The Key West Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to protect Florida’s coral and clean water by vetoing SB1194. The committee writes:
The Florida Keys are home to some of the rarest corals in the world, including Staghorn, Elkhorn, and Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus), which in 2013 was proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. But, as WLRN’s Nancy Klingener reported last week, a governmental review of whether or not it was actually endangered used up all the time the coral had left and Pillar coral is now “reproductively and functionally extinct,” according to a research paper by Dr. Karen Neely.
It’s too late to save Pillar corals. They’re gone. But Governor Ron DeSantis can help save what’s left of our reef by vetoing SB 1194 and keeping large cruise ships out of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Coral needs clean, clear water to survive. The reason large cruise ships are such a threat to coral health in the Keys is because they churn up mud from the bottom of the channel and disperse massive clouds of it into the water column that drift with the currents — that’s turbidity, and when it settles on coral in sufficient quantities or for a long enough period of time, turbidity kills coral.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) recognizes that turbidity is lethal to corals and has drafted strict new turbidity criterion to protect coral reef communities. Unfortunately, new rules won’t save corals unless they are enforced. The 2005 Murray Report documented multiple agency findings that cruise ships in the Florida Keys generate turbidity levels far exceeding existing state and water quality standards. FDEP has itself documented these violations since 1998.
But the state has never enforced its own water quality standards and our reef keeps dying. Governor DeSantis can reverse this historic failure and put the Great Florida Reef on a path to recovery.
Scientists have found that turbidity in our waters decreased significantly during the past year, when for the first time in 50 years, not a single cruise ship entered the Florida Keys. These are the environmental conditions corals need to survive — clean, clear water. We have it now, and we must not let it go.
Governor DeSantis can keep our water clear by vetoing SB 1194.
One of the two remaining species of coral protected by the Endangered Species Act in the Keys is Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), which studies show is even more vulnerable to turbidity than most other species. When I was a kid, snorkeling on the reefs of the Keys, Staghorns were still abundant. Today, 97% of Staghorn corals are dead.
We have to move faster if we’re going to save our coral reefs. Governor DeSantis can be a champion for the Great Florida Reef, just like he has been for the Everglades.
Limiting large cruise ships is a solid step toward a healthier future for our reef. And it’s the only solution anyone has brought to the table to address decades of water-quality violations by ever-larger cruise ships and a coral reef that dies a little more every day.
Please call or write Governor Ron DeSantis today and ask him to veto SB 1194, which would overturn the results of our election and force large cruise ships into the Florida Keys, imperiling endangered Staghorn corals. Tell him we are running out of time. Tell him we need real leadership, and we need it now. We won’t have a second chance to save our reef.
Please call or write Gov. Ron DeSantis today. Tell him we won’t get a second chance to save the Great Florida Reef. Ask him to VETO SB 1194.
DeSantis campaigned as an environmental champion. We need his leadership to keep our water clear.
Governor Ron DeSantis
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
phone: (850) 717-9337
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