In December, President Joe Biden signed the Resilient Coral Reefs Act into law, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Florida Republicans Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rick Scott were some of the bill’s sponsors, while Congressman Darren Soto, a democrat, helped usher it through the House.
Officials say the law is a bipartisan effort to protect and restore coral reefs, including those off the coast of Florida.
The bill is good news for The Florida Aquarium, which has pioneered some of those efforts, starting with the very first time the team there induced corals to spawn in 2019.
Baby coral are also raised and eventually replanted at sea once they are big enough. Dr. Deborah Luke, the aquarium's vice president of conservation, said the Resilient Coral Reefs Act validates the importance of that work on the national stage.
“Now having that federal appropriations and dedication to restoring Florida’s coral reef is going to be beneficial to all of us that have been working on that right along,” said Luke.
Among its provisions, the bill includes an increase in funding for NOAA’s coral reef program, which would allow The Florida Aquarium to potentially access future grant money.
“It will provide some new funding mechanisms for us and a lot of the infrastructure needed to promote a new reef as we move forward,” said Luke. “And the research that it takes to do the work that we’re doing.”
Luke said the aquarium's efforts are already expanding — last year it broke ground on a brand new coral greenhouse, which is expected to be completed in May.