Mote Marine Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration
Flats Nation was invited for a media level tour of the Mote Marine International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration in Summerland Key the other day and it was just awesome!
I had the attention and ear of two staff members / scientist, plus their Director of Regional Operations for hours and was overly impressed with the talent, concern, and their operational format and procedures!
A little history for those not familiar with Mote Marine as a research laboratory and highly involved in various conservation efforts before other awesome groups like CCA of Florida or CFCW (Captains for Clean Water) were as prevalent as they are today with their great efforts. There was Mote Marine that started back in 1955, including some help from one of my young influences and producer of shows I always enjoyed watching as a young man Captain Jacques Cousteau.
If interested in reading more about Mote Marine's storied History, you can find out more about that by clicking Here
So, as explained and demonstrated to me on the entire coral lifecycle, what we are facing down in The Keys is our coral reefs have been hit and hit hard with SCTLD or better known as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease which is reported to have started around 2014. Unknown though (still) is the root cause for such, but several theories have been proposed. Here is a good link that goes into detail on SCTLD that you may find interesting by clicking Here
Disease's (unlike pollution) by nature are natural, but as we have seen some extra factors can really exacerbate these conditions much like the same with Red Tide (which is natural yet even found in Calusa Shell Middens going back hundreds of years) getting fueled to an even greater extent, by other factors. Factors like nutrient pollution as discussed on this quick posting found some months back on Flats Nation that can be found by clicking Here
And as I have been known by Friends, Colleagues, and Staff that worked with for me over the years, my saying of (usually stated with a smile or chuckle) "Well, It kind of hard to put out a Fire with Gasoline!" thus some of our Ecosystem problems in some way we (collective by various means) could be doing just that... Pouring Gasoline on a Burning Fire (like the Piney Point chemical release) and then wondering why we have issues?
I though am not a Marine Biologist (missed my calling some) thus will not speculate on the causes for Coral SCTLD myself, nor by experience will blindly accept (politically) motivated causes as the Gospel as we have seen for other (suspect) ecosystem issues and concerns... No, our position here on Flats Nation is to report / share what has been found by various sources for those who love Flats Fishing it's Lifestyle and by others who care about such. How you can then research those findings and come to your own conclusions and choices, and supply information and links on how to help those respective causes that you find near and dear to your heart 😊
Mote Marine International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration though has several targeted methods to track and other ways to help replace (grow back) what has been lost. This as well as stress test certain types that show better chances of survival under various conditions (Temperature, Acidity, Salinity) using their CAOS raceway tank systems. More on the CAOS system in a separate article soon.
High points of my visit...
Naturally, spending time with those who care and by profession dedicated to study and help is extremely rewarding which is why you and your children should visit! Several aspects of their efforts I found interesting was how they are looking for ways to help build back the coral reefs through breeding under controlled conditions. This as well as total ecosystem factors while using other animals to help accelerate the growth process as in the case of employing Spyder Crabs to help keep the coral cleaner by eating various algae that covers it and suspected could be adding to the problem.
These same crabs also have some Aquaculture value at that same time thus a win-win for I hear they also taste awesome and have a taste profile like stone crabs! So, I say let us grow as many of these little cultivators as we can to help clean up and the reef, and break out the Old Bay Seasoning at that same time! 😊
The only issue in captive breeding Spyder Crabs found thus far, seems to be that the Males are quite territorial so reproduction rates might be impacted in those breeder tanks because they are in there fighting like a couple of kids till one becomes MIA...
Next was the study tanks for the reproduction of various coral types where they can simulate the conditions needed to make coral run through their breeding cycle. As reported it's all a combination of Moon, Water Temperature and Tides and really only happens once a year.
And due to the amount of energy needed by the coral to create and expel eggs and sperm, even under lab conditions they do not yet, have a way to increase these events to say every 6 months to help produce even more coral to transplant. I am quite sure Celia one of the Mote staff reproduction biologist, and team are looking for ways to do just that if possible!
Then you have the study and grow out tanks for the baby coral as I like to call them.
Where they can measure and control assorted items like temperature, water flow for tidal effect, etc. while still pulling in and using local seawater. Filtration is important as anyone who has a saltwater reef tank back home will attest! Yet even filtering the water down to the 1-micron level and using UV light to help kill off various dreadful things, they still run into problems at times. This also shows how delicate these ecosystems can be even under highly controlled laboratory conditions.
Then they have various what I like to call transplant tanks where they grow the coral to about quarter size and label each one for tracking and growth purposes...
