Marine and Environmental Systems
Florida's economic stability and quality of life are inextricably linked with the rich natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico, western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. This vast area, known as the Intra-Americas Sea, includes the Bahamas and 39 other nations that share a richly diverse and productive marine ecosystem.
Ocean currents link the nearshore mangrove forests, outlying seagrass beds, offshore coral reefs and deep-sea regions of Florida and the Intra-Americas Sea in an interconnected system of underwater habitats. These marine environments produce the fish and shellfish that stock supermarkets throughout the United States with catches lobster, shrimp, scallops, oysters, grouper and snapper.
Generations of Floridians have thrived on these resources through a commercial fishing industry that provides jobs not only for fisherman, but also for people employed in food processing, transportation, boat maintenance and harbor management. Coastal tourism, the fastest growing sector of the state's economy, relies on marine resources for sport fishing, snorkeling, shell collecting, SCUBA diving and other underwater activities.
Valuable Resources In Peril
The marine resources that sustain the region's economy are now threatened by growing population pressures in Florida and across the Intra-Americas Sea. Overfishing has depleted entire communities of species in some areas, severely curtailing commercial fishing. Many Caribbean island nations must import seafood to feed their people. In Florida, once plentiful species such as the Nassau grouper are now rarely seen, and queen conch fishing is banned thoughout the state.
Florida's coral reefs, which are especially sensitive to changes in their environment, are severely stressed by pollution. Corals in Florida and worldwide have also been struck by a little understood "bleaching" phenomenon with unknown long-term effects.
Science In Search of Solutions
To address these and other critical environmental problems of Florida and the Intra-Americas Sea, the Caribbean Marine Research Center(CMRC) conducts and supports scientific research on threatened marine species and undersea environments. CMRC maintains laboratory and training facilities in Palm Beach, Florida and Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas with research sites in Southeast Florida, Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico and across the Intra-Americas Sea.
- In conjunction with the Florida Department of Natural Resources (DNR), CMRC studies the life cycle of the queen conch to help replenish the species in the Florida Keys.
- Partnerships with DNR and the Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) support research on the survival and growth of valuable commercial fishes such as grouper and snapper. A major study on the life cycles and habitats of these species is underway in Florida Bay, the Florida Keys and the Indian River Lagoon.
- Spiny lobster research coordinated with DNA and the Florida Institute of Oceanography integrates biological studies with ecological research in Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, and the Caribbean to help enhance stocks of this important commercial species.
- In the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, CRMC monitors sea water temperatures to determine influences on the health of Florida's coral reefs.
- CMRC's aquaculture program has designed cost-effective systems forsaltwater cultivation of the Florida red tilapia, and is developing technology for farming Florida species such as the Nassau grouper. Saltwater aquaculture offers alternatives to capture fishing, reduces pressure on threatened species, conserves fresh water and enhances coastal economies.
- Research conducted at CMRC's laboratory in the Bahamas aids efforts to replenish species and conserve critical habitats in Florida waters. The ecosystems surrounding Lee Stocking Island, free of most pollution and fishing pressures, provide crucial data for comparison to habitats in the Florida Keys and Gulf of Mexico.
Florida's Marine Science Community
CMRC provides educational and research opportunities for students and faculty of Florida universities. With long-term support from the Florida-based Perry Foundation, CMRC also works in close partnership with public and private marine science institutions.
- Affiliated scientists are located at Florida Tech in Melbourne. Florida Tech faculty and students also conduct research and receive training at CMRC's facilities in Palm Beach and the Bahamas.
- Students and researchers from Florida State University and the University of Miami make extensive use of CMRC's laboratory and SCUBA diving support services in the Bahamas.
CMRC has provided facilities and support for scientists from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, University of West Florida, and Nova University in Boca Raton.
CMRC receives core funding from the National Undersea Research Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Research data are contributed to NOAA, the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Park Service, Florida Department of National Resources and other public programs.
CMRC's research coincides with the tenets of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, Caribbean Basin Initiative and Cartagena Convention for the environmentally sustainable use of marine resources.
For further information, please contact
Jamie Serino, Director
1501 Northpoint Parkway, Suite 101
West Palm Beach, FL 33407