Southeast Florida Reef Review Newsletter, December 2021

Southeast Coral Reef Review Newsletter

Southeast Florida Reef Review Newsletter

December 2021

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In this issue:

  • The Coral ECA Has a New Name!
  • Our 10th Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup
  • Coral Reef Education Trunks: 2021 Relaunch and Sign-up
  • Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Response Update

  • Call for Fishing Stakeholders to Engage in Management Planning
  • Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) Team Updates
  • Friends of Our Florida Reef (FOFR) Updates
  • New Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) Staff Members



The Coral ECA has a New Name!

-Katie Lizza, Fishing, Diving and Other Uses Coordinator, and Rachel Skubel, Awareness and Appreciation Coordinator

The Kristin Jacobs Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area (Coral ECA) was officially established on July 1, 2018, and subsequently renamed in 2021 to honor the late Kristin Jacobs, a Florida state representative who was a longtime environmental advocate. The Coral ECA includes the sovereign submerged lands and state waters offshore of Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties from the St. Lucie Inlet to the northern boundary of Biscayne National Park. CRCP will be installing signage throughout this four-county region to make the public aware of the Coral ECA's existence and location.


Graphic: A map of the Kristin Jacobs Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area.

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Our 10th Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup

-Tyler Mominey, Associate Coordinator

A group of divers pose on the back of the boat with a “2021 Reef Clean Up” sign.

Florida DEP’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) hosted their 10th Annual Southeast Florida Coral Reef Cleanup in July and August. In partnership with six local dive shops in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, divers recovered over 109 pounds of debris from the reefs in Southeast Florida. The 65 participants removed everything from rubber gloves to plastic cups and even a refrigerator door (photo below: Jessica Price, DEP). In Martin County, CRCP sponsored the 14th Annual Treasure Coast Waterway Cleanup, which supports the Peck’s Lake Reef Dive cleanup. (Photo right: Taylor Tucker, DEP)

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A group of divers stand with the refrigerator door they recovered from the 10th Annual Reef Cleanup

A group of divers with the refrigerator door they recovered during from the 10th Annual Reef Cleanup (Jessica Price, DEP).

A diver holding a marine debris cleanup bag performs a “giant stride” off the side of a dive boat.

CRCP was unable to host its annual reef cleanup in 2020. However, this led to an opportunity to empower participants to organize their own do-it-yourself cleanups in 2021. This was made possible by Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell app where volunteers could quickly and easily report the debris they removed from the reef or shoreline in Southeast Florida. In total, we had 149 participants across all four counties pick up over 1,680 pounds of trash! (Photo left: Scott Sheckman, FOFR)

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Coral Reef Education Trunks: 2021 Relaunch and Sign-up

-Rachel Skubel, Awareness and Appreciation Coordinator

The Coral Reef Conservation Program has been working with teachers over the past year to update our Coral Reef Education Trunks, and we are ready to send these new trunks out to classrooms. We now offer four levels of trunks: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12. The lesson plans were designed by three incredible educators: Lauren Chesrown (Grades K-2 and 3-5), Beatriz Chachamovits (Grades 6-8), and Lindsay French (Grades 9-12).

You can learn more about each trunk on the SEFCRI website. Here you can view lesson plans, PowerPoints, activity materials and suggested bonus resources by grade level. These online versions have been adapted for teachers to use without a trunk so students will be able to engage even if no trunks are available at the moment. We’re excited to expand the content and accessibility of our Coral Reef Education Trunks so more students can jump-start their coral reef knowledge.

The trunks will be sent out in order of request. If you would like to use this program, please use this sign-up form to fill in your contact information and class details so we can match you with a trunk.

Coral Reef Education Trunk

A preview of a coral reef education trunk for grades 6-8 (Rachel Skubel, DEP).

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Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease Response Update

-Rachel Skubel, Awareness and Appreciation Coordinator

Since 2014, Florida has been responding to an outbreak of the communicable, waterborne disease called stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD). Although disease is a natural part of any ecosystem, SCTLD is worse than any other recorded coral disease due to its geographic range, longevity, number of species affected and mortality rates. However, partners in Florida have been leading an unprecedented response to this unprecedented disease. As of Nov. 17, 2021, nearly 13,000 corals have been treated across Florida’s Coral Reef with a highly effective antibiotic paste (other treatments are in development).

In the summer of 2021, SCTLD was detected in Dry Tortugas National Park, completing its spread across all of Florida’s Coral Reef (see the GIF below that shows the spread from 2014 to 2021). In response, a team of highly skilled coral researchers from Nova Southeastern University and Florida Atlantic University completed a 10-day mission in September 2021, treating over 6,000 affected corals across the park. To learn about recent studies on the disease and treatment, visit the DEP Coral Program’s project reports page.

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A GIF showing the spread of stony coral tissue loss disease across Florida's Coral Reef from 2014 to 2021.


