UAE donates Dh12.8 million to restore seven Florida reefs

The reefs in the Florida Keys were devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017

This photo provided by Alex Fogg shows two lionfish in April 2019 at an artifical reef off of Destin, Florida. A disease caused open sores on many lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean during 2017 and 2018 and appears to have contributed to an abrupt drop in their numbers, according to a study published online Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, by Scientific Reports. But scientists are quick to note that this is probably far from the end of the showy invasive fish.  (Alex Fogg via AP)

The UAE will donate Dh12.8m ($3.5m) to help restore seven reefs in the Florida Keys.

The assistance is part of a Dh36m ($10 million) pledge aimed at addressing the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

The storm led to 134 deaths and Dh283.4 billion ($77bn) in damage when it hit the Caribbean and the United States.

The funds will be donated to reef restoration projects by the non-profit organisation United Way of Collier and the Keys as part of its hurricane recovery programme.

“This is what friends do for each other in times of need,” said Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States.

“The UAE is delighted to be able to help the Florida Keys community in this special way and begin to restore its iconic coral reefs.

“We share the same planet and face the same challenges. That’s why the UAE is so proud to collaborate with partners in the US and around the world to better protect and preserve vital ecosystems.”

The Florida Keys boasts the only barrier reef in North America and about 60 per cent of its residents are dependent on the marine environment.

The funds will go towards restoring reefs at seven sites within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where coral coverage has dropped to two per cent.

The grant will also include a marine biology programme in local schools reaching 8,500 pupils and will establish a scholarship fund for young people studying marine science and related fields.

Last week, marine biologists from the Florida Keys announced they would partner with scientists in the Emirates to help establish the world’s largest artificial reef off the east coast of Fujairah.

Reefs in Florida and the Emirates face similar threats, including from human disruptions such as land reclamation and dredging.