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In the Florida Keys, biologists and volunteers are already in the process of growing sponge gardens with the intention of restoring the ailing undersea ecosystem in several key areas.

According to tropical marine ecology professor in Virginia’s Old Dominion University Mark Butler, the sponges have this unique ability to pump through water, where these are said to process it in a very short time. This project in Florida Keys is in cooperation with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as well as that of other agencies.

Butler and other state biologists have already grown sponges in nurseries where they are concentrating on growing eight Keys sponge species. They intend to use these in waters affected by the cyanobacteria, also known as the blue algae bloom that caused the death of sponges in Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico.

According to the FWC’s principal investigator on the project Bill Sharp, they now have about 6,000 to 7,000 sponge cuttings. Their goals is to have at least 15,000 cuttings for their large-scale restoration plan which they hope to accomplish in two year’s time.

For now, they are looking forward to gaining more volunteers to help them propagate the sponge nurseries, hopefully as early this month or in May. The work can only be done by snorkelers in waters of about ten feet deep, says Sharp. They are now welcoming volunteers with their own boats, but snorkelers without one are also welcome where they will be assigned to vessels.

In the recent years, it was observed that sponge cutting grew rapidly and even helped replenished the areas that were denuded of their sponge population. The scientists are hoping that their efforts would help augment the natural recovery in affected areas.

If you are a snorkeler, you might be interested to support this cause. You can contact FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at (305) 289-2330.

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