FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2005
Researchers Return from Expedition to Deepest U.S. Reef
--Oceans Initiative Helping to Close the Science Gap--
ST. PETERSBURG - Combining resources and implementing a shared strategy for improved coastal research and ocean education, researchers today returned from an eight-day exploration and discovery mission to the deepest coral reef in the Unites States. Funded in part by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the expedition to Pulley Ridge just 100 miles off Naples included scientists from the University of South Florida, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, U.S. Geological Survey, Mote Marine Laboratory and the Harte Institute of Texas A&M University.
"The Pulley Ridge expedition is the first step in what will be a comprehensive regional assessment of marine resources and habitats in all of Florida's waters including the Gulf of Mexico to the edge of the shelf," said Florida Institute of Oceanography Director John Ogden.
At depths of 250 feet, the Pulley Ridge reef is located in the Gulf of Mexico in an area called the south Florida platform. Unique because of its depth, the reef stretches for 125 miles on ancient, barrier islands that are thought to have become submerged when sea levels rose after the last ice age, over 13,000 years ago. The announcement of the unique reefs' discovery was made just last January.
To aid the recent expedition, the Florida Institute of Oceanography deployed two ships, the “RV Bellows” and the “RV Suncoaster.” Working in shifts, crews conducted research 24 hours a day for the eight-day mission along the full length of Pulley Ridge. The objectives of the expedition were to map the full extent of the Ridge to locate the richest coral concentrations, photograph the reef with state-of-the art digital cameras and bring back samples of the reef and algae.
“Florida has long recognized that healthy marine resources are the foundation for sustaining our quality of life and ocean-based economy,” said DEP Secretary Colleen M. Castille. “This is an exciting time. New discovery and the exploration of uncharted ocean areas may provide the science and solutions to better understand, manage and protect critical marine life.”
Recognizing the need to enhance science-based ocean management, Governor Jeb Bush last year launched the Florida Oceans Initiative to advance state-of-the-art coastal observation technologies, expand recreation and ocean education, conduct marine resource assessments and increase protection for seagrass beds, fisheries and coral reefs. With a $2 million investment, the Oceans Initiative is merging science and research with environmental management to safeguard Florida’s valuable ocean resources and sensitive coastal areas. To extend the benefits of marine resource protection beyond Florida’s coastline, Governor Bush, also extended a call to action to five Gulf states and established the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.
To learn more about Florida’s Ocean Initiative, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/news/2004/ocean/default.htm.