Dredging and Coral Reef smothering

Dredging and Coral Reef

Divers near the bay by the Port of Miami have reported that large numbers of corals are either dead or dying, suffocated by the sediment created by a $205 million dredging project intended to expand a shipping channel to make room for a new generation of supersize cargo ships.

Back in 2013 US federal agencies created a plan that was supposed to protect the animals from the from the churned up sand and rock by placing them at a suitable distance from the dredge site, if only to attempt to balance Miami’s economic interests with the concerns of environmentalists, who were concerned about the rapid deterioration of reefs across South Florida. In fact, to give them credit, the US Army Corps of Engineers did did relocate 924 non-endangered corals, but somehow missed out on the very rare Staghorn Coral, a variety listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Led by Rachel Silverstein, the executive director of Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, the lead environmental group has brought about a lawsuit, suing the Corps for violating the Endangered Species Act and the terms of the permit issued by the State Department of Environmental Protection.

“We’ve seen profound and severe impacts to our reef just off of Miami; it looks like a moonscape,” said Rachel “This damage stems from the fact that the corps and the contractors simply weren’t following the rules that were laid out for them when they started this project.”

Florida and the Caribbean are rapidly losing their coral reefs, some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and the damage has raised intense criticism of how the Army Corps of Engineers has managed the project.

In fact reefs all around the world have experienced drastic decline as a result of pollution, acidification and overfishing. Higher ocean temperatures, which can bleach coral and kill it, have also damaged reefs. Some coral near the port suffered from bleaching last summer. In certain areas of South Florida, 90 percent of the coral has gone. There is economic concern too, as in Florida, coral reefs lure residents and tourists, who dive and snorkel to see their vivid colours and the tropical fish that they attract. Just as important, reefs serve as crucial wave buffers during tropical storms, protecting beaches and shoreline homes.

Hopefully the damage has prompted the Corps and other federal agencies to dissect what went wrong, the extent of the harm and how best to avoid a repeat of similar problems.

Finer detail can be seen from the New York Times website by visiting www.nytimes.com/2015/03/08/us/despite-protections-miami-port-project-smothers-coral-reef-in-silt.html

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