By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org [Weeki Wachee, FL–] Sitting in a subterranean amphitheater watching through clear glass as young women wearing glittering …
Guy Harvey Outpost Offering Front Row Seat to Florida Keys Coral Spawning
It looks like a brilliant fireworks display, except it’s underwater. In the middle of the night several days after the August 29 full moon, boulder corals all along the Florida Keys reef tract get together to do the wild thing. And you are invited to watch.
These simultaneous acts of coral sex make for spectacular viewing. Millions of tiny white bb’s erupt from the polyps of large mounds of coral, scattering bundles of eggs and sperm into the water. Many are immediately consumed by marauding schools of shiny silver pilchards– hence the fireworks effect. And the swarming pilchards attract larger predators such as barracuda and tarpon to the fray. The lucky coral gametes that manage to survive the fish fest fertilize one another to create larvae which eventually settle to the bottom to form new coral reefs.
For a front-row seat on the nights of Sept. 3 and 4, make a reservation with Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures Dive Center in Tavernier (305-451-3020). The crew will escort you to one of several reefs about 25 feet deep where you have the greatest chance of watching coral reproduce.
However, it’s never a sure thing where Mother Nature is involved; the annual spawning is triggered by various cues that are not well understood such as lunar cycle, water temperature and tides. But the good news is that scientists correctly forecast that staghorn coral would spawn the first week of August– and they did on Aug. 5 in the Coral Restoration Foundation’s nursery off the Upper Keys. Scientists and dive operators are hopeful that the larger mountainous species such as brain and star corals — which put on a much better show than the staghorn–should do the deed as predicted just before Labor Day Weekend.
If you don’t want to stay up for the late-night coral viewing party, you can hunt lobsters in daytime from one of Captain Slate’s boats. Florida’s regular lobster harvest season, which opened Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, allows divers and snorkelers to take six per person per day. Slate’s crews will take you to the patch reefs that hold the big ones. You need a Florida saltwater fishing license with a lobster endorsement which can be purchased online at MyFWC.com or at county tax collectors’ offices and some retail outlets.
Get busy; spots are filling quickly. For more information, contact GHO Reservations at 800.513.5257, or email@example.com.