Corals spawned in Florida Aquarium lab, to save dying reefs as new partnership forms

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Aquarium announced on Monday they are partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others in one of the largest investments ever undertaken in coral restoration.   

The NOAA-led “Mission: Iconic Reefs” coral reef restoration initiative was announced on Monday during a press conference in Key Largo.

The project seeks to restore nearly 3 million square feet of the Florida Reef tract at seven sites.

It’s estimated to cost $100 million over the first decade, according to the aquarium.

In August, The Florida Aquarium announced it is the first organization in history to successfully spawn Atlantic coral species in a laboratory.

Known as “Project Coral,” these animals will be used in the “Mission: Iconic Reefs” project.

Senior Coral Scientist Keri O’Neil and her team worked hard for eight months to control and program lights to mimic things like sun and moon rises in the wild, things that trigger corals to spawn once a year around this time.

Aquarium scientists will “continue to pinpoint the optimal environmental cues to trigger spawning to induce the corals to reproduce more than once a year.”

According to the aquarium, since the 70s, hurricanes, coral bleaching, cold snaps, disease, and other factors have reduced coral coverage in the Florida Keys by more than 90 percent.

The aquarium said 25 percent of coral cover is considered necessary to support a healthy ecosystem and protect the reef structure.

The aquarium confirmed NOAA will focus on available funding over the next year. The administration will work with outside partners to secure additional public and private funds.

Partners in “Mission: Iconic Reefs” includes the State of Florida, Coral Restoration Foundation, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy, Reef Renewal and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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