FLORIDA KEYS — Mike Goldberg of Islamorada and Dave Vaughan of Summerland Key have earned recent global recognition for their work on coral restoration in the Florida Keys. Both men were previously profiled as Stewards of the Keys for their dedication to preserving and protecting the island chain’s environment.
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 been named a CNN Hero. He also owns Key Dives in Islamorada.
I.CARE has transplanted more than 10,000 corals and educated more than 2,000 people about Florida’s Coral Reef. Goldberg’s I.CARE team monitors and maintains the organization’s transplanted coral to make sure it continues to thrive.
As a CNN Hero, Goldberg is lauded for “recruiting recreational divers to help rebuild reefs in Florida one coral at a time.”
Describing the honor as tremendous, he 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. Additionally, dive shops from around the country are seeking us out so that they can involve their customers in reef restoration,” he said.
Vaughan, founder of Plant a Million Corals Foundation in Summerland Key, was named an Ocean Sentinel and recognized with 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.
Vaughan is the only American honored among eight Ocean Sentinel coral reef champions.
Vaughan is known worldwide as the father of micro-fragmentation and for his “Eureka mistake,” leading 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,” Vaughan 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.”
Vaughan is not only helping restore reefs in the Keys, but in French Polynesia and the Maldives as well.
Keys Traveler: 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 Traveler: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?
Goldberg: 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.
Vaughan: Coral reefs are awesome. There is HOPE.
Mike Goldberg, left, and Dave Vaughan, right, have both received global recognitions for their coral restoration efforts.
Microfragemented corals show signs of rapid development in the land-based Plant A Million Corals nursery at Summerland Key. Photo by JoNell Modys