Of all of the fabulous things about visiting the Florida Keys — things like sea turtle hospitals and and key lime pies and the whole Conch Republic thing — the absolutely coolest thing is the Coral Restoration Foundation.
“What?” you ask as you look instead at this slice key lime pie, hoping to hear about crazy antics at Mallory Square as the sun goes down or six-toed cats at Ernest Hemingway’s house.
But hang in there. It’s pretty cool and it’s something you can see and do when you visit the Florida Keys.
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Saving Florida’s Coral Reefs
We all know, or should know, about coral reefs and how important they are to a healthy ocean and a healthy planet. They support marine life, which a lot of people eat or make a living from catching. Coral reefs also protect coastal areas where people live during hurricanes and severe weather events. There’s more. Look it up.
Florida’s Coral Reefs are estimated to be the third largest in the world, just behind the one that protects Belize and that big one in Australia that gets all of the attention.
But coral reefs are dying around the world because of the plastic and other garbage we throw in the ocean. So the Coral Restoration Foundation is giving Mother Nature a hand and making new coral reefs.
Ideas to Eliminate Plastic
We spent a morning on a boat with people from the Coral Restoration Foundation at a place called the Pickles about three miles out from Key Largo. Obviously my first question concerned pickles, but it simply references a boat that sank here years ago.
Even though it’s all under water, if you put on a snorkel mask and fins you can see it. And if you are a certified diver, you, too, can help build new coral reefs.
Post THAT on your Instagram account!
We snorkeled just above a field of freshly planted coral. I can’t say that I understand the whole process, but basically they take PCV pipes and anchor them in ocean, create a few cross bars of pipes and then attach a float to keep it upright. Then they attach little chunks of live rock and it begins to grow into really healthy coral, which is then transplanted to where the coral is dying.
They are excited to share about the project with anyone who wants to come out and take a look. It’s a nice day out on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico and you learn something while there. I thought it was fascinating.
Healthy Oceans and Healthy Coral Reefs
But say you don’t like to snorkel or dive, you can still help save the coral reefs any time you’re anywhere outside around water. It turns out that most sunscreen contains oxybenzone, an ingredient that harms coral reefs.
I don’t often get into promoting a particular product and I’m not receiving compensation to say this. But Stream2Sea is a new sunscreen without oxybenzone, so it does not harm coral reefs. It’s only 20 SPF, so beware of that. It goes on really, really thick, too.
Even if you’re not vacationing near an ocean, use this anyway, especially if you’re in a fresh water lake or river. It all feeds into an ocean eventually.
And we all need our oceans to be healthy for the vacation enjoyment of generations to come.