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From article by Rudy Bonn in Solares Hill









On the 1st of April Key West’s Reef Relief will celebrate its 25th year of work for the improvement and protection of the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. An anniversary celebration is being held March 31st from 6pm-10pm at Salute! On the Beach with special guests Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 Band.

In 1987, Key West residents Craig and DeeVon Quirolo began observing a disturbing amount of physical damage to corals in the Florida Keys from vessels dropping anchors on the reef among other degradation — destroying corals that were perhaps hundreds or thousands of years old. They founded the non-profit organization Reef Relief to take action and started to install mooring buoy fields, using a variety of designs for both large and small vessels along the reef tract.

The organization sought to communicate that coral reef ecosystems are not just corals but are actually a system of interdependent and delicately balanced connections between the water and land. They communicated that coral reefs are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth and their conservation must become a global priority. This was expanded to Monroe County schools through a variety of educational programs and the creation of a Coral Reef Teacher’s Guide. In addition, the education and outreach programs were incorporated into the effort to reach out to charter boat captains, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, divers, and local businesses involved in water sport activities to emphasize the importance of conserving and protecting the coral reef ecosystem.

Later, a Clean Water Campaign was launched to identify problems with sewage, agricultural runoff, cruise ships waste, boating impacts, and other sources of pollution that affected the water quality at coral reefs in South Florida and around the globe. Reef Relief effectively organized campaigns with other sister organizations, government agencies, the business community, and citizens. In 25 years Reef Relief’s achievements include advanced wastewater treatment for the City of Key West, establishment of a boater No Discharge Zone for sewage in the Florida Keys, passage of a phosphate ban for laundry detergents, approval of bans on offshore oil drilling and exploration in South Florida, increased state standards for shallow injection wells, and a host of other actions. Reef Relief has, also, helped to established coral reef conservation programs in Jamaica, Honduras, Mexico, St. Kitts, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Cuba.

Today, Reef Relief continues to educate residents and visitors and to reach out to young people through its Key West based Environmental center, a summer Coral Camp for Kids youth program and its Discover Coral Reefs Schools Program. Last summer, Coral Camp was nationally recognized by the Marine Educators Association. Reef Relief continues to be a lead advocate for state and federal clean water policy. State Program Director Jeff Starkey and Capitol Alliance Group keeps Reef Relief on the front line of state water policy issues in Tallahassee.

This year Reef Relief took over management of the Key West Marine Park which they helped to create in 2001 with the City of Key West.  The marine park will be used as an education and outreach tool in Reef Relief’s work for coral reef conservation.

Reef Relief  invites the community to help celebrate 25 years of work for our coral reefs on Saturday, March 31st, at Salute on Higgs Beach from 6 to 10 p.m. Food will be provided by Salute!,  a cash bar will be available and Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 will be performing. Tickets are $15 before the event and $20 at the door. For more information on the party or to purchase tickets to the event visit and click on the 25th Anniversary button.