The South Florida Reef Ambassador Initiative – Become a Coral Champion!
The Florida Reef Tract stretches almost 350 miles from the Dry Tortugas National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet along the coast of 5 counties: Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin. Home to over forty species of coral and hundreds of species of fish, with many species of turtles and sharks making an appearance as well.
While ecologically important, the counties also recognize the vast economic benefit from these reefs. Each year alone, reefs contribute 6.4 billion dollars and 70,000jobs annually to our local communities! The proximity of these reefs means that the residents of one of the world's most densely populated coastal communities are dependent on these reefs not only for their economic input, but also the protection they offer our beaches and homes from storms and hurricanes!
Despite their importance, there are localized impacts that threaten the health of our local reefs. To address these impacts, scientists and experts from across the globe are working together to increase our understanding and prevent further damage. However, to successfully defend our reefs they will need the help from everyone. With this in mind, the 5 counties in southeast Florida have become Reef Ambassadors, and developed a regional program to help tourists, boaters and divers understand how they can help conserve and protect our local reefs! By following the Reef Ambassador’s simple set of easy to remember rules, you too can help defend the reefs and become a Coral Champion!
For general tips to become a Coral Champion, please read below:
Reef Ambassador Advice: Boating
Absolutely never drop an anchor on the reef. This is illegal under Florida's Coral Reef Protection Act (CRPA), and could be associated with heavy fines. Find a nice sandy bottom, drop your anchor, and float out back across the reef. If you are having trouble locating sandy bottom, check out our free phone application.
If you cannot find sand, you may also make use of free public mooring buoys all over the southeast region! Click here for buoy location information.
Boats can be disease vectors and transplant potentially harmful exotic species. Wash your boat as thoroughly as possible after use, including the bilge, before moving from one area to the next.
Fuel up and add oil in calm areas to avoid spills. Avoid overflowing your fuel tanks and oil receptacles.
Keep a sharp eye out for manatees and sunning sea turtles!
Reef Ambassador Advice: Diving
Avoid sunscreens with Oxybenzone and Avobenzone. The -benzones are compounds that are lethal to coral reproduction in very small amounts. Many common sunscreens contain between 1-10% Oxybenzone or Avobenzone, so please check the ingredients list.
Note: If you cannot find any sunscreen without Oxybenzone or Avobenzone, you should still wear sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
To prevent the spread of coral disease, it is recommended that you clean your gear when moving between dive sites. While on board your vessel, disinfect your gear in a water bath rinse, using any non-ionic detergent or soap. Once returning to shore, use a diluted bleach wash to quickly and effectively remove any disease trace. Please note that this disease poses no threat to human health, the cleaning of dive gear serves only to prevent the spread of the disease.
Buoyancy is key. Practice floating off the bottom in a shallow area first, and determine your exact weighting needs. With the correct buoyancy, you can avoid sinking and damaging reef habitat.
Clip your alternate second stage regulator (octopus) to your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) to prevent it from dragging across the reef.
Reef Ambassador Advice: Fishing
Use circle hooks whenever possible, as fish have a hard time swallowing them. More released fish that survive, means more fish later!
When bottom fishing, use braided line and a leader lighter than the breaking strength of the braid. In this way, you can leave minimal amounts of line on the reef if you are snagged.
Only take what you need, rather than what you're allowed. More fish in the water leads to more successful reproduction, which in turns means more sustainable fishing for the future.
If you don't boat, fish or dive, you can still be a Coral Champion!
Participate in any and all beach cleanups that you can attend.
Recycle as much as possible, and deposit trash into receptacles for proper disposal. Millions of tons of trash ends up in the ocean that would otherwise be properly disposed of.
Conserve water! Water purification takes a lot of energy, and it is always good to conserve energy.
Shut out the lights when you leave the house, and turn your AC to a higher temperature to conserve even more energy. This is just as good for your electric bill as it is for your reefs.
We'd like to thank the Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties for partnering with the DEP and CRCP in this effort. Click the links below to access each county's individual site. (Note: Ambassador sites are not currently all online, check back soon!)
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.