For Meaghan Johnson monitoring the forecast for the loop current in the Gulf of Mexico has been a daily ritual since the disastrous BP oil spill began. The “loop” is the current that seasonally carries water and everything in it east through the Florida Keys and straight at the offshore coral farm the marine scientist and The Nature Conservancy monitor and maintain.
Using the same techniques we use as hobbyists to propagate coral from frags on a larger scale, the project has been successful at growing and transplanting coral across the region. The Conservancy’s program houses over 5,000 coral colonies growing from Fort Lauderdale to the Virgin Islands — the largest man-made coral nursery of its kind.
The idea started in the backyard of Florida Keys’ resident and live rock farmer Ken Nedimyer who we highlighted before with the Coral Restoration Foundation. His daughter was looking for a 4-H project and they decided on the idea of starting coral restoration and propagation in their backyard. The Nedimyers found their methods so successful, they took their methods to researchers and nine years later it flourished into the enormous underwater nursery.
With little they can do to protect the farm, Johnson and the rest of the team are just hoping their corals pull through. It may not be a matter of if but a matter of when the oil pushes through the Keys. If the oil is weathered and weakened enough, Johnson thinks the young coral just might pull through.
“It’s definitely devastating to watch what’s happening in the gulf and know that it could come here,” Johnson said. “I think we are all worried about what’s going to happen in this project.”
“Those are our little babies, you know,” Johnson said. “We put those guys out there. And it’s nice to come back in a month or two and see them actually growing. And feel like, ‘Wow, I did that. You know, I’m helping. I’m doing something good.'” [via CBS News]