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The South Florida Reef Ambassador Initiative -- Become a Coral Champion!

Florida’s Coral Reef stretches nearly 350 miles from the Dry Tortugas to the St. Lucie Inlet along the coast of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties. It is home to over 40 species of reef-building corals and over 500 species of fish, with many species of turtles and sharks making an appearance as well.

While ecologically important, Florida’s Coral Reef is also critical to the economy! In the five counties that border the reef, reef-related activities contribute $6.1 billion dollars and support 71,000 jobs annually. Healthy and resilient coral reefs safeguard against extreme weather, shoreline erosion and coastal flooding.

Although there are multiple local and global stressors affecting our reef resources, there are many things we can do to help! The five counties along Florida’s Coral Reef have become Coral Reef Ambassadors and developed a regional program to help residents, tourists, boaters, fishers and divers understand how they can help conserve and protect our local reefs. By following the Coral Reef Ambassador’s set of easy to remember rules, you can help defend the reefs too!

Coral Reef Ambassador Advice: Boating

  • Never drop an anchor on the reef. This is illegal under Florida's Coral Reef Protection Act 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, use our free 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 - obey the speed zones on the waterways.
  • Keep your vessel in one of Florida’s Clean Marinas
  • Find the closest Clean Boater Program pump-out service.
  • If you see anything wrong when you are out on the water, report it to SEAFAN - our citizen science marine incident reporting tool.

Reef Ambassador Advice: Diving

  • Buoyancy is key. Practice floating off the bottom in a shallow area and determine your exact weighting needs. With the correct buoyancy, you can avoid damaging reef habitat.
  • Clip your alternate second stage regulator (octopus) to your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) to prevent it from dragging across the reef.
  • Help clean up the reef! Carry a mesh bag with you and pick up any small or loose debris whenever possible. Please use extra caution when handling glass or other sharp objects. If you see sponges or other critters inhabiting the debris, leave them be. 
  • If you see anything wrong when you are out on the water, report it to SEAFAN - our citizen science marine incident reporting tool.

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. More fish in the water leads to more successful reproduction, which in turns means more sustainable fishing for the future.
  • If you see anything wrong when you are out on the water, report it to SEAFAN - our citizen science marine incident reporting tool.
  • Become familiar with different catch regulations by clicking here. They are updated every 6 months.

If you don't boat, fish or dive, you can still be a Coral Reef Ambassador!

  • Participate in any and all beach cleanups that you can attend. For a list of cleanups in your area.
  • Use mineral-based sunscreens or wear protective clothing when outside and in the sun.
  • Recycle as much as possible, and deposit trash into the proper receptacles. Millions of pounds of trash end up in the ocean when they are not disposed of properly.
  • Conserve water! Water purification takes a lot of energy, and it is always good to conserve energy.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room, and set your thermostat at a higher temperature to conserve even more energy. Good for your electric bill and the reefs.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides are high in nutrients and are harmful to waterways and aquifers.
  • Here’s what you can do:
    • Use fertilizers/herbicides appropriately and only as needed.
    • Manage yard pests and dispose of pet waste responsibly.
    • Conserve water and irrigate efficiently.

For questions or clarifications on how to be a Coral Reef Ambassador, please email

We'd like to thank the Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties for partnering with the DEP's Coral Reef Conservation Program in this effort. Visit the links below to access each county's individual site. (Note: Ambassador sites are not currently all online, check back soon!)

The official logo for the Coral Reef Ambassador Initiative, Monroe County Florida.

The official logo for the Coral Reef Ambassador Initiative, Miami-Dade County Florida.

Last Modified:
February 14, 2024 - 10:32am

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