DANIA BEACH, Fla. - Coral reefs off our shores generate nearly 6 billion dollars for South Florida's economy.
The mission of protecting them is part of A new multi-million dollar facility that opened Thursday at Nova Southeastern University's Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach.
The Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research is the largest in the U.S. and will focus on the South Florida reef ecosystem.
"By growing corals here in the nursery, we're able to grow them for restoration purposes, and experimental purposes," said Abigail Renegar, a research assistant for the university.
Bernhard Riegl is a professor at NSU. "A building like this and a dedicated research center like this will actually help in providing the scientific background for better management of the nations' coral reef resources and therefore sustained income by keeping them attractive for the people that come to see them."
"The only reason that we dive is to see this amazing reef that's been forming for thousands of years one on top of the other. If there is no coral reef, than there is no business for scuba diving or for even a fishing industry," said master scuba diver trainer Rafi Acosta.
This new center has created 22 new academic jobs and will employ 50 graduate students, not to mention the 300 construction jobs to build the facility.
A 15 million dollar federal stimulus grant was used to help fund the center, with Nova Southeastern picking up the rest of the 50 million dollar tab.
Riegl says, "Every scientist dreams of having new labs and big labs and says 'oh if only I had this and that I would be so much greater.' "
And the greater they become, the healthier our coral reefs and oceans will be, and the bigger the economic gain for our area will become.