Southeast Florida's reefs support a rich and diverse assemblage of stony corals, octocorals, macroalgae, sponges and fishes. They span from the northern border of Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County to the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County. The Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) coordinates research and monitoring, develops management strategies and promotes partnerships to protect the coral reefs, hardbottom communities and associated reef resources of southeast Florida.
Through its role in supporting Florida's membership on the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and the U.S. All Islands Committee, the CRCP leads the implementation of the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative and contributes to the National Action Plan to conserve coral reefs. The Coral Reef Conservation Program is also charged with coordinating response to vessel groundings and anchor damage incidents in southeast Florida, and developing strategies to prevent coral reef injuries.
Why are living corals valuable?
Coral reefs are valuable natural resources. They protect our coasts by reducing wave energy from storms and hurricanes. One study estimates that annually over 5600 people, $560 million worth of building infrastructure, and $320 million worth of economic activity in Florida are protected from storm-related flooding by reefs (Storelazzi et al. 2019).
Reefs serve as a source of food and shelter and provide critical habitat for numerous species, including commercially important fisheries. Many medicines as well as other health and beauty products are derived from marine plants, algae and animals found on coral reefs.
Coral reefs are a marvelous resource for recreation, education, scientific research and public inspiration. Millions of tourists and residents enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing on Florida's coral reefs. These activities provide a tremendous source of income for Florida and its coastal communities. It is estimated that natural reefs in Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties generate $3.4 billion in sales and income and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year (Johns, Milon & Sayers, 2004; Johns, Leeworthy, Bell & Bonn, 2001).
Johns, G.M., Leeworthy, V.R., Bell, F.W. & Bonn, M.A. (2001) Socioeconomic Study of Reefs in Southeast Florida. Final Report. Hazen and Sawyer Environmental Engineers & Scientists Johns, G.M., Milon, J.W. & Sayers D. (2004) Socioeconomic Study of Reefs in Martin County, FL. Final Report. Hazen and Sawyer Environmental Engineers & Scientists Storlazzi CD, Reguero BG, Cole AD, Lowe E, Shope JB, Gibbs AE, Nickel BA, McCall RT, van Dongeren AR, Beck MW (2019) Rigorously valuing the role of US coral reefs in coastal hazard risk reduction. US Geological Survey
Coral Reef Conservation Program Links:
Florida DEP Coral Reef Conservation Program Strategic Plan
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.