Today Ocean Conservancy will release a new short film about Florida’s disappearing coral reefs and the people fighting to save them. Watch the trailer for Deeply Invested to learn more about Florida’s reefs, ocean acidification and its coastal heroes.
“Coral reefs are our business. That is what we’re all about. The health of the ocean. Without that, we don’t have a business. It’s everything to us, so the importance of the health of the reefs and the fishing itself is everything to us. Without it we’re nothing,” mused Dale Palomino, co-owner of the Captain’s Tavern, a Miami-area seafood restaurant and market, when we asked him what coral reefs mean to him.
His waterfront neighbor Ray Rosher, charter boat captain and Miss Britt charter fishing company owner, said, “You also hope that we’re able to enjoy a healthy ocean. Good fishermen are stewards. And so we worry about the changing environment, so to speak. Whether it be the fish populations or pollution or regulations. All of those things are on our mind. I actually participate on several panels trying to help make good decisions towards the future. Nobody who’s responsible wants to see the fishery fall apart. We’re not here to shoot the last buffalo.”
Part of caring for Florida’s ocean and fisheries is caring for its coral reefs. And healthy coral reefs care for coastal communities in return, by protecting property from storm waves, by supporting bountiful fisheries and by building inviting beaches. But ocean acidification damages those relationships. As carbon pollution to the atmosphere changes seawater chemistry, coral reefs in Florida and around the world are feeling the effects.
Dr. Chris Langdon, University of Miami professor, explains. “Acidification reduces the ability of corals to build their skeletons. It also affects their ability to reproduce. So if we get a hurricane or a bleaching event that kills corals, normally they can recover from that by sexual reproduction. But acidification, which may not have anything to do with bleaching or the hurricane, affects the ability of corals to reproduce. It affects the actual fertilization success of corals. So if we lose corals, and in a future world where the carbon dioxide is higher, and seawater is more acidic, the replacement rate of corals will go down. So the long-term demographics of corals show a decline, not just due to bleaching, but also due to this lack of recovery between bleaching events or hurricane events.”
Dr. Kim Yates, U.S. Geological Survey research oceanographer, adds, “Coral reefs, especially in a place like Florida, are the livelihood of many people who live there. We have fishermen who depend on the fish near coral reefs for commercial fishing, but also to provide food for their families and restaurants. We have recreational diving and recreational activities that support many families in Florida. And as reefs begin to degrade, habitat starts disappearing, we have much less fishing available, we have much less production of shellfish that are harvested recreationally and commercially, and we lose our tourism industry and the recreation surrounding that. People who scuba dive don’t necessarily want to go see a dead coral reef. So it has huge impacts societally and economically, especially in a place like the state of Florida.”
Watch the trailer for our new short film, Deeply Invested, to learn more about the link between Florida communities and the ocean.