Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters 501(c)3 non-profit sector:
R3EACH & The Great Hammerhead Project
The Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran) is the largest of the hammerheads, and is currently on the red list (critically endangered) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Overfishing, shark finning, and the loss of critical food resources are some suspected causes for their decline. Depriving future generations of such an iconic species would be tragic; studies like ours will be instrumental in gathering information critical to conserving this species.
R3EACH is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit with a mission that involves Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation of the threatened marine species and Education and Awareness for Communities about the fragile marine Habitats that makeup the Florida Keys. The great hammerhead project fits perfectly into R³EACH’s mission.
Scientists from a number of colleges and universities work with R3EACH to record data on hammerhead migration. These researchers utilize Aqustic and satellite tags (SAT) to track the movements of individual sharks. UMass Amherst PhD student Grace Casselberry is one of the scientists to work on this project most recently. Casselberry and the R3EACH team were able to tag 3 great hammerhead sharks measuring in excess of 13’ with SAT tags. Her study focuses on predator-prey interactions between great hammerhead sharks and Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and shark depredation in the recreational tarpon fishery. This research coincides with our mission and is also supported by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. R³EACH, Dynasty Marine Associates, and Aquarium Encounters continue to donate their time, vessels, and equipment for the advancement of the Great Hammerhead Project.
If you would like to donate to the great hammerhead project please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-great-hammerhead-project
Special thanks to Absolutely Fish Inc. who started with the original seed money to buy the first Sat. tags for this project. For more info on Absolutely Fish Inc. please visit: https://absolutelyfish.com
Aquarium Encounters Manatee Rescue & Release Operations
Two manatee releases after successful rehabilitation. (pictured left)
Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters has been honored to offer assistance to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in rescue and release efforts for Florida Manatees throughout the Florida Keys. The manatee is an iconic species inhabiting the coastal and inland waterways of Florida.
They can reach lengths of over 14 feet and weights of over 3,000 pounds. The Florida Manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee which until recently was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
Due to their slow speed and relatively high buoyancy, manatees are often struck by vessels or tangled in fishing nets and/or line.
Manatees have historically sheltered in Florida’s numerous natural springs to keep warm in the winter months. Human development has eliminated many of these past habitats and created new artificially warm waters in the runoff from power plants, altering natural manatee
Assisting in the capture and removal of line entanglement on a manatees pectoral fin.
The active rescue operations of FWC working. (pictured right)
In coordination with multiple organizations including Aquarium Encounters has made an impact in down listing the manatee from endangered to threatened.
The other major contributor to the success of the manatee’s population rebound is the awareness of the plight of the species. These gentle giants are particularly vulnerable to human activities and it is up to all of us to be informed.
If you spot a manatee in distress please call FWC at 1-888-404-3922. While it is unfortunate that rescues are necessary, we look forward to providing aid to these majestic creatures whenever and wherever the need arises.
Coral Restoration Efforts
Divers installing anchors for a new coral nursery. (pictured left)
Divers from Dynasty Marine, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, R3EACH and Reef Renewal USA in partnership with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently worked with Ken Nedimyer to install anchors for a brand new coral nursery
Nedimyer, founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation, is now the Director of Reef Renewal International working to save coral reefs here in the Florida Keys and around the world.
“North America’s Great Barrier Reef” stretches from Miami down to the Dry Tortugas and is the third largest barrier reef in the entire world.
However, this incredible reef system is threatened by climate change, coral disease and heavy use by humans.
The anchors installed will be the foundation for Coral Trees
The combined efforts of organizations like Reef Renewal, Dynasty Marine, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters and R3EACH bring hope for the future of Florida’s coral reefs. (pictured right)
The new anchors installed by this team will serve as the base for Coral TreesTM which enable conservationists to farm endangered coral species and “outplant” them onto the Florida Reef Tract. This method has been developed through years of research and has been proven to work with 11 different coral species including the critically endangered Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals.
Located just offshore near Marathon, this new site will add to a growing network of coral nurseries along the Florida Keys dedicated to preserving this precious ecosystem. The continuing cooperation of these organizations alongside FWC could prove to be crucial in securing a healthy future for Florida’s coral reefs.
In the words of Ken Nedimyer, "To rise to meet some of the biggest challenges our reefs have ever faced, we need to work together, collaborate and empower each other."
Coral Nursery Update
The first coral trees have been installed!
Exciting progress has been made on the new coral nursery. The first few coral trees have now been installed at the nursery. 2 Elkhorn coral trees and 1 Star coral tree are now in place in the new coral nursery. Elkhorn corals are critically endangered and Star corals are listed as endangered.
These 3 trees are a great start to what we hope will be a healthy and productive nursery. The corals will be monitored carefully by staff from Aquarium Encounters, R3EACH and Dynasty Marine.
These organizations in partnership with Ken Nedimyer, Reef Renewal USA and FWC will continue to maintain the corals until they grow enough to be outplanted onto the Florida Reef Tract.
We look forward to continuing this critical conservation work for the future of Florida’s coral reefs.”
Offering Unique Education on Fragile Marine Habitats
As the leading interactive Aquarium Encounter experience in the Florida Keys, we strive to create a memorable adventure for everyone
Our Aquarium serves two main functions that contribute to the development of passionate marine conservationists.
First, our exclusive attractions and encounters utilize a hands-on approach to the introduction of the unique Florida Keys marine environment and the unique marine animals that inhabit it! Through the personal interaction with a variety of marine species, our visitors are able to cultivate a perspective of the ocean that extends beyond that which is normally taught in a classroom.
Second, our entire park is setup as an interactive learning center which serves to cultivate a better understanding of the conservation of the unique marine environment found in the fabulous Florida Keys. As barrier islands off of the Florida Coast, the Florida Keys serve as a boundary between the Gulf of Mexico to the North and the powerful Gulfstream and Caribbean Sea to the Southeast.