FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 24, 2014
CONTACT: Christopher Boykin 305.795.1222
DEP'S CORAL REEF CONSERVATION
PROGRAM KICKS OFF COMMUNITY WORKING GROUPS
~Working groups established to make coral reef management recommendations~
Representatives from the Department, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided opening remarks.
MIAMI– The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef
Conservation Program held a kick-off meeting for the Our Florida Reefs
Community Working Groups Thursday evening at NOVA Southeastern University's
Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Research campus. The Our Florida
Reefs community planning process for Florida’s coral reefs is the largest
project to date by the program. The evening was sponsored by The
Nature Conservancy, hosted by NOVA and coordinated with partners
from NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.
“This is an exciting time for
the future of Florida’s coral reefs, as evident by this large effort and the generous
donation of time by working group members,” said Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary of Water
Policy and Ecosystem Restoration.
The keynote address was
delivered by Ellen Prager, Ph.D., former Chief Scientist for the Aquarius Reef
Base undersea laboratory at Conch Reef off of Key Largo. Dr. Prager is the
author of several books on marine science and served as a faculty scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in
After nine years of
collaborative work with more than sixty local partners, working groups will
review the collected materials and suggest strategies to maintain the health of
the living coral reef adjacent to four south Florida counties. A total of 52
stakeholders were selected through an application and interview process. The
members are divided into north and south working groups. The north working
group will focus on the coral reef resources offshore of Palm Beach and Martin
counties, while the south working group will focus on those offshore of Broward
and Miami-Dade counties north of Biscayne National Park.
“Florida’s coral reefs are a
valuable state resource that need protecting,” said Kevin Claridge, Director of
the Department’s Florida Coastal Office. “Not only for the tourism dollars they
bring in or habitat they provide for our fisheries, but also because they are
the most bio-diverse habitats in our state.”
Working group members will
meet monthly for a year to review the latest science on southeast Florida’s
coral reefs and work together to make management recommendations. The working
groups will each begin meeting in February.
Public comments can be
submitted online throughout the process at http://ourfloridareefs.org/public-comment-form/.
Pictured (left to right) are Chuck Collins of the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission, Ellen Prager, Ph.D, Jamie Monty of the DEP
Coral Reef Conservation Program, Drew Bartett, DEP Deputy Secretary and Dr.
John Christensen of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral
Reef Conservation Program.