The Reefs for South Florida are Dying
In just 2 years time, there have been 21 out of the total of 35 species of coral in South Florida that have just disappeared. There are multiple causes for this, greater acidity in the ocean, disease, overfishing, pollution, dredging, and so many others. The State Rep Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek says, “The epidemic is unique since it involves multiple diseases and affects several species of coral, some listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, Aside from its natural beauty, our reef is also vital to our coastal protection and economic vitality.”
We all are aware that coral reefs are vital to the marine life, and this cannot be stated enough. The reefs may only cover a mere 1% of the ocean floor, they create homes for more than a quarter of all ocean life! Coral Reef Alliance agrees, and their conservation group has been hard at work to get others to notice.
Protection is Coming!
The Florida Legislature is coming up with a new way to protect the reefs and will be spending $1 million on this new plan. They will be creating the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation area. This will go toward fighting for the reefs that are on the northern edge of the Biscayne National Park all the way to the St. Lucie River estuary which is in Martin County.
The barrier reefs that are in the Florida Keys as wells as southern Miami-Dade have already been placed under federal protection and currently operate under a conservation plan that has been established by the National Park Service. Which ensures that the problems that arise are handled quicker and the trouble areas are patrolled regularly. This is an important step in the right direction to ensure that the reefs will be protected from now on and help conserve and protect the dying reefs.
The reefs that will be in the northern part of Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Martin, and Broward counties will fall under state rules that cover all the Florida waters. This includes bans on anchoring in the surrounding areas, and encouraging fishing and removing invasive species in the area, such as the lionfish. The legislations was sponsored by Jacobs and was passed unanimously by the House, which created a study to discover the main cause for reef damage in the areas that are affected.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection conducted a study that showed the northern section of the reef area brings in a total of $3.4 billion dollars in economic impact and also plays a part in creating 36,000 jobs, primarily due to the trade for tourism in the area. However, fishing and secondary industries that surround tourism also play a role.
Kristin Jacobs says, “There is one point upon which we all agree: Before we can act, we must understand why the corals are dying, That is what the four-county monitoring effort will do. Hopefully, our scientists will learn what they need to reverse the damage.”
Now we all know that both bills from the House and from the Senate have the money in the budget, but the bill is still not a done deal. The Senate bill will still need to get the blessing of the current Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in order to get on the floor and be official.
The good news is that Negron has been known for his environmentally-friendly stance. He is said to be the environmentalist’s’ favorite Republican. He has supported the giant reservoir to the south for Lake Okeechobee in order to prevent the green slime that would pollute St. Lucie River and send more water into the Everglades.
It is not clear, however, what his opinions are on South Florida’s system of reefs, but we are all hopeful that his concerns for the environment extend to our reefs as well. There is hope that this bill will be voted on this week. Traditionally, it is rare for a bill that was not completely through all committees to the Senate floor, but that does not mean that there is not hope. We still strongly believe that the bill will come through in order to protect the dying South Florida Reefs. The press secretary for Negron, Katie Betta, has said that Negron has not yet decided no whether or not any bill will be moved to the floor, but that a decision will be made in the next week.