FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Gordon Helm
|NOAA News Releases 2002
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service have joined forces in Florida to restore coral reefs and seagrass in the Dry Tortugas National Park damaged by three recent shrimp boat groundings and an oil spill. Last week, NOAA began the restoration work near Ft. Jefferson through its Habitat Restoration Center and National Marine Sanctuaries Program working in concert with NPS, the state of Florida and Mote Marine Laboratory.
"The extensive damage caused by the groundings and oil spills in the seagrass and coral in the park's prime visitor swim area is tragic," said Superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Maureen Finnerty. "This emergency response for coral salvage and continuing oil spill impacts is absolutely time critical and crucial to the long-term restoration effort."
Finnerty expressed her deep appreciation for the diligence, professionalism and efficiency with which the United States Coast Guard, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Titan Marine Engineering staff have offered immediate response and assistance to work with local park staff to salvage the vessels and assess the extent of damage.
"Experience has shown us that coral reef habitats stand a better chance to rebound quickly if restoration is done soon after damage has occurred," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. "We are pleased to be able to swiftly rally resources and support from our partners to meet the restoration needs of these coral reefs and seagrass beds adjacent to Ft. Jefferson in the Dry Torgutas National Park."
In two incidents on December 16, 2001 and January 3, 2002, three shrimp boats grounded in the Dry Tortugas National Park, 68 miles west of Key West, Fla. One vessel grounded and was successfully removed, but not before significant damage to coral and seagrass beds occurred. The second incident involved two shrimp boats that grounded close to the historic Fort Jefferson. One vessel broke-up and spilled approximately 2000 gallons of diesel fuel. The other was carried by surge and wind up against the moat wall, where it partially broke-up. The area of these groundings is both within and adjacent to the park's most popular swimming and snorkeling area. The groundings caused significant injuries to seagrass and numerous reef corals.
Given the remote location of the site, response and salvage efforts are difficult and expensive. The NOAA Restoration Center secured funding agreements from several sources: NOAA Restoration Center funds, the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Region coral reef initiative, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Emergency Response and the Disney Corporation's Wildlife Conservation Fund.
Matching in-kind support is being provided by the National Park Service, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Restoration Center, Florida Marine Research Institute and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This support will be used to conduct emergency stabilization of the damaged areas and some restoration-- particularly of the coral resources.
The NOAA Restoration Center is the focal point for the marine and estuarine habitat restoration within NOAA. The Restoration Center (housed in the National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Habitat Conservation) performs restoration pursuant to federal legislation and improves the state of restoration ecology and habitat management. To learn more about the NOAA Restoration Center, visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/habitat/restoration.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1990, protects 2,896 square nautical miles of spectacular coral reef ecosystem stretching from Biscayne Bay to the Tortugas through a federal-state partnership. To learn more about the sanctuary, visit http://www.fknms.nos.noaa.gov.
Located 68 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park consists of a cluster of 7 islands, surrounded by 100 square miles of near pristine tropical marine environment. For more information about Dry Tortugas National Park, call (305) 242-7700.
The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.
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