Lawmakers work together in bipartisan effort to save Florida’s coral reefs

ORLANDO, Florida – Opposing Florida politicians have joined forces to pass legislation to save Florida’s coral from possible extinction.

Representative Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, and Senator Marco Rubio, R-Florida, filed identical bills in Washington, DC asking for millions of dollars to help federal and state agencies.

Researchers said the coral off the coast of Florida has suffered from rising water temperatures as a result of climate change, has become sick from human-made pollutants, and has contracted a disease that causes fatal tissue loss.

“The Great Florida Reef is under attack,” Soto said.

Soto said he saw firsthand what was happening to the declining coral population on a scuba diving trip to Key Largo.

“It was a real personal moment because I see the decline of the Great Florida Reef and the sense of responsibility to help save it,” he said.

Representative Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, dives off Key Largo to inspect the coral reef. Courtesy of Representative Soto (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

“I have seen with my own eyes how dire the situation is and we absolutely must do more to protect our corals, so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy the reefs off the coast of Florida,” said said Rubio. “This is not a partisan issue, and the Resilient Reef Restoration Act presents the best opportunity we have to effectively support coral restoration efforts in Florida and across the country.”

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Soto’s House Bill 160 and Rubio’s Senate Bill 46 are identical.

If passed by both houses of congress, $ 53 million would be made available to national coral restoration efforts.

Individual states would be entitled to $ 15 million of that money, which might mean more help for the Florida Coral Rescue Project.

The Florida Coral Rescue Project is a collaboration of agencies across the state trying to identify coral health problems, replicate them in labs, and replant healthy species in the ocean.

For example, Disney and SeaWorld help grow over 700 healthy corals at a facility in Orlando.

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In Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, a group of veterans are diving to monitor a reef for signs of rot and disease.

Dr Michael Crosby, president and CEO of the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota – which is part of the rescue project – said federal funding is essential to continue rescue efforts.

“(The legislation) is changing the way the federal government would support this type of restoration by pushing funds from government agencies out of bureaucracies and out of the hands of practitioners,” he said.

Crosby said he helped Rubio staff draft the wording for the legislation.

He said if passed by both houses of congress, it could be exactly what researchers and coral need.

“We’re seeing these coral reefs go extinct and the last thing I want to do as scientists is, ‘we’ve done a hell of a good job watching them until they go extinct.’ I prefer to say, “We did a damn good job restoring them and bringing them back,” he said.

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Rubio told News 6 the bill had “major momentum” in the US Senate. In fact, he said the bill was passed by the Senate last year.

Last week the House version was passed by the natural resources committee last week unanimously.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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