Corals happier in the Gulf Stream

Dive instructors aboard Kyalami Too offer advice, help and teach students about reef ecology
Dive instructors aboard Kyalami Too offer advice, help and teach students about reef ecology

Last Updated on June 17, 2024 by Steve Weinman

We’ll take even mildly encouraging environmental news wherever we can find it these days, and that is what diver and marine biologist JOHN CHRISTOPHER FINE brings us from Florida, where he says deeper-lying corals are doing much better than the under-pressure shallow ones

“Coral growth here will be the last coral in Florida. We have the depth and the Gulf Stream and we protect it better.” That declaration is made by Florida native Chris Deen, a licensed captain, veteran diver and ocean explorer based in Boynton Beach. 

He and his wife Julia own Starfish, a 10m Crusader 350hp dive-boat that operates out of the harbour marina every day, weather permitting. Few can claim the same levels of experience diving reefs offshore in southern Palm Beach County.

Chris Deen aboard Starfish about to take divers out from Boynton Beach
Chris Deen aboard Starfish about to take divers out from Boynton Beach

Deen navigated Starfish out through the Boynton Inlet. Its true name is the South Lake Worth Inlet. Never meant as a passage to the ocean, it was cut to allow sewage effluent from canals and local discharges to escape into the Atlantic Ocean at tide change. 

The cut prevented Lake Worth Lagoon, a part of the Intracoastal Waterway that passes through the area, from becoming a noisome, dangerously polluted sewer.

All manner of harmful and toxic discharges come out of the canals that criss-cross Florida from west to east. Water managers open canal gates to discharge water when rains threaten to cause Lake Okeechobee to overflow, flooding massive residential and commercial developments built on former swamps and Everglades in the western regions of the county. 

Agricultural run-off, fertiliser, insecticides, pesticides, ammonia discharges, urine, faeces and chemical wastes enter these canals. Florida is the biggest cattle-raising state in the USA, the state to which cattle are brought for fattening. 

Sold by weight, every pound of beef brings in more money. To fatten cattle, hormones, antibiotics and special feeds are used. Discharges in the form of waste enter the atmosphere by evaporation and return to earth in rain or percolate into the ground, reaching canals by run-off or through geological substrate that is only sand on top of porous limestone. 

That’s Florida. An inch or so of topsoil that needs all manner of chemicals to sustain it, then sand, then a geological porous base at what is almost sea level. 

Discharges containing nitrogen act as nutrients. Fishermen realise that fish congregate around sewer pipes, eating what is flushed out. While some of this has now been curtailed by court order, some municipalities still use large-diameter sewer pipes that protrude a mile out into the ocean when heavy rains make holding wastewater impossible. 

It has to go somewhere

“Where do you want us to dump it, on the streets?” That has long been the wastewater-treatment managers’ reply to objections to their ocean-dumping. That and: “It will cost you billions and taxes will have to go up.”

Recent observations in the Florida Keys, as well as tropical islands throughout the Caribbean, have revealed large-scale deaths of stony corals. Ken Nidemyer, considered a father of coral restoration, has put live coral coverage there at only 2%. The diver’s paradise of Grand Cayman island has dead hard corals with vast areas of bleached coral. Coral deaths are attributed to high ocean temperatures.

Unexplained proliferation of pencil coral (Madracis mirabilis) on a section of reef. It has taken over the entire reef face and remains healthy
Unexplained proliferation of pencil coral (Madracis mirabilis) on a section of reef. It has taken over the entire reef face and remains healthy

“I kept reef tank aquariums at 77°F [25°C]. When water temperatures reached 100° [38°C], as is the case in the Keys, coral died. I don’t have an aquarium now – I have this one,” says Deen, pointing to the ocean.

What this dive-boat captain has observed while diving is what researchers worldwide have reported. Rises in ocean temperatures with sustained temperatures well over 32°C, as was the case in the Florida Keys, resulted in coral ejecting the symbiotic plant that lives inside its theca, or calcium carbonate shell. 

