PHOTO: Bleached plate corals and sea fans on Key Largo's Molasses Reef. (Photo via Flickr/Matt Kieffer)
Tourism provides a key boost for many destinations. The latest example is the Florida Keys, where visitors may soon be helping to fund coral reef restoration efforts.
The Miami Herald reported Monroe County commissioners will meet this week to decide whether to follow through on recommendations to spend some of the Tourist Development Council's money brought in through taxes levied on visitor accommodations.
According to the Herald, two Florida Keys-based nonprofit organizations have requested more than $300,000 to help fund the transfer of hundreds of thousands of small corals from underwater nurseries and the regional TDC advisory committees have endorsed the projects.
Staghorn corals will account for a majority of the restoration efforts, but elkhorn and boulder corals will also be transplanted.
The Herald reports bed-tax money is restricted to uses for select expenses but that Monroe County was the first in Florida to seek state approval to spend tourist-tax money on "marine parks." Attractions including the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum and the Key West Customs House are also recommended to receive TDC funding for upgrades or new exhibits.
As one of the only states in the U.S. to offer coral reefs, these marine parks are a key draw for the state. So it seems only natural the Keys would look to use the money brought in by visitors to preserve some of its premier natural attractions.