USA: Bay Activists Push for Protection of Miami’s Coral Reefs
On July 16, 2014, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, Captain Dan Kipnis, Coral Morphologic, Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association, Sierra Club Miami Group, and Tropical Audubon Society, filed a citizens’ notice of suit letter alleging that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act, in addition to several permit conditions by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) during the PortMiami Deep Dredge project.
In its letter, the environmental coalition identified a long list of violations, including that the Army Corps’ contractors are not protecting threatened coral species, allowing excessive amounts of dredge sedimentation buildup on the reefs, not sufficiently monitoring sedimentation, and failing to move dredge ships away from corals that are exhibiting signs of injury or degradation.
“The Army Corps of Engineers has, from the very beginning, failed to comply with even the limited conditions placed on them by their permit,” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director and waterkeeper for Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper. “As our local divers, snorkelers, scientists, and fishermen well know, Floridians have already lost over 80% of our coral reefs. These resources are critical for Miami’s economy and culture. We cannot allow the Army Corps to cut corners and continue to harm the little bit that remains of these irreplaceable natural resources.”
Colin Foord, a marine biologist with Coral Morphologic, one of the groups who conducted a “coral rescue mission” in the dredging area, stated: “I know firsthand how vibrant and special these reefs are, and these ‘urban corals’ off of Miami should be treasured and protected. I’ve seen the devastation that the dredging is having over a wide expanse of the natural reef. Everything nearby is getting buried by sediment, and at times when diving, it can be almost impossible to see your hand in front of your face. If it continues like this, many of Miami’s corals will not survive the duration of this project.”
The notice of suit letter alleges that, since the project commenced in November 2013, the Army Corps has failed to comply with a number of requirements – to the detriment of valuable and threatened local marine species. According to the letter, the Army Corps was also well aware that a large number of staghorn coral colonies – a species listed as threatened, but soon to become endangered – were living adjacent to the dredging area.
Press Release, July 18, 2014