Posted by: reefrescue | September 30, 2009

Divers make amazing discovery on Palm Beach reef


September 30, 2009 – Palm Beach, Florida

Divers make amazing discovery on Palm Beach reef

Local scuba divers find a previously undiscovered field of Staghorn coral flourishing on a reef less than one mile offshore of the Town of Palm Beach.

“Preliminary indications are that this may likely be the largest stand of Staghorn coral in Palm Beach County”, said Ed Tichenor, director of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue. Staghorn and Elkhorn corals were added to the Endangered Species List in 2006 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which determined these corals are likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

The discovery was made by volunteer scuba divers on Saturday, September 26. Dive group leader Connie Gasque, a Palm Beach resident, was accompanied by Jay Garbose, attorney and lois Madrid, a member of Palm Beach County’s Environmental Resource Management Reef Research Team.

“We set out looking for Staghorn coral,” said Connie Gasque, “and we found the mother lode.” “This discovery is significant since the Town of Palm Beach is opposing federal critical habitat protection for this coral,” she said.

As recently as August 26, Palm Beach Public Works Director Paul Brazil sent a letter to NMFS saying including the Town of Palm Beach reefs within the critical habitat designation is not justified because Staghorn corals are found infrequently north of the Boynton Beach Inlet.

“This new discovery of a large, healthy Staghorn field on the Palm Beach reef significantly alters the habitat protection debate,” said Tichenor. Reef Rescue is preparing the needed documentation for submittal to NMFS in support of their previously filed federal petition to move the coral critical habitat protection boundary northward from the Boynton Beach Inlet to the Palm Beach Inlet. “We will also make this information available to the Town of Palm Beach and hopefully they will reconsider their position and withdraw their objection to the federal habitat protections,” said Tichenor.

“The Staghorn coral is out there, all you have to do is look for it. Most people may be under the impression that these corals are mapped out by some government agency, that is simply not true,” said Garbose. “Over 95% of the Staghorn coral found in Palm Beach County has been discovered by recreational divers, just as this recent find”, added Garbose.

Reef Rescue supporters have been flooding the Town of Palm Beach with hundreds of emails requesting the town withdraw its objection to the federal habitat protection, in an email campaign that began before this latest Staghorn coral discovery.

See Sept. 26, 2009 Palm Beach staghorn video:


Take Action to help protect this coral. Tell the Town of Palm Beach to withdraw their objection to federal habitat protection.


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