Without zooxanthellae or symbiodinium, a dinoflagellate, coral bleaches white and eventually dies. The plant, through photosynthesis, provides food and aids and facilitates digestion of the particles the coral tentacles bring into the polyp. 

The Gulf Stream

Healthy reef structure and coral at 60-Feet Reef off Gulfstream, Florida
Healthy reef structure and coral at 60 Foot Reef off Gulfstream, Florida

Emphasising the importance of the coral reefs off Boynton, Delray, Boca and Gulf Stream, Chris Deen asserts: “Boynton Beach offers the best reef dives in Florida. There are ledges – the Gulf Stream sweeps in here.”

The strategically placed areas offshore have strong eddies of the predominantly northward-flowing Gulf Stream. The current can be mild or at times run as fast as 4 knots. Drift-divers jump off the boat and go with the current. 

Meme Edwards diving off Palm Beach with healthy reef environment
Meme Edwards diving off Palm Beach

The Gulf Stream serves as a natural broom, sweeping offshore waters clean. Algae that have proliferated because of the high nitrogen content of wastewater discharges are often pushed off reefs by storms and surges.

“The reefs here are deeper,” says Deen. Depth as well as the Gulf Stream’s northward surge have kept Atlantic temperatures in this area at acceptable levels for coral. All but very deepwater corals require sunlight penetration for plants inside them to live, and temperatures of 20-27°C are ideal, with no sedimentation to choke coral growth. 

Sedimentation occurs with ill-founded beach renourishment projects that dredge sand from deeper ocean areas and pile it on beaches that have been eroded by storms.

Healthy deeper-lying Atlantic coral
Healthy deeper-lying Atlantic coral

Recent dives have revealed healthy stony corals in Atlantic Ocean waters. Reefs on the eastern side run about 24m deep to sand. The beach side or western ledges are about 18m deep, with reef tops at about 15m. 

The observations of healthy reefs come from dive instructor Meme Edwards, head of the community and causes of action section of the Kyalami Scuba Club, which runs dive-boats out of West Palm Beach and Jupiter. They operate along Florida’s Treasure Coast, some 30km north of the Boynton Inlet area. 

Edwards, a Florida native and a graduate of the University of Central Florida, regards reef conditions in the Palm Beach area as surprising. 

Brain corals are no longer car-sized but they are alive
Brain corals might no longer be car-sized but they are alive

“It is surprising how healthy our reefs are,” she says. “There was some stony coral disease that has subsided. A little bleaching that was monitored by divers and conservation officials – but our reefs stayed healthy.”

Thermoclines all summer

During the hot summer months that killed corals in the Keys, the Palm Beach and Jupiter area reefs remained unaffected. There were thermoclines all last summer, says Edwards, with 18m seabed temperatures around 20-23°C and surface water of 27° and above. “That was consistent all summer.” 

These observations are echoed by Shaun Gallant, owner-partner of the club, who believes that offshore reefs remained healthy because of the lower temperatures at depth.

This has also been true in other deeper reef areas, except where top-to-bottom temperatures remained above 32°C over protracted periods of time, causing massive coral deaths.

Shaun Gallant and Meme Edwards with Kyalami Scuba Club’s 12m dive-boat at at Riviera Beach Marina
Shaun Gallant and Meme Edwards with Kyalami Scuba Club’s 12m dive-boat at at Riviera Beach Marina

“We see some brain coral here, not the most obvious, yet my observations showed it was healthy,” he says. “There was no bleaching. Generally our divers are pleasantly surprised after coming here from diving in the Keys.” It is deeper, from 15-18m on the shore side of the reef and 24m on outside reef areas.

“Healthy coral equals healthy marine life,” says Meme. “We see a hundred groupers aggregating, sharks, turtles.”

Diver photographing a nurse shark on 60 Foot Reef, with some healthy reef structure visible
Diver photographing a nurse shark on 60 Foot Reef, with some healthy reef structure visible

“We are a small community, we monitor reef conditions. We notify government and reef conservation agencies if we see anything. We’ve helped with turtle entanglements and report any coral that we see dying. I bring people in who do research. The Kyalami Scuba Club has a reef-watch programme.

