Travel professionals help restore coral and clean up debris in the Florida Keys
MARATHON - Tourism Cares, the philanthropic community of the tourism industry, kicks off its year-long Uniting for Resilient Destinations volunteer program in the Florida Keys. The first of two service projects, Tourism Cares for South Florida unites 150 travel professionals with local partners to support communities impacted by climate change and hurricanes.
“Today’s oceans are facing many natural and man-made threats and engaging the public in marine conservation activities is critically important,” said Ellie Splain, education program manager at Reef Environmental Education Foundation, one of the sites some volunteers will assist at by helping with a fish survey project. “By surveying marine fish biodiversity in the Florida Keys, citizen scientists from Tourism Cares are providing critical data that will help researchers and resource managers further assess the effects of Hurricane Irma on our marine ecosystems and determine key areas for future conservation work.”
Volunteers will aid eight sites:
some will help rebuild an owl enclosure at The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, a conservation organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced;
while volunteers at Coral Restoration Foundation will help with nursery maintenance or dive to help monitor the diminishing coral;
another group will snorkel with Reef Environmental Education Foundation to help with fish ID, assessing reef health as part of a national study;
at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, volunteers will help clean up debris in a canal via kayaks,
along with others kayaking and cleaning up along the shoreline of Big Pine with Conch Republic Marine Army;
two groups will help with home repairs in neighborhoods in the Middle Keys and Lower Florida Keys with Habitat for Humanity;
and the remaining volunteers will help plant and clean up at Grimal Grove, a small farm and botanical garden.
In addition to volunteer labor, tools and materials, Tourism Cares is donating an additional $35,000 to the nonprofit host projects from its Destination Disaster Recovery Fund, funded by donations from AIG, Amadeus, U.S. Travel Association, and many more individuals and travel companies.
“This donation from our community supports each of the nonprofits whose mission and commitment are to build back these communities that were affected by the recent disasters,” said Paula Vlamings, CEO of Tourism Cares, “Together, we are helping the Florida Keys build back stronger.”
“There is so much to do, and I can't express how much this will jump start our efforts even more,” said Brian Vest, founder of Conch Republic Marine Army, an organization that has pulled nearly 70 tons of debris from the Florida Keys waters since December. “We are making a difference. We are making a measurable difference in the tons of trash we remove, but the impact on the ocean and on people’s lives is immeasurable.”
Tourism Cares is focused on resilient destinations in 2018 as climate change and natural disasters continue to affect people and places in our industry. This is the first event in the Uniting for Resilient Destinations series and continues in September with Tourism Cares for New Orleans.