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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys

In this Issue:

News & Notes
February 2010

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Our Amazing Ocean

Economists Put a Price Tag
on the Benefits of Coral Reefs
by  Moises Velasquez-Manoff, The Christian Science Monitor / November 20, 2009

In recent decades, coral reef ecosystems around the world have declined dramatically. One-fifth have died, according to a 2004 World Wildlife Fund assessment, and human activity directly threatens another 24 percent. As atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide increase, scientists say that higher temperatures and ocean acidification could kill 70 percent of the world's coral reefs by 2050. By century's end, they could be gone entirely.

Photo by Stephen Frink

Photo by Stephen Frink

If this loss could be assigned a dollar amount, how much would it be? A group of economists presented an assessment of coral reefs' value at the recent DIVERSITAS biodiversity conference in Cape Town, South Africa. As it turns out, reefs are quite valuable. Inferring from more than 80 studies, the economists found that, on average, 2.5 acres of coral reef provide $130,000 worth of goods and services, and sometimes as much as $1.2 million.

Here's the monetary breakdown:

  • Food, raw materials, ornamental resources: average, $1,100 (up to $6,000)
  • Climate regulation, moderation of extreme events, waste treatment/water purification, biological control: average, $26,000 (up to $35,000)
  • Cultural services (e.g., recreation/tourism): average, $88,700 (up to $1.1 million)
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity: average, $13,500 (up to $57,000)

Hot Issues

Lionfish Update

In the year since the first lionfish was captured in the Florida Keys, more than 80 of the intruders have been documented from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas. So far, all have been juveniles, with the biggest about 10 inches long. The lionfish's assault of the Keys is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years, but an army of divers, fishermen and scientists are trying to limit their foothold.

A rapid response team was organized by FKNMS and REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) in anticipation of the lionfish invasion of the protected waters of the sanctuary. The goal is to educate anyone who works or plays in the water in the Keys about how to identify and report lionfish. A few months ago, about 100 volunteers were trained in the tricky removal of the venomous lionfish using needle-proof gloves and aquarium nets. Special protocols and permits were developed to allow removal of lionfish in safe, effective and environmentally considerate manners.

   photo by Stephen Frink
Photo by Stephen FrinkIn a rare move, NOAA, which oversees the sanctuary, is issuing permits to some of those trained people to remove lionfish from the sanctuary's 18 no-take zones. The sanctuary has allowed only one other marine invader to be removed from its preservation areas -- the orbicular batfish.

About 40 lionfish have been captured in the Keys and sent frozen to NOAA's laboratory in Beaufort, N.C., where marine ecologists are studying them. NOAA also is studying the use of traps after several lionfish in the Keys were found in lobster traps at depths far deeper than the limits of most recreational divers.

Lionfish are so lethal to reef ecosystems because they not only eat juvenile fish of other species at an unsustainable rate, they also take away the food source from such important species such as grouper and snapper. In addition, they eat reef-cleaning fish such as parrotfish, which could bring further stress to the fragile corals.

Lionfish are particularly prolific breeders. Once a female is fertilized she can eject up to 15,000 eggs during a single mating event. A healthy adult female can have up to three mating events a month. Juveniles develop rapidly and start to actively hunt when less than 3 inches in length. They have been observed consuming prey fish up to two thirds their body lengths. The species has a potential lifespan of approximately 4-10 years. In the Florida Keys, the lionfish's only known predators are humans.

Lionfish are already having substantial negative impacts on Atlantic coral reefs. While complete eradication of lionfish in the Atlantic is likely impossible, focused lionfish control efforts in strategic locations is necessary. The Keys are working to stay ahead of the invasion through early detection and rapid response.

To report a lionfish sighting, visit REEF's Exotic Species Sighting Form. For more information or to join in future workshops, contact Lad Akins at Lad@reef.org or call (305) 852-0030.

 Programs & Projects

Unsung Hero - Diana Ruelens

Diana RuelensSanctuary Friends' beloved administrator - Diana Ruelens - is a proud recipient of the 2010 "Unsung Hero" award given by the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys. Each year, all Monroe County non-profit organizations are invited by the Foundation to nominate their Volunteer of the Year and attend a fabulous Key West luncheon where the Unsung Heroes are presented with a Certificate of Recognition and the applause of some 400 attendees.

Diana went above and beyond in 2009 to support the protection of our precious marine sanctuary, enthusiastically representing the Sanctuary Friends Foundation as a true ambassador at numerous public events, taking initiative to learn grant-writing, and helping to create infrastructure to allow the organization to grow and prosper in a difficult economy. Joining Diana at the awards luncheon last month were Board Members John Morrill, David Rice, and George Neugent. 

This is the ninth year the Center for NonProfit Excellence has sponsored the Annual Luncheon, held this year on Jan. 22 at the Marriott Beachside Resort and Conference Center in Key West.

Become an Eco-Mariner
Eco-Mariner is a resource protection course designed to teach Florida Bay boaters how to safely navigate the Bay's shallow waters. The course illustrates simple actions that can reduce the extent of fish and seagrass habitat damage.

The goal of the Eco-Mariner course is to provide motor boaters with the necessary knowledge to protect Florida Bay's sensitive environment. This course provides an understanding of Florida Bay's Geography, Threats, Protection, and Regulations in an effort to protect Florida Bay's important wildlife and habitats. It was developed by Bay users and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and can be fully completed online. Take the course.