“We work with Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. We connect our divers that have interest in reef conservation to these experts and offer reef clean-up dives and lionfish derbies.”

‘Biodiversity abounds’

True to the principles of the late pioneer diver-environmentalist Norine Rouse, creator of the original Scuba Club of the Palm Beaches that bore her name, Kyalami does not allow spearfishers to use its boats, though the taking of lobsters in season and use of pole spears to kill lionfish is permitted.

My own recent dives have confirmed healthy stony corals in Atlantic waters. Reefs on the eastern side run about 24m deep to sand, with the beach side or western ledges about 18m deep and reef-tops at about 15m. Depending on the area, local reefs extend from about 250 to 400m wide. 

Healthy deeper-lying hard coral
Healthy deeper-lying hard coral

Biodiversity abounds and a wide variety of corals thrive, providing other species with habitat and food. “We tell people not to anchor on the reefs,” says Chris Deen. He and Julia at Starfish Scuba remain sentinels of the sea, their passion as well as their means of livelihood.

Kyalami is a Zulu word that means literally ‘my home’. Or, symbolically ‘my home, your home’,” says Shaun Gallant. Which is appropriate when it comes to ocean conservation. The oceans belong to everyone, and divers are observers of this underwater realm that welcomes discovery.

Also by John Christopher Fine on Divernet: Father of underwater art: Andre Laban, Tales of diving’s true pioneersCayman coral problems in black & whiteSea turtles on the brinkDeep Doodoo: Diver’s-eye view of a Florida problemCoral farmers reshaping the futureSponges: Glue of the reef

@stanleysadventres
#AskMark What are some things you wish you wish you found out before you started diving?

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

@stanleysadventres
#AskMark What are some things you wish you wish you found out before you started diving?

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

YouTube Video UEw2X2VCMS1KYWdWbXFQSGV1YW84WVRHb2pFNkl3WlRSZS41MkJFMDEwMDIxMkRDREQ3

What Do You Wish You Knew Now When You Started Diving? #askmark

@jaketarren
#askmark, Heyo! Longtime listener, first time caller, etc. Went with a BP/W for my first set and I'm having a really hard time keeping the power inflator on my shoulder; the corrugated hose keeps flipping off my shoulder and getting twisted up or just ending up behind the backplate and dangling down the back of the wing. Is there something I can add to my harness to keep it in place? I don't want to tie it to the D ring since I wouldn't be able to lift it to deflate. I'm using the cheap DGX Gears wing for reference. Thanks!

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

@jaketarren
#askmark, Heyo! Longtime listener, first time caller, etc. Went with a BP/W for my first set and I'm having a really hard time keeping the power inflator on my shoulder; the corrugated hose keeps flipping off my shoulder and getting twisted up or just ending up behind the backplate and dangling down the back of the wing. Is there something I can add to my harness to keep it in place? I don't want to tie it to the D ring since I wouldn't be able to lift it to deflate. I'm using the cheap DGX Gears wing for reference. Thanks!

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

YouTube Video UEw2X2VCMS1KYWdWbXFQSGV1YW84WVRHb2pFNkl3WlRSZS4xODVDRjcwQzY3NkIxNjYz

How Do You Keep Your Corrugated BCD Hose in Place? #askmark

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS
Ear Treatments at Scuba.com:
https://imp.i302817.net/Mm9qL3

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.
00:00 Introduction
01:17 Ears
05:13 Scuba.com
06:05 Hydrate
08:12 Clean

#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS
Ear Treatments at Scuba.com:
https://imp.i302817.net/Mm9qL3

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/scubadivermag
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/scubadivermag
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/scubadivermagazine

We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.
00:00 Introduction
01:17 Ears
05:13 Scuba.com
06:05 Hydrate
08:12 Clean

YouTube Video UEw2X2VCMS1KYWdWbXFQSGV1YW84WVRHb2pFNkl3WlRSZS42QTlDMjkyRjNGMEYwQzcz

Post Dive Body Care #scuba #howto

LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!

Get a weekly roundup of all Divernet news and articles Scuba Mask
We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Recent Comments
Recent News

Connect With Us

0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x