Mike Goldberg of Islamorada and Dave Vaughan of Summerland Key recently earned global recognition for their incredible work on coral restoration in the Florida Keys. Both men were previously profiled in “Keys Voices” as Stewards of the Keys for their dedication to preserving and protecting the island chain’s environment.

Mike Goldberg coral restoration Florida Keys

Mike is working to inspire divers and anglers who visit the Keys to give back to the marine environment through volunteering and spreading the word about reef restoration.

Mike Goldberg, co-founder of I.CARE — the Keys’ only Islamorada-based reef restoration organization, partnered with Mote Marine Laboratory and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation — has earned the title of CNN Hero.

The honor is very well deserved, because I.CARE has transplanted more than 10,000 corals and educated more than 2,000 people about Florida’s Coral Reef.

Mike’s I.CARE team monitors and maintains the organization’s transplanted coral to make sure it continues to thrive. As a CNN Hero, he was praised for “recruiting recreational divers to help rebuild reefs in Florida, one coral at a time.”

Describing the honor as tremendous, Mike (who also owns Key Dives in Islamorada) said the recognition gives “I.CARE credibility and exposure to organizations, schools and other nonprofits from around the country and beyond.

“Folks that have questions about our ability to have significant impact see this as proving our legitimacy,” he stated. “Additionally, dive shops from around the country are seeking us out so that they can involve their customers in reef restoration.”

Coral restoration Florida Keys Dave Vaughan

Dave (center right, with beard), founder of the Plant a Million Corals Foundation and a coral restoration pioneer, teaches students his methods during a workshop.

Dave Vaughan, founder of the Plant a Million Corals Foundation on Summerland Key, was named an Ocean Sentinel and had a sculpture of his likeness placed at the John Brewer Reef in Townsville, Australia. The designation comes through Australia’s Museum of Underwater Art — the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dave was the only American among the eight Ocean Sentinel coral reef champions. He truly is a reef champion, since he’s known worldwide as the father of micro-fragmentation and for his “Eureka mistake” — which led to a revolutionary coral fragmentation technique that facilitates the rapid growth of coral.

“We are well on our way toward our goal of producing 100,000 corals by the end of this year, an important milestone to achieving our goal of producing 1 million corals per year for the Florida Keys,” Dave said. “We plan to begin planting corals once we have produced 1.1 million corals at our facility, to ensure that we will have a perpetual capability of 1 million corals each year.”

Dave is not only helping restore reefs in the Keys, but in French Polynesia and the Maldives as well.

Looe Key Reef Florida Keys

The Keys’ coral  reef ecosystem, protected within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is an environmental treasure whose restoration is vitally important.

Keys Voices: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish?

Mike Goldberg: To spur others to have the same passion. We need all who care to get involved now. We do not have time to waste. We need to bring back a reef for the benefit of future generations. We can do it if we work together.

Dave Vaughan: Environmental action in coral restoration will also trigger a reverence for the environment. Our kids can see the kind of Florida Keys life that I’ve been able to experience and enjoy.

Keys Voices: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?

Mike: Get involved with restoration of our reefs, join a coral outplant trip, assist in a marine debris cleanup dive or tour a coral nursery. Take this education back to your home and spread the knowledge to anyone who will listen. For those who fish, it is just as important that you give back. Donate money. Tour a land-based coral nursery to see what we are doing to raise corals. A healthy reef means better fishing for future generations.

Dave: Coral reefs are awesome. There is HOPE.