Florida's Crown Jewel Is Our Reef And We Aim To Protect It

Posted on Oct 28th 2019 by Marilu Cristina Flores

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Did you know that Florida is home to the third largest barrier reef system in the World?

That’s right, right off our shores from Martin County to south of Key West lies the Florida Reef Tract. A spectacular ecosystem akin to a rainforest; that provides food and shelter to thousands of marine species –not to mention protects South Florida from damaging impacts of hurricanes. Reefs are an integral part of life in Florida, but some years ago a mysterious disease began imperiling our Florida Reefs.

NOAA explains that “Florida's coral reefs are experiencing a multi-year outbreak of stony coral tissue loss disease. While disease outbreaks are not uncommon, this event is unique due to its large geographic range, extended duration, rapid progression, high rates of mortality and the number of species affected.”

Why do reefs matter and why does Florida Blue Care?

Well for starters our Florida Reef tract is a major source of tourism — in 2018, over 4 million visitors traveled to the Keys and NOAA estimates the Florida Reef Tract generates over $8 billion dollars annually as well as provides 70,400 jobs in South Florida. Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed and discovered every day.

“Our mission is to help people and communities achieve better health. As a state that’s surrounded by water, the health of our oceans has a direct impact on the health of our communities” said David Pizzo, Florida Blue’s Market President for West Florida.

This is why Florida Blue made the decision to support the Florida Aquarium with a $250,000 grant to support their efforts in wildlife rehabilitation and coral reef restoration.

And now we’re excited to share that earlier this summer the Aquarium and Project Coral made global headlines as they spawned endangered Atlantic pillar coral through lab-induced techniques for the first time ever!

Scientists believe this historic breakthrough could ultimately help save corals in the Florida Reef Tract from extinction.

The Florida Aquarium coral conservation team spent months mimicking the natural environment of corals using advanced technology to reproduce the timing of sunrises, sunsets, moonrises and moonsets to trigger the animals to spawn.
“The massive and fully synchronized spawning at The Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation, which occurred exactly at the predicted wild spawning time, indicated perfect aquatic conditions for pillar corals in our Project Coral system,” said Senior Coral Scientist Keri O’Neil. 

We are proud to support the Aquarium’s efforts to protect these uniquely Floridian treasures for generations to come!

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Marilu Cristina Flores

Marilu is a veteran of the entertainment industry, her career in entertainment spans over thirteen years having worked with some of the most prominent creative media houses known, including, Warner Brothers, MTV and Universal Pictures. In 2014, she shifted gears to begin working as a social media and digital marketing professional. Marilu is incredibly passionate about our oceans, wildlife, and conservation, and has been featured as a guest speaker at conferences nationwide for her knowledge and expertise on marine environments and the issues affecting our oceans. A Miami native, she holds a degree in Tropical Coastal Ecosystem Resource Management from the University of Queensland and sits on several marine science and conservation nonprofit boards.

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