-- For a while, it appeared the whales had a chance. Hunting was banned in
1935. Their numbers, which may have hovered as low as 50, slowly started to
-- As the worldıs population boomed, other dangers surfaced: industrialized fishing and the growth of worldwide trade, which puts the whales in direct conflict with huge vessels.
-- Since 1970, nearly 70 have died, nearly half directly linked to ship collisions or entanglements in fishing gear.
For years, the reef fish of the Atlantic, especially grouper and snapper,
have been highly prized by fishermen. Several species have been considered
species of concern for 15 years. The Nassau and Goliath groupers, for example,
were once among the most abundant, but now are candidates for the federal
endangered species list.
-- They are found in waters up to 295 feet deep, generally near coral reefs and rocky bottoms.
-- They can grow to 4 feet long, weigh up to 55 pounds and live 16 years.
-- They congregate by the tens of thousands to spawn, making it highly possible for them to be over-harvested; itıs illegal to possess them in Florida.
-- They change color patterns quickly and camouflage by blending in with rocks and corals.
-- They hide and pounce on their prey, eating other fish, shrimp, crabs, lobsters and octopuses.
Seven species of sea turtle roam the world's oceans. All are endangered or
threatened. They face many threats, ranging from loss of nesting area on beaches
to death from harmful fishing practices and marine debris.
-- Six species are found off the Florida coast and may nest on Volusia and Flagler beaches: loggerhead, leatherback, green, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley.
-- Loggerheads are the most abundant sea turtles in the U.S, but nest numbers have declined over the past eight years.
-- The endangered leatherback is the largest living reptile in the world. It can dive deeper than half a mile and males may weigh more than 2,000 pounds.
-- Green turtles are the only herbivorous sea turtles, feeding primarily on seagrass and algae. They weigh between 300 and 350 pounds.
IVORY TREE CORAL
The Oculina Bank is a vast reef system with just one coral species, ivory tree coral. But, itıs home to 770 species of fish and nearly 300 species of mollusks and crustaceans. The coral grows at depths up to 200 to 300 feet in bushes, mounds and on limestone pinnacles up to 100 feet high. The bank stretches south to Fort Pierce and lies beneath the Gulf Stream, an ocean current system that begins in the Caribbean and moves along the East Coast into the North Atlantic. The coral isnıt the splashy bright colors a snorkeler sees in the Florida Keys. Itıs pale because the algae that give other corals color and nutrition canıt grow without sunlight. Ivory tree coral is so fragile it can be crushed just by closing a hand around it. That leaves it susceptible to destruction from fishing nets. Some researchers say less than 10 percent of the original reef remains. Bushes of coral 3 to 5 feet tall may be centuries old. Because it grows so slowly -- 1/2 inch per year -- restoration could take decades.
In a project to try to restore the coral and fish, Florida State University professor Christopher Koenig and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have placed artificial reef structures on the ocean floor and attached small pieces of coral to them. In 2000 and 2001, Koenig placed 220 concrete reef balls on the floor of the bank. Initial studies show the balls, 3 feet across at the base and about 2 feet high, seem to be working.