ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld Orlando opened a new state-of-the-art rescue center aiming to repopulate Florida’s coral reef.
The new Coral Rescue Center is one of the largest facilities in the country dedicated to coral conservation.
“The state-of-the-art rescue facility provides the public with a unique opportunity to observe and interact with coral biologists as they carry out daily husbandry for ‘at risk’ Florida corals. The center provides an important way to view living corals up close, learn more about conservation, and understand the steps everyone can take to make a difference in ocean health,” SeaWorld said in a release.
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Visitors can view 350 coral colonies and 15 species of at-risk coral.
Warmer ocean waters, boat strikes and a mysterious illness called Stoney Coral Tissue Loss are threatening coral’s existence.
Their death has resulted in the deaths of entire ecosystems, and the continued demise of coral reefs offshore could weaken Florida’s defenses against stronger hurricanes.
“The new SeaWorld Coral Rescue Center represents another significant commitment to protect and conserve coral reefs and the Center enables the public to get a close-up look at our work as we provide exceptional care in a safe haven for vulnerable corals as the conservation community works together to restore our vital coral reef system,” Jim Kinsler, zoological curator at SeaWorld Orlando and manager of the Florida Coral Rescue Center in Orlando, said in a release. “By raising awareness about the importance of corals and their role in the environment, we hope to ignite a passion for conservation in our visitors, empowering them to become ambassadors for the protection and preservation of Florida’s corals.”
The corals that guests can view at the new center were transferred from the Florida Coral Rescue Center with the goal of returning to the Florida reef.
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For two years, News 6 has investigated the rescue efforts, including the work being done at the Florida Coral Rescue Center in Florida.
It’s a collaborative project, which brought together SeaWorld, Disney and other organizations.
At a nondescript warehouse in Orlando, researchers take healthy coral and let them spawn in a controlled environment with the hope of returning them to the ocean.
Now, that research is spilling over to SeaWorld Orlando’s theme park.
“We have a very serious disease right off our coastline, and it’s making its way through the Caribbean, and action needed to be taken,” Jim Kinsler said.
Kinsler is SeaWorld Orlando’s Aquarium Curator, and he is overseeing the project.
“We would like to have these corals spawn in our care and actually take their offspring and replant them back on the Florida reef track,” he said. “It would be that full circle of this rescue program.”
Democratic Rep. Darren Soto and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio collaborated on the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, which passed last year.
It now earmarks $45 million each year for coral rescue efforts.
“Forty-five million a year for the whole nation isn’t going to fix everything on its own,” Soto said. “Remember, we have Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and several other territories that have reefs.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is determining which organizations will get that money.
In the meantime, SeaWorld is hoping families will use part of their summer to spend some time with these coral and learn how they can help be part of the solution.
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