People benefit greatly from southeast Florida’s coral reefs, often without realizing it. Every day, we enjoy the reefs’ coral sand beaches, delicious seafood, and their ability to slow wave action during storms. Plus, reefs are among the most diverse habitats on earth and have already contributed to curing human diseases.1
Located within one mile of southeast Florida’s famous beaches, our reefs are closer to the shoreline than 1-95. This proximity offers amazing opportunities for people to enjoy reef-related activities, such as fishing, diving and boating, but it also puts coral reefs at risk of human impacts. Southeast Florida is one of the most popular ocean sporting destinations in the world, with nearly 30 million tourists visiting each year.2 On an average day, more than 41,000 people go fishing (recreational, charter, and commercial), boating, diving (recreational, commercial, and research), and snorkeling in southeast Florida.3 Our residents and visitors also enjoy surfing, kite boarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, and other ocean-related sports.
Southeast Florida’s reefs annually support 61,000 jobs and contribute $5.7 billion in sales and income to the economy.3 We have a shared responsibility to manage our coral reefs wisely.
Southeast Florida’s Growing Population
Southeast Florida has a large and increasing population. In just the four counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin, southeast Florida has almost six million residents and one-third of the state’s population.4 This population is larger than most states and many countries, including Singapore, Denmark, and Ireland. Growth here has typically outpaced predictions, and by 2030, the region’s population is predicted to reach 11 million.5 More people means more use of, and likely impacts to, the reef.
How People Impact Our Coral Reefs
People are an integral part of their environment, but they also have the power to negatively impact it. Even those who don’t spend time on the water may unknowingly harm the reefs by washing lawn fertilizers and other household products into storm drains that eventually make their way into the ocean and lead to coral reef decline.
Increasingly, people want to be near the ocean. Beachfront developments, such as hotels, restaurants, and homes have led to a developed coastline throughout the region. Unsustainable coastal construction practices can cause major direct and indirect impacts to coral reefs, and the surrounding coastal habitats.6
Florida also has the most registered boats in the nation.7 Southeast Florida alone has more than 125,000 registered boats — primarily recreational boats that are used for fishing, diving and other reef-related activities.8 Boat anchors that hook into the reef can permanently damage the reefs structure. Thousands of anchors hitting the reefs every day adds up to a lot of damage!
What You Can Do
Southeast Floridians have witnessed their coral reefs decline over the years, and due to this they have changed where they fish, dive, and snorkel. Sixty percent of people surveyed thought that if management doesn’t improve, coral reefs would continue to degrade.9
Effective coral reef management options do exist, and everyone has a role in the management success and stewardship of Florida’s ocean resources. Join OUR FLORIDA REEFS to help identify management actions to ensure healthy coral reefs in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties.