A Multi-Agency Effort: The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded a $5 million grant through the National Coastal Resilience Fund to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and the Coral Restoration Foundation.

An Unprecedented Undertaking: Funds will be used to restore Eastern Dry Rocks—one of the iconic coral reefs of the Florida Keys. The ecosystem-scale reef restoration involves outplantings of more than 60,000 elkhorn and staghorn corals. Professional divers and community stewards will clear nuisance species and debris to prepare and maintain the restoration site.

A Critical Mission: “One of the most vital ecosystems in the world are coral reefs, the rainforests of the sea,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. “Florida’s Coral Reef not only provides the foundation for immense biodiversity, critical ecosystem services and Mother Nature’s shoreline protection for our communities, but also supports over 70,000 jobs in the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, this vital ecosystem is slipping into functional extinction before our eyes.”

Why it Is Important: With its proximity to Key West—the most populous community in Monroe County—the reef at Eastern Dry Rocks provides a natural defense from coastal storms and storm surges. The structural complexity of coral reefs reduce wave energy by an average of 97%, protecting coastlines.