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Coral bleaching, which is the corals’ loss of their symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae, is a natural event that occurs to some extent every year in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary(FKNMS). While records show that coral bleaching events have been occurring for many years in the Florida Keys, indications are that the frequency and severity has steadily increased since the 1980’s. Large-scale mass coral bleaching events are driven by unusually warm sea temperatures. The effects of these mass events are potentially devastating to ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

With support from and coordination with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary(FKNMS), a program was created and modeled after the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s “BleachWatch” program. The project  coordinator routinely revue’s existing NOAA monitoring stations and satellite imagery analysis to track changes in environmental conditions within the Florida Keys region.

In addition, specially trained volunteers known as the Florida Keys “BleachWatch” observers collect field observations to monitor for signs of coral bleaching. Mote will work to gather and consolidate the existing NOAA analysis from satellite and monitoring data, combine that data with field observations by trained “BleachWatch” observers, and provide the FKNMS with a summary, or “current conditions report”, throughout the summer.

Becoming a BleachWatch observer is easy!  All you have to do is attend one of the training workshops.  Observations can be done anytime you happen to be on the water, whether on your personal boat, work boat, or charter.  Reports can be filled out online and take literally seconds to fill out.  If you would like to become a BleachWatch Observer or just learn more about coral bleaching…

BLEACHWATCH TRAINING WORKSHOP to be held Thursday July 14th at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center starting at 7pm.  No RSVP necessary…just bring yourself and a friend!  See you there!  For more information:

Todd Hitchins
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Team O.C.E.A.N. Coordinator