Left to right: Jennifer Moore, threatened coral recovery coordinator, NOAA Fisheries; Keri O'Neil, director and senior scientist, Coral Conservation Program, The Florida Aquarium; State Representative Toby Overdorf, District 85; Rob Ruzicka, Coral Research Program manager, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Roger Germann, president and CEO, The Florida Aquarium.

The Florida Aquarium, a world-renowned leader in coral reproduction and restoration, recently opened a new 4,200-square-foot expansion of its Coral Conservation and Research Center in Apollo Beach.

Dignitaries, partners and stakeholders from across the state joined the celebratory ribbon-cutting, highlighting the aquarium’s unwavering dedication to advancing critical coral conservation efforts.

The expansion nearly doubles the current facility and is a pivotal step for the aquarium’s acclaimed coral restoration and research work. 

“Florida’s coral reefs are essential to our health, our economy and marine wildlife and over the past several decades, they have been in decline. With this state-of-the-art facility, we are significantly increasing our restoration impact and providing hope for recreating a thriving reef,” said Roger Germann, president and CEO of The Florida Aquarium. “Thanks to the support from our partners at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we are bolstering our efforts to address the urgent threats facing our oceans’ ecosystems and rapidly declining coral populations.”

The new area provides space beyond the aquarium’s existing coral greenhouses and spawning laboratories, now with a combined 9,000 total square feet. The facility opened on the Apollo Beach campus in 2016 and is dedicated to preserving, breeding and rearing corals facing the risk of extinction in the wild.

 “Here, we will be able to expand our work to protect and reproduce a greater diversity of corals and produce thousands more coral offspring each year. Our ability to not only protect the corals in our care but also to spawn them and rear thousands of babies with new and unique genetic combinations is more important than ever, given the threats these animals are facing in the wild,” said Keri O’Neil, The Florida Aquarium’s senior scientist and Coral Conservation Program director.

The center is home to the largest living collection of Atlantic pillar corals in the world. The species is rapidly declining in the wild due to disease and the aquarium is the only organization able to spawn and raise this threatened coral to prevent extinction. Partners believe the expanded center is a hopeful step in the right direction in the statewide effort to ensure Florida’s corals survive.

This year, biologists are working on breeding the next generation of resilient corals, reaffirming their dedication to pioneering solutions in marine conservation. It is estimated that Florida’s coral reefs have an $8 billion value and support 70,000-plus jobs.

“This is something all Floridians should care about,” said Toby Overdorf, Florida Representative, House District 85. “Without healthy corals, the reefs will no longer provide areas for recreation and tourism, habitat for seafood or coastal protection to beaches our state relies upon. The Florida Aquarium’s work is making a significant difference.”

For more information on the Coral Conservation Program, visit www.flaquarium.org/conservation/coral-conservation-program.

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