And this is not a dump and run affair either! This for they must build racks for some using PVC pipe and still must visit each planting at 6 months and again at a year for quality and survival measurements which as you can well figure, is quite the undertaking in both man-hours and in equipment / fuel costs. Happy to report that they have had some remarkable success in getting these efforts to once moved from the lab to the reef, too also spawn back in the wild in a much shorter timeframe as seen here:
So, what can you do to help with the Coral Research and Restoration efforts you ask?
The first thing I recommend (which your Children and Grandchildren might really love) is to plan a visit to both Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota and you can find out more about making a visit by clicking Here
This as well as the Mote Marine International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration on Summerland Key. The latter has free guided tours each Tuesday starting at 10am and getting on the visitor's list is easy simply by calling 305-745-2729
Second item which has some returns for both you and the Coral efforts by Mote Marine is to order your own "Protect our Reefs" Tag for your Car or Truck.
Plus you can order that same tag for your Boat or other Trailers and each plate sold in the State of Florida provides a $25 donation to Mote Marine Laboratory and helps to fund coral reef research, restoration, education and conservation and as reported to me, has become a great source of funding for staffing. More information on getting one yourself can be found by clicking Here
Third is get involved or better stated having more "Eyes on the Ecosystem" and Mote and others has several ways you can help while out Fishing, Snorkeling / Diving or just enjoying the Great Outdoors while in The Keys here are a few:
Submitting a Coral Bleach Watch report and more information on that effort can be found by clicking Here
Getting involved with SEAFAN - The Southeast Florida Action Network and you can find out more about those efforts by clicking Here
4. And for those like my Bride that need X amount of "Retail Therapy" every so many days... You can pick up some Mote Marine Merchandise and Swag from their shop found by clicking Here
In closing much like my article on Sea Trout and the positive economic impacts of Recreational Fishing for our Great State to the tune of 9.2 Billion annually which you can read about Here
Same goes the for our Coral Reef system in The Keys and other parts of Southeast Florida! Many of our favorite Flats Fishing targets like Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish use these ecosystems to survive both as a food source for prey items that call these areas home. And while migrating to other areas to spawn... Here is a video that covers some of this economic benefit they provide:
And though we do not support closure of any area to Recreational Fishing Hook and Line fishing (nothing like shooting the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs by doing such!) We do need to be careful in these areas and tread lightly.
First, one of the best ways to do this is to use the FMT (Florida Marine Tracks) Chip by Isla Maine in your NAVICO Marine MFD (Multi-Function Display) to help stay clear of areas like Coral Reefs, Oyster Bars and shallow Sea Grasses that can get hit by your prop and are not only extremely hard on our slow growing Flats ecosystems. But could be expensive to your hull and lower units at the same time! You can find out more about that product by clicking Here
Second, get involved even if it is just to buy a hat or something. And one of the ways as I have mention before on my article for supporting CFCW (Captains for Clean Water) by shopping found Here you can also choose Mote Marine for your Amazon Smile Donations and can find out more about that program on Amazon by clicking Here
Now some might say "Dave, you are pitting one cause against another by denoting such are you not?" Not really, since we all live Down Tide and what happens in one part of Florida can and does have some extremely negative impacts in others... Most if not all of us are shopping on Amazon as it is, pick the cause that is closest to your heart and area you live / visit and help support it 😊
Thanks again to Alicia, Allison, and Celia at Mote Marine for taking the time (hours by the way) to show Flats Nation around and allowing me to ask sometimes the hard questions. I subscribe to the "Glass half Full" approach and can remember as a kid, when rivers caught on fire and how far we have come since then! As such, I may not always sign off on the "Sky is Falling" approach and attitude some have concerning problems our near shore saltwater ecosystems are facing. I applaud their efforts and outlook to coral reef condition and restoration! As Allison explained to me with a smile, their efforts and goal is to "Work themselves out of a job" for once they do, we will all know that our Coral Reefs and the surrounding Ecosystems that are the Life's Blood for Flats Fishing as well as The Keys economy is even more healthy again!
Flats Nation is really looking forward to working further with Mote Marine with follow up articles on more targeted initiatives they now have. And one of our other planned projects is a Podcast with members of the Mote Marine International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration Staff as we discuss this topic more even further!
And remember our saying / tag line we started here on Flats Nation "No Fish, No Florida!" for when it comes to all these joint conservation efforts, it really is that simple...
Tight Lines, and God Bless!