The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Efforts To Restore Florida’s Coral Reefs Get A High-Tech Boost

By Ken Kaye, Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — South Florida’s coral reefs are about to get Google-mapped, sort of.

Government scientists this month used new high-tech cameras to shoot a 360-degree view of the ocean in the Florida Keys. The goal: to map and then track coral reefs to see if restoration efforts are working.

It was the first time the cameras have been used in U.S. waters, although they have documented reefs in the Caribbean and Australia. Eventually, they will capture all of South Florida’s reefs, said Billy Causey, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

“Coral reefs are essential to tourism from the Keys up to Martin County,” he said, so protecting them is vital.

The initiative will have global benefits.

“Florida is a leading region for reef restoration initiatives,” said Richard Vevers, project director of the Catlin Seaview Survey, a nonprofit scientific expedition supported by Catlin Group Limited, an international insurer.

In mid-August, Catlin Seaview joined forces with NOAA to shoot dramatic photos in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary near Key Largo, including pictures of the popular “Christ of the Abyss” statue.

By bringing the camera technology to Florida, scientists hope to fast-track reef recovery programs worldwide.

How? The Keys images will be analyzed by the University of Queensland in Australia, where Catlin Seaview is based. The photos then will be compared to those taken in the future to see if coral reefs have improved or regressed over time.

“From those images, we should be able to evaluate any changes to the reefs, positive or negative,” said Bill Goodwin, resource manager of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Coral reefs are crucial to the overall balance of the oceans, as they provide a habitat to a variety of sea life. They are important to South Florida’s tourism and fishing industries, as they lure thousands of visitors and anglers to this region each year.

Yet there has been a 40 percent worldwide decline in corals in the past 30 years, due to warming oceans, pollution, hurricanes, and overfishing. South Florida’s reefs have been particularly vulnerable to acidification of the ocean, seaborne diseases, and destructive sponges.

On Wednesday, NOAA announced a major initiative to protect coral reefs, which entailed extending protection to 20 coral species under the Endangered Species Act.

For its part, in hopes of restoring order, Catlin Seaview has been employing a basketball-shaped SVII panoramic camera to closely study ocean ecosystems.

The triple-lens camera captures images every three seconds — but only for as long as they are tethered to scuba divers. When the divers head to surface, the cameras are shut down.

Google, a partner in the Catlin Seaview Survey, uses the same technology for street views. Images of earlier expeditions in the Caribbean and Australia already are available via Google Maps, under a special section called “ocean view.”

NOAA officials said among their goals in using the camera is to better educate the public about the nation’s 13 marine sanctuaries and gaining support for restoration programs.

“It’s not only a scientific tool, but also a hugely effective education and outreach tool,” Causey said. “Can you image going into 360-degree theater and getting to experience these reefs without getting wet?”

Photo via WikiCommons

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Youtube Screenshot

In late 2011, John Oliver and his Daily Show cameraman made a trek to my office, then in Providence, Rhode Island, to take me to task. I had recently referred to the Tea Partiers who had pushed America to the brink of a disastrous default as "economic terrorists."

Oliver had apparently swallowed whole a series of barbs directed my way by a Wall Street Journal blogger who didn't seem to like women much. The blogger kept calling me the "Civility diva" and a "Baroness Catherine Ashton lookalike." (A member of the British parliament, Ashton was said to be homely.) He was quite the wit.

Keep reading...Show less

Donald Trump and Mike Pence

Youtube Screenshot

Several mainstream media outlets are manufacturing a political narrative that the discovery of classified documents at the homes of both President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence should alleviate pressure on disgraced former President Donald Trump, who not only took a vast trove of federal records but also refused to give them back.

Biden and Pence have both cooperated with federal investigators to recover and return documents that belong to the government, and both situations have rekindled scrutiny at the overall system of federal document classification and retention, which appears to be in serious need of reform. Their two examples stand in stark contrast to Trump’s behavior, and possible misconduct, regarding his own handling of government records.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ }}