The Coral Restoration Foundation is Born…
The story of Coral Restoration Foundation begins with Ken Nedimyer, a commercial fish collector and live rock farmer who, as a longtime resident of the Florida Keys, had seen the decline of the local reefs through the decades. In a fortuitous turn of events, several colonies of critically-endangered staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) settled onto Nedimyer’s live rock farm off the coast of Tavernier, Florida in the late 1990s. As the colonies began to grow, Nedimyer saw the potential for an aggressive new type of marine conservation that not only protected threatened reef habitats but that also actively restored them.
By 2007, Nedimyer had already demonstrated that his staghorn coral could be grown rapidly and then “outplanted” to reef sites with great success. Enlisting his family and a small, dedicated staff, Nedimyer founded CRF in 2007 and began working to build up stock of staghorn and elkhorn (Acropora almate) coral. Drawing on Nedimyer’s experience in the aquarium industry and coral research from around the world, CRF started to experiment with different methods for growing coral in offshore, in-situ nurseries. Disk nurseries, line nurseries, and several forms of tree nurseries were tried before the current tree structure was invented.
Thanks to permits obtained from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, CRF was also able to collect clippings and broken fragments of coral from the remaining wild populations of staghorn and elkhorn in south Florida. Building such a genetically diverse portfolio of coral would prove to be critical for CRF’s current restoration work, which aims to restore the genetic diversity of wild coral populations rather than rely only on corals with perceived- but scientifically unproven- strengths. For his work with CRF, Nedimyer has been given the Wyland ICON Award and named a CNN Hero and a Disney Worldwide Conservation Hero.
Today, CRF maintains four Coral Tree Nurseries in the Florida Keys. These nurseries have grown to include over 16,000 coral colonies across nearly 300 distinct genotypes and 10 different species – the largest and most diverse collection of Caribbean corals anywhere in the world. Of course, corals are worth more on a reef than in a nursery, and in the past decade alone, CRF’s dedicated team of staff, interns, and volunteers has outplanted over 66,000 colonies of endangered coral species to the Florida Reef Tract.
Through propagation techniques, tens of thousands of corals are grown and maintained in multiple offshore coral tree nurseries before being strategically outplanted on reefs allowing them to continue on a path to natural recovery.
With the help of students, volunteers, scientists, and donors, our corals are successfully raised until they are “reef-ready”, outplanted onto the reef, and monitored. Our innovative techniques are scalable and they are making a difference for our oceans.