Coral reefs need our help
The reefs offshore from Miami-Dade County are in the middle of the Florida Reef Tract, which stretches about 350 miles from Martin County to the Dry Tortugas. The Florida Reef Tract is adjacent to highly urbanized areas and therefore subject to increased stress and disease.
Become a coral champion by following simple reef conservation tips
- Never drop an anchor on the reef. This is illegal under Florida's Coral Reef Protection Act (CRPA) and subject to heavy fines. If you must drop your anchor, find a sandy bottom. If you cannot find sand, use one of the public mooring buoys installed offshore of Miami-Dade.
- Wash your boat thoroughly, including bilge, after each use. Boats can be disease vectors and transfer potentially harmful exotic species to the water and reefs.
- Avoid gas and oil spills. Add fuel in calm areas to avoid spills and do not overflow your tank.
- Avoid seagrass. Seagrass beds support coral reefs by filtering water, stabilizing sediments and providing nursery habitats for fish species that live on the reefs at maturation. Consult nautical charts and plan your routes ahead of time to avoid seagrass.
- Do not disturb sea life. Keep a sharp eye out for manatees and sea turtles on the surface and go around them.
- Depose of trash on shore and recycle. Trash and debris can spread disease and harm marine life.
- Use biodegradable, reef-friendly sun protection. Many sunscreens have 1-10 percent oxybenzone or avobenzone, which are lethal to coral reproduction even in small amounts. If you can’t avoid the benzones, use the lowest concentration. If you cannot find benzone-free sunscreen, still wear sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays.
- Clean your gear between each dive site. While on board your vessel, disinfect your gear in a water bath rinse using non-ionic detergent or soap. Once on shore, use a diluted bleach wash. This will help prevent the spread of the disease. Learn more from the FDEP’s Coral Reef Conservation Program.
- Find your correct buoyancy. Practice floating off the bottom in a shallow area to determine your weighting needs. With the correct buoyancy, you can avoid sinking and damaging reef habitat.
- Clip your regulator to your BCD. Attach your alternate second stage regulator (octopus) to your buoyancy control device (BCD) to prevent it from dragging across the reef.
- Do not touch the reef. Avoid touching the coral with hands, fins or gear.
- Clean up and report debris. Smaller marine debris can be taken and disposed of as you go. Report large debris and derelict lobster traps via the SEAFAN network.
- Follow fishing regulations. Learn and abide by the science-based fishing rules established by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC).
- Use circle hooks whenever possible. Fish have a hard time swallowing this type of hook.
- Avoid line snags. When bottom fishing, use braided line and a leader lighter than the breaking strength of the braid. This leaves a minimal amount of line on the reef if you are snagged.
- Discard fishing line in proper recycling receptacles. For more information, see FWC’s Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program.
- Take only 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. Participating in beach and bay cleanup events like Baynanza, as well as following green living tips, all contribute to a healthier reef system.
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