Colin Foord Braves Bad Weather and Giant Eels to Save Sea Creatures From Deep Dredge
After escaping the eel on a dive last week, Foord and his dive partner, Allan Cox, take the day's haul of coral up to their 20-foot Mako boat. Then they chug about a mile south to the PortMiami mitigation reef, safely out of the line of the "Death Stars" -- the huge rigs that have already started scooping out sand and rock from Government Cut. Here, the pair performs the rescue in reverse: diving back down and carefully fixing the corals to an artificial reef using special epoxy putty.
They bring a few coral specimens back to their lab, a cavernous den of fluorescent lamps and constant bubbling. The corals are carefully cleaned and placed on scaffolding inside what look like giant bathtubs. Stripped of sea sludge, they glow green, orange, red, and blue like the iridescent eyes of space aliens. Next to them, a vat of sea anemones gently undulates in an artificial current. Tiny fish pop to the surface, begging for food.
Obsessed with their own bobbles and bling, few Miamians know their city hides such natural riches. Even fewer know that these creatures are being threatened by projects such as the Deep Dredge and Beckham's soccer stadium. And problems with the Panama Canal expansion mean Miami's Deep Dredge could ultimately all be for naught.
"This is a project that is basically going to destroy a whole lot more corals than probably any private company or contractor or individual has managed to [ever before]," he says. "It's a shame because there is so much research, so much public education than can come from these corals. We want to share [them] with the people of Miami and the public to show them that this isn't just a sterile shipping channel or an industrial zone. It's actually a thriving ecosystem."
Despite his frantic race to save as many corals as he can from certain destruction, however, Foord says he's less worried for them as a species than he is for us.
The two reefs that will be dynamited as part of the Deep Dredge
"If anything, I'd say that Miami is a heartwarming example," he says. "Miami suggests there is hope for the corals. If brain coral can live on Biscayne Boulevard, it gives me hope that they will be capable of adapting and that it's humans who are really the ones who have to start understanding that adaptation is the reality of the future.
"Corals have been around for millions of years," he says. "They've survived all of these major mass extinctions. They are still here. Humans have been building cities for 5,000 years... If sea levels continue to rise like they are, Miami is going to be a reef again soon. Then the coral will come out on top.
"The people will have to leave before the coral does."