By Sam Bridge
Gift from the UAE to the United Way of Collier and the Keys is one of the largest investments in reef restoration worldwide
The UAE is granting $3.5 million in funds to help restore seven iconic reefs in the Florida Keys, one of the largest investments in reef restoration worldwide.
The gift is part of a larger $10 million pledge to the State of Florida for Hurricane Irma relief efforts, state news agency WAM reported, adding that the United Way of Collier and the Keys will implement the gift’s impact strategy in partnership with experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The majority of the funds will be made available to local reef restoration organisations to execute critical work.
"This is what friends do for each other in times of need. 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," said Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States of America.
"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 United Way will oversee, manage, and distribute the grant as part of its continuing Hurricane Irma recovery programming and assistance. This will include projects to protect the reef’s viability and ensure the financial stability of the Florida Keys community, which depends upon the reef to earn over $4.7 billion in annual revenue.
Steve Sanderson, president and CEO of the United Way of Collier and the Keys, said: "This donation is truly transformative, providing for the asset-limited, hardworking families who are dependent on the reefs and marine life yet are still struggling from the effects of this devastating hurricane. We are so thankful for the outstanding collaboration through this gift."
When Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys in September 2017, it devastated the coral reef infrastructure that supports the diverse and economically valuable marine ecosystem.
The Florida Keys is home to the only barrier reef in North America, and approximately 60 percent of the Florida Keys’ residents maintain an occupation that is dependent on the marine environment.
Over the last 40 years, coral reefs in the Florida Keys have suffered dramatic declines. NOAA and its partners have launched a $97 million effort to restore seven ecologically and culturally significant coral reefs within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The UAE has a record of helping US communities recover from natural disasters, from New Orleans to New Jersey, after Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), to Joplin, Missouri (2011), which was devastated by one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded in the US.