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South Florida scientists hope 'seed banking' will protect coral reefs

Posted: 8:00 AM, Jul 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-19 04:02:38-04
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Dr. Charlie Gregory with the Reef Institute in West Palm Beach estimates if nothing is done to protect the worldwide coral reef population, 90 percent of it could be gone by the year 2050.

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"Florida without coral is a sad place to live," said Dr. Gregory. "No fishing, no diving. The tourists don’t wanna come here."

Reef Institute scientists said there are several factors affecting the reefs, everything from boat traffic to disease.

Reef Institute Education Director Leneita Fix said staff members are trying to educate others about the importance of coral.

"One of the big things we’re doing is just protecting the paradise we have," said Fix. "The Florida reef track is directly protecting our coastline here from flooding, from healthy wate,r from waves, from everything that comes in."

One of the deadliest threats to Florida coral has been SCTLD, more commonly known as Skittle-D. It’s a new disease Dr. Gregory said has wiped out about 50 percent of the coral left in the state in the past five years.

Dr. Gregory said seed banking may be a solution.

"We might just pull this off," said Dr. Gregory. "We’re gonna seed bank them, we’re going to find the durable lineages, we’re going to grow them, someday we might put them back. The reef is so important in South Florida. I’m glad we’re coming together and taking care of business."

As the coral grows, staff at the Reef Institute will cut them into smaller pieces to share, expand the bank, and help bring back paradise.