ISLAMORADA (CBSMiami) — Boy Scouts are known for camping, hiking, and earning merit badges, but now they are also helping to do something remarkable, re-growing Florida’s coral reefs. Corals are extremely vulnerable to climate change, but teenage Scouts are now helping to fight for their future.

On an island in the Florida Keys, tanks hold a new generation of corals just starting to grow. Some young scouts are helping care for them.

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(Courtesy; Boy Scouts Of America Sea Base)

At the Boy Scouts of America’s Sea Base, young men and women have been learning to scuba dive for decades, where they’ve seen up close how the colors and creatures in Florida’s coral reefs are under serious threat.

“It is dying to be quite frank and that’s due to a number of factors, changes in water temp, quality, human interaction,” said Sea Base General Manager Mike Johnson.

Johnson thought Scouts could be part of the solution. Using a technique called fragmentation, they cut corals into tiny pieces that regrow 50 times faster than they would in nature. The Scouts then plant them underwater to rebuild the reef. When asked if he thinks there might be a coral restoration merit badge on the horizon, Johnson said, “I hope so.”

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Even without a badge, 17-year-old Scout Warren Vronay knows he’s making a difference.

“When I remember my biggest accomplishment in Scouting, it will probably be the Sea Base program,” he said.

Since launching in 2018, the Sea Base nursery has grown 10,000 corals and is part of a two-decade project to restore millions of square feet of reef. 15-year-old Ryan Emmons says they’re helping the sea and future Scouts.

“It’s gonna make an everlasting change and everlasting benefit for future generations,” said Emmons.

A Scout service project for mother nature, building a brighter future under the sea.

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The federal government estimates coral reefs provide almost $2 billion in flood protection benefits every year in the U.S. alone.

CBSMiami.com Team