United Way Coral Bleaching

Crisis Response Saves Critical Species from Coral Bleaching

August 15, 2023

United Way Directs Funds to Protect Marine Ecosystem in Florida Keys

Florida Keys – In response to the escalating coral bleaching crisis throughout the Florida Keys, United Way of Collier and the Keys (UWCK) is proud to announce its collaborative effort with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to provide critical funding of up to $50,000 to support Reef Renewal USA's urgent coral rescue efforts.

Coral bleaching is a harmful process in which corals expel their symbiotic algae, causing them to lose their vibrant colors and turn white. This phenomenon occurs due to environmental stressors, such as increased water temperatures, and can lead to the decline and potential death of entire coral reefs.

With the Florida Keys dependent on the marine environment for both financial and physical resilience, the crisis demands swift action. Coral reefs are an essential component of the marine environment that sustains many other life forms and protects the coastline. The funding will aid Reef Renewal USA in implementing targeted projects that focus on removing the corals at risk of bleaching from their current environment and relocating them to deep water or land-based nurseries.

"The Tavernier nursery has become a priceless repository of [coral] genetic diversity for the state of Florida and the nation. Keeping the corals in this nursery alive has become the focus of an all-out rescue effort by our team and partners,” said Ken Nedimyer, Reef Renewal USA’s Technical Director.

“There is no hesitation when help is needed to safeguard these fragile ecosystems for future generations,” said Tiffani Mensch, President and CEO of United Way of Collier and the Keys.

This alliance between UWCK and the UAE underscores the importance of international collaboration in tackling environmental challenges. As part of a multi-year project, it involves collaborative efforts in conjunction with Mission: Iconic Reefs, an ambitious plan to restore seven reefs within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

“We understand the urgent situation in the Florida Keys based on our own work to protect coral reefs in the UAE,” said Dana Al Marashi, Head of Cultural Diplomacy at the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC. “This is a local emergency that is part of global crisis, and we are eager to work with our partners in Florida to preserve these vital ecosystems.”

The funding will play a crucial role in accelerating Reef Renewal USA’s efforts to save its genetically valuable coral. Together, UWCK is joining Reef Renewal USA and other partner organizations demonstrating a commitment to being part of the solution during the coral bleaching crisis.

Click to see recent rescue efforts.


About United Way of Collier and the Keys:

United Way of Collier and the Keys (UWCK) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the education, health, and economic mobility of our neighbors in Collier and Monroe Counties. Through strategic partnerships and collaborative efforts, UWCK addresses critical social issues and works towards driving positive, sustainable change to build stronger, healthier and more resilient communities.

About United Arab Emirates:

The United Arab Emirates is a source of stability, tolerance, innovation and growth in the Arabian Gulf and around the world. The United States and the UAE are close friends and strong allies, working together to promote regional security, create economic prosperity and address pressing global challenges.

About Reef Renewal USA:

Reef Renewal USA, Inc. (RRUSA) seeks to protect and restore the Florida coral reefs through innovation and efficiency. By engaging and inspiring their communities, RRUSA aims to spread hope and a deeper commitment among its volunteers to take ownership and action to create a better future for these precious ecosystems.

Media Contact:

Alissa Hudak, Communications & Engagement Manager