After the Hurricanes

VIRGINIA KEY, FL -- A team of 38 research divers from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, NOAA Fisheries, the State of Florida, the National Park Service, and the National Undersea Research Center will celebrate the Tortugas Ecological Reserve's fifth birthday of protected status in true scientific fashion. Employing even deeper mixed-gas dives and working from a new high-tech, high-resolution LIDAR (laser-based) topographic map, they will embark on their biennial census to measure how well the protected status is helping the Florida Keys ecosystem rebound from decades of overfishing. Reporters are invited to spend a day on the R/V Spree with the scientists to learn more about this unique process.

WHAT: First-hand observation and interviews with field scientists aboard a special marine research and diving vessel, including an opportunity to snorkel with the scientists (snorkeling equipment not provided).

WHO: Space is limited to just 12 reporters. First come, first served. Media contacts listed below.

WHEN: June 21, 2006 (Reporters will depart Key West at 8 a.m. via ferry for a ~2-hour ride to that day's dive location and the R/V Spree, and return to Key West at ~5 p.m.)

WHERE: The dive locations are in the Dry Tortugas National Park and the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. Reporters are advised to overnight in Key West the night before to ensure they can take the early morning ferry.

BACKGROUND: The Dry Tortugas, a remote area about 70 miles west of Key West, is known for its extensive coral reefs, fish, sharks, lobsters, and other marine life. In 2000, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was allowed to set aside no-take areas, forming the Tortugas Ecological Reserve, which is being considered for expansion because of the critical state of overfishing in the region.

In August 2005, the Florida governor and cabinet unanimously approved to implement a management plan

Contact: Ivy Kupec, Communications Director
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

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