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UM Scientists Dive In To Save Corals From Port Dredge Project

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - University of Miami Rosenstiel School scientists saved more than 1,000 corals from the deep dredge at PortMiami.

“We’ve been diving to save as many corals as we could at PortMiami,” said coral reef biologist Dr. Andrew Baker with UM’s Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “We’re trying to rescue as many as we can. These corals are not going to survive the dredging activity, these are valuable corals.

They documented the recovery of 1,200 corals they said they saved from the dredging project that is making the 42 foot deeps channel leading into the port about 8 to 10 feet deeper to accommodate large, wider ships from Panama.

Watch Cynthia Demos’ report, click here

“These corals were not going to survive the dredging activity,” said Dr. Baker.

Baker said UM just wrapped up the 12 days the school was permitted to dive for the corals. The dredge would allow the largest cargo ships to sail into PortMiami and that would double the amount of cargo at the port.

Clearly, that would boost the economy in South Florida but so too, does coral. That’s why Dr. Baker saof they are collecting the coral for research. He spoke about the particular corals they collected and said, “we think they may be hearty and could help coral reefs in the future with the climate change.”

Dr. Baker said the corals are especially important.

Baker added that saving corals from the port channel could help the future of South Florida’s coral reefs.

“The corals there are healthy and are surviving in an environment that are sub-optimal,” said Baker. “We think they may be hearty and could help coral reefs in the future with the climate change.”

Already, the majority of the reefs in the Carribbean are gone.

“Unfortunately wer’ve lost 80 percent since the mid 70′s,” said Dr. Baker due to disease, climate change and pollution.

Baker pointed out not only are corals good for the marine environment, they are good for everyone who live or visits.

“They really should be targeted for rescue, they’re good for the economy,” said Baker. “Some have placed the value of healthy coral reefs at around six billion dollars in South Florida,” said Baker. “Reefs sustain tourism, fisheries and protect coast lines, and they do all that for free.”

That’s why research is so important.

Other groups like Coral Morphologic have also gathered coral from the dredge site. That group has already relocated the items to create new reefs. Baker said, “an ocean without any coral would be like land without a rainforest.”

Baker said they hope to replant the corals once their research is done. He said coral reefs are home to more marine species than any marine ecosystem. They are vital. With the results of UM’s research, they hope to find a way to help them live and grow into the future. The dredge started in October and should rap up next summer.

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