June 25, 2008

Study: Dry Tortugas Has Signs of Recovery

A team of 38 U.S. research divers has completed a 20-day biennial census, measuring how the protected status of the Dry Tortugas is working.

In what is called an unprecedented collaboration, researchers from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington conducted more than 1,700 scientific dives in the Dry Tortugas -- a small group of islands at the tip of the Florida Keys, about 70 miles west of Key West.

The dives at the Tortugas Ecological Reserve and Dry Tortugas National Park's Research Natural Area were designed to determine how the region's ecosystem is rebounding from decades of overfishing and environmental changes.

We are very encouraged to see stocks have slowly begun to recuperate since the implementation of 'no-take' marine protected areas in the region, said the expedition's chief scientist, Rosenstiel Professor Jerry Ault. We noted particular improvements in the numbers of snapper, grouper, and coral recruits.

A full report is expected to be issued in September.