Use nautical charts and mooring buoys to avoid damaging coral reefs when boating. Anchor in a sandy spot when mooring buoys are unavailable.
Photo: Chantal Collier
Swim well above reefs and avoid any contact with corals by your body or equipment when snorkeling, diving, spearfishing or lobstering.
Photo: Jennifer Podis
Many individuals, agencies and organizations have taken proactive steps to try to improve the status of reefs. These efforts can come in the form of government regulations and services, industry standards of best management practices, improved science and management, changes in user actions and awareness and increased community involvement. Below are a few examples of each. Feel free to join in or create your own efforts to help protect these valuable resources.
In 1990, the State of Florida banned the collection of hard corals, octocorals and other associated organisms in an effort to increase protection of these critical components of the reef. Then in 2009, the State of Florida enacted the Florida Coral Reef Protection Act (CRPA) to increase protection of coral reef resources off the coasts of Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. The CRPA provides Florida with the ability to recover monetary damages by establishing a civil penalty schedule to provide additional disincentive for damaging coral reefs. In addition, size and catch limits of fish and lobster are managed by law to reduce over fishing. Increased services such as Global Position Satellites (GPS) for navigation, enhanced nautical charts and NOAA weather radio are all available to help prevent damage to both human life and natural resources.
Increasingly, mooring buoys are being installed as a way of protecting bottom resources from anchor damage. Commercial and recreational divers and fishers should use mooring buoys whenever possible. When moorings are not available, boaters should anchor in sandy bottom areas, not on coral reef habitats. Increased presence of pump-out facilities for marine toilets provides for improved water quality. Recycling promotes environmentally sound ways of disposing of motor oils, as well as consumer waste products like plastic bags, cans and aluminum. The State of Florida and the state’s counties have also offered many different benefits to citizens who use environmentally-friendly household appliances, such as toilets and shower heads. Be sure to check with your local county to see what benefits they may offer you for replacing your older models with new, environmentally-friendly models.
As we gain greater understanding of our coral reef systems through increased science and application of information, we are better able to manage our resources for better use by all. New information on the benefits of herbivorous fishes and invertebrates on reefs has led to re-stocking efforts of key species like the long-spined sea urchin. Coral spawning studies are helping us better understand coral recruitment and restoration of damaged areas. Studies documenting the effects of Marine Protected Areas increase the effectiveness designing and managing these areas. Many citizen groups and educational institutions are engaged in active research targeted to learn more about the threats to reefs and increase our understanding of impacts to reefs. Some of the most beneficial research involves coral mapping, which allows scientists to better understand the distribution of the resource and more effectively monitor the health of reefs.
The United States, together with international partners, designated 1997 as the International Year of the Coral Reef as part of a larger effort to highlight reef conservation and 10 years later, 2008 was designated as the new Year of the Coral Reef to maintain interest and build on the work that had already been started. These highlights provide ways of reaching out to the general public and increasing their understanding of how delicate and important coral reefs are. Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas has designated May as Florida Reef Month. Check this and other sites for events, activities and cleanups near you.
Many opportunities are available for members of the public to become actively involved in helping to better understand and protect coral reef systems. Beach and underwater clean-ups, volunteer fish and coral surveys, sea turtle nesting watches, and other opportunities provide great ways to learn more about the marine environment as well as provide valuable services and information to help protect it. Taking part in scoping meetings and even expressing your opinion to your representatives is important in shaping the direction and funding allocated to protecting coral reefs. SEFCRI is an important part of improving the condition of local reefs. By bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to guide activities, everyone gets to become a partner in coral reef conservation and help advance actions that have positive impacts for reefs.