The founder of Coral Restoration Foundation started out “just planting a couple corals” — today the group has grown or transplanted 40,000 corals in the Keys, 5,000 in Bonaire and 5,000 in Colombia. For his efforts, Ken Nedimyer is our June 2014 Oris Sea Hero.
1. Give us a snapshot of how many corals CRF has going in all your nurseries — Florida Keys, Bonaire and Colombia (are we missing any?).
Collectively we have about 40,000 corals in the Keys, 5,000 in Bonaire and 5,000 in Colombia. We have five nurseries in the Keys, two in Colombia and two in Bonaire.
2. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since founding CRF?
It’s been a combination of three main things: Funding, permits and convincing people it can work. This was a really new idea when we started it in 2002, so I had to spend a lot of time and money demonstrating that it works before I could attract any funding. Getting permits from the various governments has also been a challenge. It seems like everywhere we go, we have to reinvent the wheel and show the local government officials that it can work. The good news is that once they see it working on their reefs, they become our biggest cheerleaders. I’m hoping that eventually we will not have to re-sell the idea every time we start new projects.
3. What’s been your most surprising moment since founding CRF?
There have been lots of surprises. Probably the biggest one was being selected to be a CNN Hero in 2012. That was an awesome honor. Another surprise early on was that, for the most part, nobody had done this before in the United States. It certainly hasn’t been an easy thing to do here, but it wasn’t all that difficult either. The people in NOAA, the State of Florida and the National Marine Sanctuary program have all been very supportive, and together I think we are working at rewriting the story on the fate of coral reefs.
4. How can everyday divers and Scuba Diving's readers help further the work of CRF?
Well … since you asked, financial support is always appreciated, but aside from that, there is a huge opportunity to get involved in our programs by coming down and helping out. You can sign up for dive programs either in the Keys or in Bonaire, and in these programs you’ll not only find out more about what is threatening our coral reefs, but you’ll find out what can be done to help them. All of the courses involve education, hands-on training and supervised dives in the nursery and on the reef to help grow and transplant corals.
5. What's next for Ken Nedimyer and CRF?
We’re going to continue working in the Florida Keys and South Florida. Our current permits allow us to plant more than 100,000 corals in the Keys, so we have our work cut out for us to finish that up. We’re working with a couple of other nursery partners in Florida and will likely be launching a major coral-planting initiative that will seek to grow and plant a million corals in South Florida over the next 10 years. We’re also moving aggressively into the Caribbean, and hope to start 20 new nursery and restoration programs during the next five years. I’m hoping that our success will spill over onto some of the coral-restoration projects being done by others in the Caribbean so that they will have an easier time attracting sponsors supporters. I like the saying that a “rising tide floats all boats.” If I can help raise the tide for coral-reef restoration, then the collective benefit to the reefs will be my reward.
6. What would you do with the $5,000 Oris award if selected for Sea Hero of the Year?
I would use it to bring another section of the reef back to life. We could call it the Oris Restoration Site.
7. Is there anything we did not ask that you would like readers to know about? Tell us what's on your mind!
One of the things that really drives me is the thought that my life is making a difference. I believe everyone can make a difference somewhere, and I would encourage them to take their first step today. It might start with something as simple as bringing joy to one person’s day today, but it could lead to something that will change thousands of people’s lives. I started out with just planting a couple of corals on the reef to see what would happen, and look at where it is today and where it is going. Everything has a starting point, so start something today.
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