Lad Akins: My name is Lad Akins and I am the Director of Special Projects for REEF. We are a Key Largo-based non-profit marine conservation organization and dive voluntarism is very important to the Florida Keys. Its a great way for divers to come down, see and enjoy the marine resources, but also contribute to the overall sustainability of the ecosystem.
Lionfish are not native to the Florida Keys ecosystem, but through aquarium-release fish, they become established here, they are voracious predators, they consume a wide variety of both fish and crustaceans and they can cause some very significant harm to our native ecosystem.
Divers can be a very important part of the solution in addressing this lionfish invasion. They are the ones that are in the water, they see the lionfish and they have the capability to remove lionfish, to minimize those impacts.
But training in proper handling and collecting techniques is very important. Local restaurants serve lionfish and many of them even have prepared your own catch. Divers can go out and remove lionfish on their normal recreational dives, but there are also focused events, we call them Lionfish Derbies or Tournaments where divers come down, they go through a briefing and then they go and see who can bring in the most lionfish.
The lionfish invasion requires people out there removing lionfish and divers can help in that aspect as well and there are many other things that can be done if divers put their face in their water with a purpose.
Ken Nedimyer: My name is Ken Nedimyer and I am the President of the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida and we grow and restore coral reefs. We have developed an offshore nursery program and it requires divers to go down there and do the nursery work and we grow these corals in the offshore nurseries. We have got several up and down the keys, and once the corals are about a year old they are about a basketball size then using volunteers we harvest those corals, transport them out to the reef, and after three or four months you cant tell that they were attached, they look normal, they look like they belong there.
This is a really neat experience for somebody to come down and participate in because its a chance for them to actually put back for them to put a coral back on the reef and to grow more corals, and its just a great experience of getting involved in doing something about it rather than just talking about it.
Florida Keys have beautiful reefs, full of fish and all kinds of great marine life and this is a great way to make them even better by coming and helping, putting the corals back on the reef.