KEY LARGO, Florida Keys —Impassioned divers return to the Florida Keys to find a deeper connection to the underwater environment, often turning a recreational hobby into productive missions to complete much-needed workduring coral restoration dives.
Divers of any experience level can joinKey Largo’s world-renowned nonprofit Coral Restoration Foundation as a “citizen scientist” and witness firsthandhow coral reefs are being revitalized and restored.
CRF continues its dive programs through November and December 2020, albeit with added COVID-19 safety protocolsincluding smaller groups.
Recreational divers and snorkelers are encouraged to volunteer tohelp. CRF also has partnered with SNUBA Key West, offering nondivers the opportunity using this introductory underwater experience — a hybrid of snorkeling and diving.
Laypersons join CRF’s marine scientists in unique educational workshops and informative sessions to learn ways to protect this essential resource in the Florida Keys. Afterward, divers submerge to put their newly learned skills to work.
Each dive program begins with a brief presentation about coral health, corals’ function in marine ecosystems, environmental impacts on coral reefsand what the Coral Restoration Foundation and Keys-area dive centers are doing to help.
Following the morning presentation, an afternoon two-tank dive trip involves hands-on activity to helpgather, prune, clean, tag and prepare corals for planting.
Participants first go to one of CRF’s expansive, acre-size staghorn and elkhorn coral nurseries in the open ocean, home to over 400 coral "trees.” At the second location they might visit restored reefs, help collect valuable data, assist with coral tree care or plant corals, adhering the cultivated corals to the reef using hand tools and underwater epoxy.
For upcoming November and December dive programs in coordination with Keyswide professional dive operators, visit coralrestoration.org/dive-programs.
Afternoon dives involve hands-on activity in one of CRF's coral nurseries to help marine scientists gather, prune, clean, tag and prepare corals for planting.
Each dive program begins with a brief presentation about coral health, corals’ function in marine ecosystems, environmental impacts on coral reefs.