May 7, 2020
The FishAmerica Foundation recently awarded the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), through the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership (ACFHP), funding to increase fish habitat in Florida Bay. In recent decades, recurring algal blooms have affected large portions of the shallow waters of the Florida Keys. These blooms suck the oxygen out of the water, causing extensive sponge die-offs and turning once healthy areas into “sponge barrens” that no longer provide habitat for recreationally and economically important fin- and shellfishes such as gray snapper and spiny lobster.
In response to this loss, FWC will plant 5,000 sponges in degraded sites, and will monitor the use of restoration sites by mobile fauna. To date, several thousand sponges have already been propagated within a network of in-water sponge nurseries in the Florida Keys with great success. When transplanted onto sponge-barren seafloor, sponges produced by this method exhibit high growth and survival, and provide habitat for many fishes and invertebrates.
For more information on this project, visit: https://www.atlanticfishhabitat.org/project/improving-gray-snapper-habitat-sponge-restoration-in-florida-bay/.
Text and image provided by FL FWC.