Call for Fishing Stakeholders to Engage in Coral ECA Management Planning

-Katie Lizza, Fishing, Diving and Other Uses Coordinator

Stakeholder engagement with user groups has been essential to effective management of the Coral ECA since the formation of the SEFCRI in 2003. Resource users closely interact with this economically, ecologically and culturally valuable resource, and they have local expertise and knowledge. Acknowledging this, DEP has initiated a stakeholder engagement process in partnership with the University of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. This process is currently underway to develop recommendations for fisheries and environmental management actions to enhance coral reef ecosystem and fishing quality in the Coral ECA.

Representatives from the fishing community were selected to form the stakeholder committee, including recreational and commercial anglers and spearfishers, headboat and charter operators, and marine industry representatives as well as their respective organizations. The committee members have been engaging in discussions related to important environmental issues impacting the Coral ECA, such as water quality, habitat loss, fishing pressure and coral disease.

These discussions are part of a larger process that tasks the stakeholder committee with the development of recommended management actions (RMAs) that will enhance the conservation of coral reefs and fishery resources within the Coral ECA. The RMAs will be subject to feedback through a survey and a series of public meetings and will be incorporated into a broader set of management recommendations for the Coral ECA.

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Participants in the August 2021 committee meeting (Katie Lizza, DEP).

The proposed public survey and meetings for this project aim to engage a diversity of stakeholders and resource users within the Southeast Florida region in addition to the fishing community. The survey will gather input on the state of the Coral ECA, including the fishery and coral reef resources; factors most important in driving quality of the ecosystem and fishing in the Coral ECA; and preference for different management responses – water quality based, habitat based and fisheries based. Feedback and results from the survey and public meetings will inform future research and management actions within the Coral ECA. The final list of RMAs will be shared with local, state and federal government agencies to help guide management of these waters.

Learn more about the stakeholder engagement process and how to get involved.

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Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) Team Updates

-Mollie Sinnott, Assistant Manager & Reef Injury Prevention and Response Coordinator

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The Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) team has a new cohort of team members! The SEFCRI vice chairs reviewed membership applications in all non-agency seats for returning and new members. They voted to accept 15 new members to join the team! These new members were offered an onboarding webinar to provide background and context on the SEFCRI team, as well as detail the status of past and present local action strategies. All the SEFCRI team members will gather virtually for their next full team meeting in early 2022.

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Friends of Our Florida Reef (FOFR) Updates

-Melissa Sathe, Friends of Our Florida Reefs President


Friends of Our Florida Reefs (FOFR) has been busy with outreach, attending the Heal the Planet Day Festival in April, SOS Ocean Conservation Day in July, and the Tortuga Music Festival in November. FOFR assisted with a Broward County Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup event in August.

We are thrilled to share that the Florida Coral Reef tank at the Marine Environmental Education Center in Hollywood, that FOFR helped fund, has been built and is awaiting installation. Stay tuned for an unveiling event in the future! Finally, FOFR is preparing to host a webinar on Tuesday, Dec. 13, from noon to 1 p.m. on Zoom. See presentations from local coral reef, marine animal and responsible gardening experts! Check out our FOFR website or follow us on Facebook for more details about this exciting event!  


New Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) Staff Members



Patrick Connelly. Patrick is the Maritime Industry and Coastal Construction Impacts (MICCI) Coordinator. Patrick completed his master’s degree in Marine Biology at the Florida Institute of Technology and has worked for nonprofit, private and government entities. Patrick has several years’ experience working as a consultant conducting various marine surveys and writing survey reports, literature reviews and NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) documents. He enjoys scuba diving and spearfishing lionfish, kayaking, camping, and trivia nights.

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Katie Lizza

Katie Lizza. As the Fishing, Diving and Other Uses Coordinator, I oversee, develop and implement projects focused on the resource management of recreational uses, such as fishing, boating and diving within the Coral ECA. I’m originally from Long Island and I received my master’s degree in Marine Science with a focus in both the fisheries and coral reef management fields. Prior to joining CRCP, I worked for the Billfish Foundation on fishery and stakeholder related projects and as a permitter for DEP's Environmental Resource Program.

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Rachel Skubel

Rachel Skubel. As the Awareness and Appreciation Coordinator, I work on outreach, education and communications across all our focus areas, including pulling together this newsletter! Earlier this year I graduated with my Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. I studied South Florida’s shark populations and shark fishery stakeholders, and the tools used to manage risks from climate change. I started with DEP in September 2021 and am excited to keep finding ways to connect Floridians with the reef!

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Tyler Mominey

Tyler Mominey. I am CRCP’s new Associate Coordinator as of July. I come to DEP from my role at the Walt Disney Company as a Conservation Education Manager. I look forward to bringing my lessons and experiences into this role. I am grateful for the opportunity to help protect the ecosystem I grew up with.

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Taylor Tucker

Taylor Tucker. Hello! I’m the new Reef Injury Prevention and Response (RIPR) Specialist, part of the RIPR team that enforces the Coral Reef Protection Act by responding to and assisting in the management of coral reef injury incidents. I have lived in all four corners of the United States and just recently moved to Florida after living in Bermuda for the past two years, where I was restoring coral reefs and researching lionfish. In my free time I love hiking, exploring, wakeboarding, longboarding and making fossilized shark tooth necklaces!