required to change the downward trajectory of coral reef health in Florida, and protect the economy that depends on them.
To address these challenges, Mission: Iconic Reefs calls for the reintroduction of multiple foundational and disease-resistant stony coral species and grazing species to support coral health. It will support community engagement and continued monitoring and maintenance of seven sites within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. These sites represent a diversity of habitats, support a range of human uses, span the full geographic range of the Florida Keys, and offer a high probability of success.
Join me in celebrating the launch of this incredibly ambitious, exciting, collaborative effort to make a real lasting difference for the corals in the Florida Keys.