Happy Coral Reef Awareness Week!
The waters that surround the Florida Keys are magical. From the shallow, aquamarine seagrass flats to the deep, cerulean ocean offshore, life abounds. But the gem of the Florida Keys lies just below the surface: our coral reef.
I remember snorkeling at John Pennekamp as a child. I relished the experience: the excitement of hopping off the boat for that first glimpse of the world below, the wonder of brightly colored fish playing hide and seek, the thrill of the shiny barracudas that make your heart race, and, of course, the remarkable structures of living corals as far as your eyes can see. As a ten-year-old, these ancient and magnificent creatures changed my mindset forever. It’s one of the reasons I’m a conservationist today.
Fast forward just a few decades and Florida’s reef tract – from Biscayne Bay to Dry Tortugas National Park – is almost functionally extinct. Unlike the Florida Keys of my youth, disease and death have dulled our once-vibrant and colorful coral reef. And despite all the amazing work by environmentalists who came before me, serious threats to our reefs remain. This remarkable and rare ecosystem has no vote and no voice. It is reliant on people like you and me for its protection.
I have some genuinely horrifying news. Climate change, ocean acidification, water pollution, increased traffic from cruise ships, and other man-made impacts are causing a shocking and rapid die-off of corals. We could be the last generation of Floridians to have a living coral reef.
Protecting Florida’s coral reef and the myriad species it supports should be an issue that all politicians can get behind. Yet, big polluting industries continue to flex their financial and political muscle to influence policy and skirt responsibility.
It’s up to people like you and me to give voice to our oceans and defend our reef before it’s gone forever. Your gift will go a long way in ensuring that FCV can mobilize volunteers and advocate for our coral reefs in the halls of the state legislature.
For 10,000 years, Florida’s coral reef has stood as a stunning example of life on planet earth. I refuse to sit back and watch as it dies before our eyes. I’m counting on you.