FWC and partners, including NOAA Fisheries, the Florida Aquarium, and Mote Marine Laboratory among others, recently collected 686 corals from 15 different species in the Marquesas Keys, including those most susceptible to stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) – the event causing mortality and drastic losses of coral along the Florida Reef Tract.
As part of a multi-agency effort to conserve and protect the genetic diversity of Caribbean coral species, FWC scientists began removing colonies from reef sites ahead of the disease front and storing them in land-based facilities until the conditions on the reef improves to allow for outplanting and restoration.
Genetic samples are taken from each coral to develop genetic markers to allow for genotyping each rescue coral. Corals will be part of captive breeding programs to help increase the genetic diversity of corals from Florida and increase the number of corals available for future outplantings on the Florida Reef Tract. The corals were directly transported to holding tanks at the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern, where they will remain under the care until Association of Zoos and Aquariums facilities are available for long-term care.