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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
August 2012
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
News & Notes


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Our dedicated Board of Directors, members and allies are committed to guaranteeing the future of our economically-precious treasures that are in critical danger here in the Keys. Please join us as a member, renew your membership or volunteer.

Hurricanes: Friend or Foe to Coral Reefs?
Article courtesy FKNMS

With the Western Atlantic hurricane season in full force, the public is well aware of the damage a storm can cause on land. But did you ever stop to wonder how hurricanes affect life beneath the water?
Overturned pillar coral after a hurricane
Here in the Florida Keys, storms have the ability to both help and hinder the coral reef environment. The high winds of a storm can cause powerful waves that can topple entire coral heads or shift sand, which can scour or smother coral colonies. Delicate branching corals – like staghorn and elkhorn – are among the most vulnerable to breakage and may be reduced to rubble during a severe storm. Yet sometimes, the breaking of coral into pieces may actually help a coral colony reproduce through a process called fragmentation. If conditions are favorable and coral pieces come to rest in an area where they can reattach to the seafloor, fragmentation can result in colonies flourishing in a new location. In other instances, corals that reproduce through broadcast spawning may get a little extra help from late summer storms by aiding in the dispersal of their larvae to new reef locations.
During summer months, ocean surface temperatures increase just like air temperatures. If sea surface temperatures rise beyond the coral’s preferred temperature range, the coral animal can become stressed and bleached, or possibly die. However, as a storm passes over the ocean, it absorbs some of the heat from the water, cooling the sea surface and giving corals a reprieve from the heat. The winds of a storm can further reduce water temperature by causing upwelling, which brings deeper, cooler water to the surface. Even the clouds of a storm can help reduce heat by blocking the sunlight, and dropping water temperatures to a more comfortable level for corals.
One of the hottest years on record in the Northern Hemisphere since the start of reliable records was 2005. As a result of this extensive thermal stress, the corals of the Caribbean experienced widespread bleaching and death, the worst in recorded history. That summer, corals of the Florida Keys bleached like their Caribbean counterparts, but were spared widespread mortality due to the passing of several strong hurricanes that cooled Keys waters in their wakes. So, although we never want to see the destruction that hurricanes can cause, just like all of nature, they do have a purpose.

Pillar Corals Spawn for First Time in Florida Keys
excerpt from The Miami Herald by Cammy Clark

At precisely 9:47 one night last week, corals shaped like Greek columns began spawning in shallow water off North Key Largo in a place known as Pillar Coral Forest. The cloud of milky sperm was in clear view under a nearly full moon. Six minutes later, the girl pillar corals did their part for reproduction of the threatened species, releasing little white eggs that looked stringy when clumped together. The three state research scientists who witnessed the event while scuba diving last Saturday night would have cheered had they not had regulators in their mouths. It was the first documented case of male and female pillar corals spawning together in Florida waters, according to the FWC.
Research Scientist Kate Lund views pillar coral spawning. Photo: FWC
That’s good news for the state-listed threatened species — extremely rare along the Florida reef tract, which runs from Palm Beach County to the Dry Tortugas. The hope is that the eggs and sperm fuse in the water column and become larvae, and eventually settle as new corals.
All corals can break off a piece and re-cement themselves to the hard bottom of the ocean floor through a process known as fragmentation, but sexual reproduction offers more diversity in the population. The slow-growing pillar coral was never abundant in Florida waters, but its numbers greatly diminished during the 1950s and ’60s when the whitish pillars were a popular target of the curio trade. While the collection of coral has been banned, all corals continue to face threats from disease, sedimentation and other factors.
The area known as the Pillar Coral Forest is one of the largest clumps of the species known in the Keys. Some are four to five feet tall, which means they are 40 to 50 years old. Twenty-two of the colonies were in peril after breaking off and falling into sand during Hurricane Andrew. Had the corals fallen onto hard bottom, they might have had a chance for fragmentation, but not on the sand. FKNMS resource manager Bill Goodwin and “The Reef Doctor” Harold Hudson set the fragments upright and stabilized them onto hard bottom.
The good news of the pillar coral spawning was tempered a bit by the lack of spawning sightings among other types of coral. Though the polyp release cannot be guaranteed to happen on an exact date, the next late summer full moons (peak times for synchronized mass spawning rituals) fall on Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 29.

Read more here:

REEF, Fish & Friends
Free Seminars and Lectures Focused on Fish!

REEF, Fish & Friends began in March 2009 as a way to give back to the community that has housed and supported the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) since its inception. The monthly seminar series is co-sponsored by REEF and Sanctuary Friends Foundation. It gathers snorkelers, divers, natural history buffs and armchair naturalists to learn more about fish and have some fun. The meetings include entertaining presentations by guest speakers, informal discussions, and laid-back, Keys-style fun with friends who share a passion. Learn how you can make a dive or snorkel that counts. Become a citizen scientist and meet others who share your passion for the underwater world.
REEF, Fish & Friends Seminar
Past topics have included lionfish, spiny lobster, coral spawning, parrotfish and wrasse, underwater photography, Aquarius Reef Base, fish identification and how to do a survey. Presenters have included Lad Atkins, Martin Moe, Paul Humann, Lauri MacLaughlin and Ken Nedimyer.
Join us the second Tuesday of each month for this exciting series! We invite everyone to stop in and share some food, drink, good conversation, and hear a relevant topic about REEF projects or a mini fish ID seminar. Social begins at 6:30 pm and the presentation runs from 7-8 pm at the James E. Lockwood Jr. REEF Headquarters in Key Largo at MM 98.3 in the median. All REEF, Fish & Friends events are free and open to the public.


