Florida State Representative Holly Raschein dives Mote’s coral nursery in the Florida Keys with Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Mote President & CEO and Erich Bartels, Staff Scientist and Manager of Mote’s Coral Reef Monitoring & Assessment Program. Photos taken on Monday, June 25, 2018. Photo by Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory.

Today, more recreational scuba divers are aware and concerned with the health and state of our oceans’ coral reefs. There are many reasons for the reefs’ decline in the last thirty years. Most marine scientists agree that the rise in sea temperatures, increase in ocean acidity, pollution including plastics, and water quality are the main culprits.  Millions of people depend on the sea for food and their livelihood, yet many are unaware of what is taking place in our oceans. Coral reefs make up less than one percent (1%) of our ocean’s total underwater topography, yet they contain more than twenty-five percent (25%) of all marine diversity! What will happen to our planet if the coral reefs disappear in the not too distant future?

In the marine science world today, corals and coral reefs have become the new “Buzz” word. There is a tremendous undertaking to improve our knowledge and understanding of corals.  Many public and private universities, marine institutions and foundations are not only in a full court press to address these issues, they have started preservation and restoration programs in the hopes of saving all the world’s corals and coral reefs. These programs are growing in importance and influence. Greater numbers of marine science students are devoting their studies to corals and coral reefs. Countries showcasing their coral reefs are beginning to promote eco-tourism and are developing programs that reflect the importance of their ecological treasures.

In Florida, one such highly respected institution is Mote Marine Laboratory. They are a non-for-profit (501c3) Marine Science organization established in 1955, headquartered in Sarasota. The Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration (IC2R3) facility located on Summerland Key, just twenty-four miles from Key West, is Mote’s principal facility dedicated to coral reef research, preservation, and restoration. On site, they are not only studying corals and associated coral diseases, but are also growing numerous coral species for out-planting on the Florida Keys’ reef tract. The problem is Mote does not have an army of divers who can out-plant these corals.  Because they are a non-profit, their resources are limited. They can use your help.

After more than two years working to build a strong relationship, Mote and Captain Hook’s Dive Centers (Three locations in the lower Keys – Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West) signed an agreement allowing recreational divers like you, to work in the Mote coral nurseries and outplant corals on the reef. You will work directly with Mote’s marine scientists, learning about corals and how to plant them. Captain Hooks will provide their dive safety crew along with the boat that will carry you out to the nursery and the reefs. The program can be as short as one full day or as long as you would like to make it. It begins with a morning presentation at Mote’s facility to learn about corals, see the work they are doing, and learn how to plant the corals. That afternoon you will be taken to the Mote Nurseries by Captain Hooks for two dives to out-plant. The cost for this one-day working adventure/experience is $99.00, which includes a donation to Mote to help fund their on-going coral research. Every diver participating in the program will receive a diploma and a recognized specialty certification.

Individuals, dive Shops, University dive programs, dive Clubs, and other dive groups are encouraged to inquire and plan a trip to the lower Keys to help us in our efforts to benefit the Keys’ coral reefs. Most of our diving will be either in or near the world-renowned Florida Keys Looe Key Marine Sanctuary.  This area has been protected since 1978 and is considered by many to be one of the most pristine reefs in the Florida Keys. The marine life commonly seen here holds something of interest for every diver and snorkeler. Additional days of restoration, out-planting, and observation can be added if the participant is interested.

Mote Marine Labs and Captain Hooks can benefit from your assistance in protecting and preserving our coral reefs. You will not only learn a great deal about corals, but you will have fun and gain the satisfaction knowing that you have made a difference for our ocean environment.


Please direct your inquiries to:

Captain Hook’s Dive Center

29675 Overseas Highway

Big Pine Key, Fl 33043

305-872-9863 /


Mote Marine Labs

24244 Overseas Highway

Summerland Key, Fl 33042