A group of scientists is in Biscayne Bay on an urgent mission to save as many corals as it can before the marine creatures are destroyed as part of an underwater excavation of Miami’s shipping channel. The channel — set to be deepened Saturday — is home to a living coral reef, according to NPR.
Colin Foord and a small group of marine researchers are racing the clock. “They’re calling these ‘corals of opportunity’ — essentially, corals that are living in a place that is slated to be destroyed for a government infrastructure project,” Foord says. “They basically allowed us to go in at the last minute and rescue all of the smaller corals that were left behind.”
Diving with hammer and chisel in hand, about 500 corals have been carefully removed in a series of documented dives. “We’re removing corals from the third and the second reef tract, and we are transplanting them to an artificial reef that is about a mile south,” said Foord. “Corals kind of create the foundation of this kind of pyramid ecosystem and really build the foundation of all the fisheries that we depend on.”
Not all of the corals will be transplanted, though. About 10 percent will be taken to a lab near the Miami River to be propagated and then they will be given to universities and other aquariums for research purposes. Foord explained, “Here are these corals living in this urban, industrial kind of waterway, and we’re seeing that these corals are very healthy, so we want to understand how is it that these corals are able to adapt and be so resilient here in Miami, where around the world we are seeing corals that are getting diseases.”
Foord said if the corals are sick, it can cause harm to fish, affecting the food chain and the beauty of life under the sea.
Despite multiple dives, Foord said he and his team will only be able to save less than half of the corals that call Government Cut home.