What happened o the coral reefs in the Dry Tortugas?
May 3, 2011 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Are you a marine biologist who knows anything about the coral reefs in the Dry Tortugas?

I recently returned from visiting the Florida Keys and while we were in Key West, we took the ferry out to the Dry Tortugas with expectation that there would be amazing snorkling - at least comparable to places we have been in the Caribbean (like St. John) or even John Pennebank Park in the Keys. We followed the directions of the boat crew in swimming off shore in the direction of coral knobs but we were sorely disappointed, as were our fellow snorklers. We saw few fish but more heartbreakingly acres of dead coral, broken and scattered about the ocean floor. I tried speaking to one of the park rangers, who seemed completely disinterested in what I described, and neither confirmed nor disconfirmed my description. On returning, my google-fu found only descriptions of great snorkling and health reefs the Tortugas. What gives?
posted by bluesky43 to Travel & Transportation around Homestead, FL (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is not specific to the Dry Tortugas, but coral bleaching is a worldwide environmental catastrophe. Two major triggers are increased water temperature and increased acidity, both of which are widespread.

It's surprising that the park ranger didn't want to talk about it; I'd think that the environmental degradation would be a major topic for them.
posted by lostburner at 2:19 PM on May 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pollution and water acidity are killing reefs worldwide. Welcome to the impacts of climate change and industrial damage. One of my favorite projects, the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef has more info.
posted by msbutah at 2:53 PM on May 3, 2011

Not a marine biologist, but a Floridian. I thought of Osborne Reef, but that's near Ft. Lauderdale, not the Dry Tortugas. Hmm, but http://www.drytortugasinfo.com/coral-reef.html says that the Dry Tortugas reef system starts by Palm Beach County, which is some distance north of Ft Lauderdale.

I found this too: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2002/2002-02-15-07.html, which suggests that oil spills can damage coral, and also discusses some older damage to the Dry Tortugas coral reefs. Oil has certainly been an issue in the Gulf lately.

I haven't been to the Tortugas--though we want to go--but I've had a similar response from employees at other Florida parks when I asked about changes I observed. But independent people around the parks do respond, often with great passion (particularly if their jobs rely on the parks in some way); did you ask the boat crew?
posted by galadriel at 6:32 PM on May 3, 2011

Response by poster: thanks galadriel. your drytortugasinfo link is similar to other sites I found that promised amazing snorkling. I only asked the one guy on the trip but did asked the concierge at the B&B we were staying at, a seemingly very knowledgeable woman who had lived in Key West for 20 years and she was surprised at what I described. I know about coral bleaching but this is nowhere described as having done the kind of damage I saw to the Dry Tortugas; every site claims amazing coral just off shore.

What I *really* wondered was whether there was some kind of conspiracy of silence to keep the tourists coming. The park is kind of cool but I know that I wouldnt have taken the trip if I had known the status of the reefs. It was really sad to see this in a national park. FWIW, the damage looked to be not new.
posted by bluesky43 at 8:11 PM on May 3, 2011

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