Another "Great" Annual Fish Count
By Janna Nichols, REEF Outreach Coordinator

The 21st Annual Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC) took place in July, with many dive shops, dive clubs, and other groups organizing fish ID classes, dive /snorkel days, BBQs and more fun gatherings. The concept behind the GAFC is not only to accumulate large numbers of surveys during the month of July, but also to introduce divers and snorkelers to fishwatching and get them started doing REEF surveys. Groups from California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Hawaii, Florida, North Carolina, and new to the event in 2012 – New Brunswick – all participated! Once again, this year's largest one-day event was held in the Northeast, coordinated by the New England Dive Club. Thank you to ALL participants, and we hope you'll continue conducting REEF surveys on your dives year round!

"Kissimmee Basin: the Northern Everglades" Documentary Now Available

Throughout the centuries, the Everglades have inspired strong emotion and debate among soldiers and poets, politicians and citizens. Its history is as broad and sprawling as the River of Grass itself. Although many stories have been told about the Everglades – from drainage to restoration – few have been told about where it all begins: the Kissimmee River Basin. Restoration and protection of the natural values of this vast, watery landscape may well hold the key to restoration of the Greater Everglades ecosystem.
This new documentary film by Elam Stoltzfus invites you to take a trip up the Kissimmee Valley back through time to discover the well-reasoned, yet unforeseen, consequences of a flood-control project that turned the 103-mile long meandering river full of life, into a 52-mile long, multi-million dollar over-engineered channel that drained the surrounding wetlands, caused the disappearance of large flocks of wading birds, and a significant decline of an abundant freshwater fishery. View the trailer here.
Check your local public televisions station listings for broadcast dates and times or purchase the DVD.

Our Mission
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys supports the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the preservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our coral reef ecosystem, from the uplands to the deep sea. We focus on development of community support and advancement of public awareness, education, outreach and scientific research.

In This Issue:
From the Board
Hurricanes: Friend or Foe?
Pillar Coral Spawning
REEF, Fish & Friends
Upcoming Events

From the Board

Dear Friends:
After teaching high school for 22 years, I have seen what a difference a time period makes in thinking and attitudes. It has been over a generation since the two most devastating natural events affected our local Sanctuary reef systems: 1) the widespread death of the diadema, black spiny sea urchins, in 1983; and 2) severe bleaching of stony reef corals in 1988. Since then we have seen corals suffering from algae overgrowth and our reefs steadily losing many of their beautiful inhabitants.
But we also have to think about what a generation of change can mean for the future. Sanctuary Friends Foundation is dedicated to supporting those efforts that will assist recovery and make a difference in coming years. The non-profit Coral Restoration Foundation, headed by Ken Nedimyer, is making great headway propagating staghorn and elkhorn corals – both threatened – and replanting colonies along the reefline. Think about the difference this will make a generation from now!
FKNMS has worked for long-term recovery of our reefs, as well. Designation of Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs) in vital reef zones has protected fish life so divers can proclaim our reefs the “fishiest” in the Caribbean. Spawning areas have also been set aside to protect aggregations of reproducing fish for the future.
Please join us at Sanctuary Friends Foundation as we work to support all these current improvements and protect our environment. We welcome your help!
Judy Halas, Secretary

Upcoming Events

Please add your upcoming events to our online Florida Keys Environmental Calendar. This community-wide resource allows any organization or group to set up an account and post environmentally-related events.

Lionfish Derby
September 8, Coconuts, Key Largo
REEF hosts the third annual Florida Keys lionfish derby with more than $3,000 in cash and prizes for largest, smallest and most lionfish caught. Mandatory captains meeting the evening before the derby. Rules, registration and more information at or call 305-852-0030.

27th Annual International Coastal Cleanup
Sept. 15
Ocean Conservancy partners with organizations and individuals around the globe to clean up the world's beaches and waterways. Volunteer for a beach cleanup near you at If you don't see a cleanup scheduled in your area or you want to schedule one on a different date, you can propose your own and find out more about organizing a cleanup.

Discovery Saturday: Feathered Friends
Sept. 15, 10-11 am, Eco-Discovery Center, Key West
Kids in kindergarten through fifth grade are invited to join the free, fun-filled program. Play games and make crafts while learning about birds native to South Florida, as well as the importance of conserving natural habitats for nesting and future bird populations. Discovery Saturday is held the third Saturday of every month. For more information, call 305-809-4750.

Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival
Sept. 25-30, throughout the Keys
Signature events include an excursion to Dry Tortugas National Park, guided bird and butterfly walks through state parks and federal refuge areas, wildlife photography workshops, the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, an environmental fair, and boat trips into the backcountry. The event's keynote speaker is Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher's Digest and author of several birding guides. In addition to his presentations, he will also lead several birding walks. Event details and registration form: Register early because several activities have participant limits and sell out fast!

Membership Update
July / August 2012
Welcome! Thank you for your support!
New & Returning Members ($30-$100)
Mia Kinsey
Benefactors ($200+)
Long Key Ladies Club
Michael Fimiani

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