Thanks to a pledge from United Way of Collier and the Keys, Reef Renewal USA will have up to $50,000 at its disposal for use in an ongoing coral bleaching crisis response. CONTRIBUTED

In response to the escalating coral bleaching crisis throughout the Florida Keys, United Way of Collier and the Keys (UWCK) announced a collaborative effort with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to provide critical funding of up to $50,000 to support Reef Renewal USA’s urgent coral rescue efforts. 

Coral bleaching is a harmful process in which corals expel their symbiotic algae, causing them to lose their vibrant colors and turn white. This phenomenon occurs due to environmental stressors, such as increased water temperatures, and can lead to the decline and potential death of entire coral reefs. 

With the Florida Keys dependent on the marine environment for both financial and physical resilience, the crisis demands swift action. Coral reefs are an essential component of the marine environment that sustains many other life forms and protects the coastline. The funding will aid Reef Renewal USA in implementing targeted projects that focus on removing the corals at risk of bleaching from their current environment and relocating them to deep water or land-based nurseries. 

“The Tavernier nursery has become a priceless repository of (coral) genetic diversity for the state of Florida and the nation. Keeping the corals in this nursery alive has become the focus of an all-out rescue effort by our team and partners,” said Ken Nedimyer, Reef Renewal USA’s technical director.

“There is no hesitation when help is needed to safeguard these fragile ecosystems for future generations,” said Tiffani Mensch, president and CEO of United Way of Collier and the Keys. 

This alliance between UWCK and the UAE underscores the importance of international collaboration in tackling environmental challenges. As part of a multiyear project, it involves collaborative efforts in conjunction with Mission: Iconic Reefs, an ambitious plan to restore seven reefs within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. 

“We understand the urgent situation in the Florida Keys based on our own work to protect coral reefs in the UAE,” said Dana Al Marashi, head of cultural diplomacy at the UAE embassy in Washington, D.C. “This is a local emergency that is part of a global crisis, and we are eager to work with our partners in Florida to preserve these vital ecosystems.”