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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys

In this Issue:

News & Notes
April 2010

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Hot Issues

Coral Hold Their Own Against Seaweed

Seaweed may not seem scary, but its presence on coral reefs has been a major concern for marine biologists since the 1980s.


Here’s why: Seaweed competes with coral for space and light, moving into places where older coral has died. It can smother baby corals, reducing the ability of reefs to recover from other disturbances such as hurricanes and disease outbreaks. Eventually, seaweed dominates the ecosystem, a phenomenon called a “phase shift.”


photo courtesy John Bruno, UNC Chapel Hill

A recent study, however, suggests that seaweed is considerably less of a threat than expected. "Until now, many scientists have concluded that the world's coral reefs are being overrun by seaweed," said John Bruno of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lead author of the study. "Our findings show that's not the case. Seaweed have taken over and are dominating some reefs, but far fewer than assumed.”


The team reported that only 4 percent of reefs worldwide were dominated by seaweed, and no area had grown appreciably worse. For example, "phase shift severity" did not change in the Florida Keys.


The study is the first global-scale analysis of thousands of surveys of individual reefs – in all, more than 3,500 examinations of about 1,800 reefs performed between 1996 and 2006 – and appears the June 2009 issue of the journal Ecology.


Despite the good news that algae is less dominant, reef experts remain highly concerned about the health of the world's corals. Ecologists caution that reef algae include many other forms whose impact has not been similarly examined.


One interpretation is that the study shows that seaweed is opportunistic and not the main threat. The critical problem still remains what is killing the corals in the first place. Despite their sturdy appearance, reefs are vulnerable to environmental threats such as agricultural runoff, ocean acidification and predators, all of which interact in complex ways.


"The results from this study question many of the prevailing paradigms that coral reef ecologists have developed over the past two decades," said William F. Precht, a Florida-based marine ecologist and co-author of the study. "These findings will change the way we view and manage these fragile yet resilient ecosystems."

Our Amazing Ocean

Boaters: Prevent Prop Scars

Propeller ScarsNew people arrive in the Keys every day to live, work or recreate. Many of our visitors have never seen the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico and have little knowledge or understanding of the environment or the resources. The boating, diving and fishing industries continue to grow as the population and influx of tourists grow. As a strong basis of our economy in the Florida Keys we greatly appreciate our tourists. We must also equally appreciate and care for our natural resources here in the Florida Keys.


Navigating the shallow waters of the FKNMS is complicated and requires great care. Inexperienced or careless boaters can easily damage seagrass and mud flats with their propellers. Boats that run aground risk not only damage to the boat, but also damage to the ocean floor and leave lifeless trails that can take a decade or more to recover.


The following tips are for boaters in shallow waters, just one of the many natural resources that need protection in the FKNMS.


1. Know before you go: Read your charts and plan ahead for tides, weather and fuel.

2. Use your eyes: Always have polarized sunglasses. Look out for shallow water and marine animals.

3. Slow down: Idle your boat out to deeper water to get on plane and slow down to avoid hitting a manatee or sea turtle.

4. Take the long way around: Never cut across a flat. Instead, use marked channels.

5. Trim your engine: Know how to trim your engine to reduce your environmental impact.

6. Give wildlife a chance: Treat wildlife with respect. Don’t leave trash behind and use proper catch and release methods.


Tips courtesy of Eco-Mariner.

 Programs & Projects

Cleanup Restores Bird Habitat
Plastics to Blame for Ailing Shoreline

By the numbers

25: people involved in a recent cleanup effort

2,431: pounds of debris removed

2: hours it took to remove the debris

100: yards of gulf shoreline covered



Bottleneck Bird


Volunteers from Team OCEAN and Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue Inc. cooperated in a recent effort to assist an ailing shoreline that was no longer a healthy habitat for wildlife due to the sheer volume of marine debris present. The shoreline at the east end of West Summerland Key adjacent to the west end of the Bahia Honda Bridge resembled a plastic-littered graveyard, according to volunteers.


Many freshly dead birds, including pelicans, a white heron, an osprey, and many more carcasses no longer identifiable, were found on this shoreline in every stage of decomposition. Many of the birds were obviously victims of common forms of plastic litter such as bags and fishing line – plastics carelessly discarded or lost without thought to the impacts on wildlife.


Sanctuary Friends provided hamburgers and hot dogs to feed the hungry crew after their work was done. Congratulations on a superb effort by Team Ocean and Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue!


Fun Fact: Team OCEAN has removed more than 31,000 lbs of debris since Feb 2007!

NOAA Head Visits Keys Coral Nurseries 

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco went diving off Key Largo in the FKNMS last week with Ken Nedimyer from the Coral Restoration Foundation. The federal government has given $3.3 million in stimulus money for coral restoration projects, with about $700,000 of that going to four coral nurseries in the Keys.

Solar Energy Exhibit Opens at EDC

On March 26, FKNMS unveiled a new exhibit at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center dedicated to climate change and renewable energy. The exhibit kiosk includes access to a new website displaying real-time energy generated by the more than 200 photovoltaic panels recently installed on the centers roof, as well as the carbon offsets of the energy generated.


Eco-Discovery Center ExhibitThe exhibit focuses on the potential impacts of climate change on Florida Keys marine life and corals and provides actions individuals can take to lower their carbon footprint. By applying and demonstrating new technology, FKNMS hopes to inspire others to save energy and help to preserve natural resources, reduce pollution, and enhance energy independence.


The solar panel installation, which provides up to 30 percent of the center’s energy, was made possible through a partnership with the Florida Municipal Power Agency and Keys Energy Services.