In addition to the course, ecomariner.org is a place where boaters can come to get information about Florida Bay.

New Website is Coral Reef Resource
Reef Relief founders Craig and DeeVon Quirolo retired from the grassroots organization last July, only to begin an effort to provide an online resource on coral reefs. Their new website provides all the award-winning educational tools, grassroots strategies, project reports and images of coral reefs assembled during their work over the past 23 years in the Florida Keys and throughout the Caribbean protecting coral reefs. You can find it at www.reefrelieffounders.com.
Coral Reefs and Climate Change Film
This film shows the devastating effect of climate change on the world's incredible, diverse coral reefs. It paints a disturbing picture of a world that has lost its reefs forever - our world in 2065. View it here.
 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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We want your input! If you have stories of note or just want to comment on our newsletter, please email: NewsletterEditor@SanctuaryFriends.org.
We're developing a Central Environmental Calendar for the Keys. If you have an upcoming event with an environmental focus or that relates to our fabulous Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, please email: calendar@SanctuaryFriends.org.

Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization (Tax ID# 59-2443959).
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February is the Month of LOVE.

Show someone YOUR love by purchasing them a membership to Sanctuary Friends.

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

 From the Board

Dear Friends:
I just returned from a photo expedition to the Maldives. Great diving and, of course, wildly different in terms of endemic species in the Indian Ocean than here in the Florida Keys. Except for the lionfish. Any concerned marine conservationist is aware of the havoc the lionfish invasion has wrought throughout the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, and how it is now poised to decimate the reef fish here, as well.

It is a potential environmental nightmare, probably beyond our ability to control. Even if we armed all our scuba divers with polespears and put a bounty on lionfish brought back dead-or-alive, the reality is that they don't live just where we dive. A look at a satellite photo of the Florida Keys reveals a whole lot more reefline than we have mooring buoys. Lionfish don't need a mooring buoy to tell them where they should anchor. And eat. And procreate.

So, I am not very optimistic we can control or reverse the lionfish invasion. They seem incredibly resilient and most opportunistic. Yet, they did not swarm the reef in the Maldives, or Papua New Guinea, or Indonesia, or the Red Sea or any of the other places I've seen naturally occurring lionfish.

Mother Nature figured it out for those marine ecosystems, and I'm sure She'll figure it out for ours. I just hope we can somehow help Her along. One way you can help is to join our organization. Please think about becoming a Sanctuary Friend and helping to protect our unique marine ecosystem in the Florida Keys.

Stephen Frink, 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. We hope it will be THE place to find great activities to both support and celebrate our precious local natural resources.

It's easy to add YOUR event. The first step is to request an account. Once you've been approved and have selected a username and password, you can "add your group's event to our calendar." Give it a try!

Bottlenose Dolphins Presentation
Feb. 24, 7:30 - 8:30 pm, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Visitor Center, MM 102.5
Jenny Litz, Research Fisheries Biologist, will review the behavior, population status and use of bottlenose dolphins as indicators of ecosystem health in South Florida waters. Sponosred by Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park as part of their "Delicate Balance of Nature" lecture series. More information, call 451-9570. FREE.

Key West Boat Show & Nautical Market
Feb. 27-28, 9 am - 6 pm (4 pm Sunday), Truman Waterfront, Key West
New and used boats, quality marine equipment, rods and reels, arts and crafts, and nautical clothing for sale. Other scheduled attractions include live music, food and ice-cold beverages. Kids in attendance can take part in the "Fish Florida" program that provides free rods, reels and tackle boxes at 10:30 am. Proceeds from the boat show benefit the Rotary Club of Key West Scholarship Fund. More information.

National Weather Service Open House
March 20, 1-5 pm, NWS-Key West Office, 1315 White St.
This third annual event is FREE and open to the public. Families are welcome and there will be activities for the kids as part of NOAA's Science Saturdays. Tours, presentations, information booths, live music and food.

Coming ...
"Eco-Discovery Tours:
Discover the Florida Keys through eco-friendly and historical excursions."
Thousands of islands ... thousands of stories

The Eco-Discovery Center and Sanctuary Friends team up to take visitors on journeys that will teach them about the history and natural wonders of the 1,700 islands that are called the Florida Keys.

Learn underwater photography from an instructor who knows the secrets of the reef, experience the rich history of writers that have called Key West their home, discover nature's beauty as you kayak under the moon through canopied mangrove islands or share a gourmet dinner with local chefs who are dedicated to using organic, local and Floridian delights.

For more information, call 305-289-2288 or e-mail to request a brochure.

EcoWeek 2010
Coming! Nov. 1-14, 2010
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.

Welcome New Members
January / February 2010
Thank you for your support!
Sanctuary Buddy $30
Cynthia Morrill
Robert Mundie
Harvey Paston
Sanctuary Adventurer $50
Bruce and Sherry Popham
John Morrill
George Neugent
Sanctuary Donor $100
Karrie Carnes
Julie Cheon
Russell Fisher
James Trice
Sanctuary Patron $200
Billy and Laura Causey
Sean Morton
Sanctuary Advocate $300
Thomas N. Davidson
Sanctuary Patron $500/year
Harold and Mona Brewer
Business Member $100
Bonefish and Tarpon Trust

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.

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

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