Keep Our Paradise Perfect
The South Florida coastline from Martin County through Monroe County is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States and is the world’s third largest coral reef system measuring at 105 miles. Though a majority of the current reef system is vibrantly healthy, we are aware of the stress Florida’s coral reefs are facing. Locally, the Florida counties of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin have banded together to create a “Coral Reef Ambassador” initiative, which provides actions individuals can take to safeguard our precious resource. Stand with Martin County as we work to #ProtectOurParadise. Learn more below.
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Experience Paradise

The Florida Reef Tract, which stretches about 350 miles from the Dry Tortugas National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart, is the world’s third largest coral reef. This spectacular resource offers an enormous variety of adventures for divers, anglers, and boaters.

These brilliant reefs offer a globally unique opportunity to dive on large schools of docile goliath groupers—the world’s largest grouper that can grow to hundreds of pounds! Here in our area, it is possible to see five species of sea turtle on a single dive, see or photograph up to 45 species of coral and hundreds of species of fish, some of which you will not find anywhere else.

The Florida Reef Tract is a major contributor towards making Florida the “Fishing Capital of the World”. Majestic migratory predators such as Sailfish, Mahi-Mahi, and Wahoo patrol the reefs in search of their prey fish. Delicious, hard-fighting bottom dwellers, including a tremendous variety of snappers, groupers, and grunts, lurk among the colorful coral heads. Come join us for a fishing trip of a lifetime.

We are proud of our reef and grateful for all that it provides us, including great diving, boating, and fishing in the area. As visitors, you have an opportunity to help us conserve this irreplaceable resource.

Learn more about how you can help below.

 

Reef Conservation Tips for Divers

Tens of thousands of divers descend on the Florida Reef each year, so coral-friendly diving practices are essential. It is vital that you avoid touching the corals with hands, fins, or gear. Here are some tips to avoid contact:

  • Learn how much weight is ideal to get you to the bottom. Practice your buoyancy skills before diving on coral reefs.
  • Swim at an attitude parallel to the reef to avoid kicking it with your fins. Shallow artificial reefs are good places to practice.
  • You will enjoy a longer, safer dive if you hover a bit above the reef. The air in your SCUBA tank will actually last longer.
  • Clip the alternate second stage regulator (octopus) to your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) so that it does not drag across the reef. This goes for lobster hunting gear as well.
  • When diving for lobsters, wear gloves to protect your hands, and if you must touch the reef, please do not touch corals.
  • Spearfishermen—if you need to sit on the bottom to reload or float a fish to the surface, find a sandy spot to settle on.
  • It is imperative that you clean your gear when moving to different areas along the reef. Microbial organisms can hitch a ride on unwashed dive gear, spreading disease from dive to dive. It is important to disinfect wetsuits, masks, fins and SCUBA equipment. While on board your vessel, clean gear with non-ionic detergents and soaps. Use a diluted bleach wash once you return to shore.
  • Opt for biodegradable, reef-friendly sun protection. Sunscreens containing between 1-10 percent Oxybenzone may harm corals. If you can’t avoid Oxybenzone, opt for the lowest concentration. Any small effort to reduce Oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers. Please do continue to wear sunscreen to prevent the risk of skin cancer, as the sun in South Florida is very strong.
Reef Conservation for Anglers and Boaters

Whether fishing, sailing, or cruising, Southeast Florida is a mariner’s paradise. Calm, clear waters, spectacular scenery, and abundant wildlife beckon boaters from around the world.

To protect the coral reef ecosystem, it is important to learn and abide by the science-based fishing regulations established by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (SAFMC). Please do not take more than you are allowed.

Better yet, take only what you need. Fish are not just products of the coral reef ecosystem; they are also part of its fragile ecology. Like productive citizens, they provide goods and services to the ecosystem to which they belong.

Besides abiding by fishing regulations, here are more reef-friendly fishing and boating tips:

  • Do not drop an anchor on the reef. Anchor in sand up current of the reef and pay out line until the boat is over the reef.
  • Use circle hooks. Fish rarely swallow circle hooks, and they are easier to remove, so more undersized and unwanted fish you release will survive.
  • Discard fishing line in proper recycling receptacles.
  • When bottom fishing, use braided line and a leader lighter than the breaking strength of the braid. If you get hung up, you’ll leave a minimal amount of line on the reef.
  • Seagrass meadows in estuaries support coral reefs by filtering water, stabilizing sediments, and providing nursery habitats for fish species that live on reefs once they mature. Propeller scars cause seagrass meadows to erode. Plan your route ahead of time, consult nautical charts frequently, and know your vessels draft to avoid running aground on seagrass or reef. There are major penalties for harming either. Click here for more boating tips and seagrass. Click here for the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Locator Map and application.
  • Mooring buoys offer risk-free opportunities to “park” in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, off the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, and the Indian River Lagoon.
  • Boats can be disease vectors and transplant exotic species. Wash your boat thoroughly, including the bilge, before traveling from one area to the next.
  • Fuel up and add oil in a calm area to avoid spills. Be careful not to overflow your fuel tanks or oil receptacle.
  • Dispose of trash on shore and recycle!
  • Make sure to avoid sunning sea turtles or manatees.
Stand with the Locals

Tourism is a vital industry in Martin County that depends on the support of our local community. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us in protecting our paradise, and we urge you to stand with us in the meantime by continuing to support our many locally owned, tourism-dependent businesses. We are actively promoting the many one of a kind local businesses including attractions, shopping, arts, and events.

As we work to protect our paradise, it is important that we remember and share the things we love most about Martin County.

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Reef Conservation is Something We Can All Take Part In!

Marine debris is anything man-made and discarded that enters the marine environment. Most trash comes from land-based sources. Trash on the ground may be swept into inland waterways by rain and wind, where it will then make its way into the ocean through rivers and streams. Trash left on beaches is also a culprit.

Debris can spread diseases, invasive species, become navigational hazards, endanger human health, and harm wildlife. For example, sea turtles mistake plastic for the jellyfish they feed on, and ingest it. Here are few ways how you can help:

  • Participate in marine/ beach/reef cleanup events and activities.
  • Recycle! Dispose of trash and recyclable materials in the proper receptacles or bring trash and recyclables home.
  • Reduce marine debris from fishing gear.
  • Bring lost fish traps and tangles of fishing line to recycling bins.
  • Hire local guides when visiting the coral reef ecosystem
  • Respect marine animals and their environment; leave coral and living shells where you found them.
  • Re-use works! Keep reusable bags handy, carry a metal straw, use a refillable water bottle, consider reusable containers instead of disposable baggies.
Invasive Lionfish

We need your help controlling the population of invasive lionfish, which consume large numbers of native reef fish and threaten the sustainability of our fisheries, as well as the health of our reef. If you have any experience spear fishing with pole spears, we encourage you to carry a spear suitable for those slow-moving invaders. They are delicious, but you need to carry a container that their sharp, poisonous spines can’t penetrate.   Keep your eyes out for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s  yearly Lionfish Challenge, where divers can win prizes associated with removing this invasive species. Visit http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/lionfish/ to learn more.

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Common Questions
Why are living corals valuable?
What is happening to the coral reefs?
What are “Coral Reef Ambassadors?" How can I help?
What do we know about the Coral disease outbreak taking place across the Florida Reef Tract?
What is the Florida Reef Resilience Program?
What is Florida’s Coral Reef Conservation Program?
What is the northern section of the Florida Reef Tract?
Martin County- Dive-In
What is Anchor Damage?
Fish Kill and Disease Information
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Thank You!

Tourism is a vital industry in Martin County and we urge you to stand together with us in helping support our local businesses.