Take Action Against Offshore Drilling

Oceana has made it easy to voice your opinion against President Obama’s proposal to open new areas to offshore drilling as a political compromise to help push climate change legislation through Congress. Send a message directly to the President. Their goal is to find 25,000 ocean activists to speak up against offshore drilling.


Oceana is the largest international organization focused solely on ocean conservation. According to their website: “Expanding offshore drilling increases threats to marine habitats and creatures and does nothing to curb harmful carbon emissions; in fact, it increases pollutants in our atmosphere and oceans. Including offshore drilling in climate change legislation is not only a political compromise – it is compromising the future health of our oceans.”

blue & green occasions

celebrating the event...
                 honoring the earth and sea


We invite you to hold your special celebrations, business meetings and other occasions in a meaningful way at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. Our staff will help you celebrate in a green way, and your donations will help to give back to the “Sanctuary.” Call today to reserve your date and share your celebration with the earth and sea! Call 847-612-4712 or email.

We want your input! If you have stories of note or just want to comment on our newsletter, please email:

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April is
Water Conservation Month

Have you done your part this month to help the environment?

Become a Sanctuary Friend
help support our coral reef
and marine ecosystems.

 From the Board

Dear Friends:

Water, water everywhere and how much we take that for granted. How often do you stop to think about where your drinking water comes from or how water is managed on this planet?


We are terrestrial beings – we live and work on land. Yet almost three-quarters of our planet Earth is water. Interestingly, human beings are likewise composed of almost three-quarters water, with a composition similar to seawater. And we are dependent on clean and healthy sources of fresh water for our very existence.


Yet even many who live or vacation on the water rarely take the time to stop and think about what's in it or how "alive" it is. Many people prefer to swim in sterile, chemical-laden, chlorinated swimming pools than in an ocean teeming with healthy fish and other marine creatures. They prefer to look out over the water simply for the view.


Many places celebrate Water Conservation month in April to bring attention to water - our need for it, the need to clean it up, and increasing concerns that we may run out of fresh water, a potential crisis that some think will make the energy crisis look very small. After all, we can't drink or survive on oil. At the same time, the world's oceans are absorbing excess atmospheric carbon dioxide, increasing ocean acidification and threatening marine life and the food chain. Water is fundamental to our very existence.


Our organization supports preservation, restoration and sustainable use of one small part of the Earth's waters and the balance of marine life that keep it healthy: the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. You can help make a difference here. Won't you join us in our effort? Become a member of Sanctuary Friends today.



Dolly M. Garlo

Chair, SFFFK Board of Directors

Upcoming Events

The first and only Florida Keys Environmental Event Calendar is up and running! This community-wide resource allows any environmentally-related organization or group to set up an account and post events.

To add YOUR event, first request an account. Once you've been approved and have selected a username and password, you can give it a try!

Composting Classes - Rot on!
April 28, 11 am - 12:30 pm, The Pines Park (next to East Martello Museum), Key West

May 1, 10-11:30 am, Bayside grounds of the Nelson Government Center, Key Largo

Workshops hosted by the University of Florida/ IFAS/Monroe County Extension Services. No registration necessary, but bring something to sit on. More information: e-mail Kim Gabel, call 305-292-4501 or visit

Hazardous Waste and e-Waste Collection

April 30, noon - 4 pm and May 1, 9 am - 2 pm, Monroe County Public Works, Marathon

Free to residents with proof of Monroe County residency. Hazardous wastes accepted include: paint, thinner, motor oil, gasoline, antifreeze, solvents, pool and spa chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, poisons, aerosol sprays, auto polish, adhesives, BBQ Propane Tanks, car batteries, and fluorescent bulbs. E-waste items include: cell phones, electronic games, fax machines, computers, televisions, monitors, copiers, DVD Players, VCRs, stereos and microwaves. Questions? Contact Rosa Washington at 305-292-4432 or Colleen Murphy at 305-289-6037.

REEF, Fish & Friends Seminar Series

May 12, 6 - 7:30 pm, REEF Headquarters, MM 98.3, Key Largo

Lad Akins will speak about "The Amazing Lives and Identification of Parrotfish and Wrasse." He will cover identification techniques, habitat and behavior. These hermaphrodites are fascinating and are sure to provide fodder for an interesting presentation. Part of the free seminar series about fish on the second Tuesday of the month sponsored by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and Sanctuary Friends.

Kids' Fishing Clinic

May 15, 9 am - noon, Summerland Key

Sponsored by FWC, the goal of these educational clinics is to create responsible marine resource stewards by teaching children the vulnerability of Florida's marine ecosystems (and fundamental saltwater fishing skills). Children receive a free rod and reel and will have the opportunity to fish. Contact Gus Cancro at (850) 488-6058.

EcoWeek 2010
Nov. 1-14
A Keys-wide event to educate and celebrate environmental preservation. Special activities in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. Inaugural event in 2010 to celebrate healthy living, a healthy planet and peaceable and sustainable communities.
Coming ...
Eco-Discovery Tours
Discover the Florida Keys
through eco-friendly and historical excursions
For more information or to request a brochure,
call 305-289-2288 or e-mail
Welcome New Members
/ April 2010
Thank you for your support!
Sanctuary Donor $100
Paige Ippolito
Memorial Donation
Frank Roebling
Business Associates
Bronze Ocean Life Associate $500
Publix Super Markets
Midland Radio
Sanctuary Advocate $200
Billy & Laura Causey
Sean Morton
Sanctuary Advocate $300
Thomas N. Davidson
Sanctuary Patron $500
Harold and Mona Brewer
Our Mission
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys supports the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the preservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our coral reef and marine ecosystems. We focus on development of community support and advancement of public awareness, education, outreach and scientific research.

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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
11450 Overseas Highway
Suite 102
Marathon, Florida 33050

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