Posted by: reefrescue | November 11, 2009

Town Council supports coral protection zone extension


Daily News Staff Writer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Town Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to accept a consultant’s recommendation that the town go on record in favor of extending a critical habitat designation zone for staghorn coral from the Boynton Inlet north to The Breakers.

The recommendation is that the habitat designation zone come no closer to shore than a depth of 46 feet.

The town had previously opposed the habitat designation for the endangered staghorn coral in Palm Beach County waters, saying there wasn’t enough of it to warrant the habitat protection.

But Palm Beach County Reef Rescue petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will decide on the coral protection zone, to extend the designation to the Palm Beach Inlet. Reef Rescue said it discovered a field of staghorn coral about a mile off the coast of the Bath & Tennis Club.

The town hired consultant Cheryl Miller to dive the site of the coral field, and Miller told the council Tuesday she thinks the habitat designation is warranted as far north as The Breakers.

“I found an area of unusually high density of staghorn coral for this area,” Miller said.

A Florida Department of Environmental Protection official, Dr. Vladimir Kosmynin, also spoke in favor of extending the protection zone. He said it would make no sense to extend the zone closer to shore because the amount of sediment and other features prevent the staghorn coral from propagating in that area.

The fisheries service has said it will announce a decision Jan. 6.

A few divers, including Reef Rescue leader Ed Tichenor, spoke in opposition to Tuesday’s decision, saying the protection zone should be extended farther north.

Town resident Connie Gasque said she’s done thousands of dives in offshore from Palm Beach County and “the coral does not stop at The Breakers.”


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