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Boating Tips to Protect Coral Reefs Quick Topics

Use navigational charts to locate coral reefs.

Every year, inattentive boaters run aground, destroying coral colonies that are hundreds of years old. When boating, refer to nautical charts to see if you are boating in a known reef area. From the water's surface, reefs appear golden-brown. If you see brown, you may hit a reef. Remember: Brown, brown, run aground; blue, blue sail on through. Visit www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/AtlanticCoastViewerTable.shtml for more information.

Tie up to mooring buoys or anchor in sand.

If you are boating near a reef, use mooring buoy systems when they are available. If no moorings are available, be cautious when anchoring your boat. Do not deploy the anchor directly on a reef. Anchors can crush, dislodge and kill fragile corals and other living reef organisms. Reefs are usually composed of coral and sandy areas; be sure to anchor in the sand.

Eliminate marine debris and pollution.

In addition to picking up your own trash, carry away the trash that others have left behind. More than just an unsightly nuisance, litter poses a significant threat to the health and survival of marine organisms which can swallow or get tangled in beverage containers, plastic bags, six-pack rings, fishing line, fishing tackle and other debris. Do not dispose of trash or other debris in the water. Be sure to pump out your sewage only at marina pump-out stations and dispose of trash in designated areas.

Take only pictures and leave only bubbles.

Keep your fins, gear, and hands away from the reef. Contact with the reef can hurt you and will damage delicate coral animals. Disturbed sediments can smother and kill corals, so take care to stay off the bottom and avoid kicking up sand.

If it belongs in the sea, let it be.

Leave animals, shells, coral (even when dead), sponges in the ocean, undisturbed. If you see environmental disturbances or damage at your dive sites, report them to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's 24 hour Law Enforcement Dispatch Line at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). Remember, your interactions with coral reefs and their inhabitants can have lasting results. Use caution and have a great experience!

Avoid trolling for fish above shallow reefs.

Anglers should avoid shallow coral reefs when trolling. Hooks can injure and scar coral, leaving it vulnerable to infection by microscopic organisms that can lead to death.

Follow fishing regulations.

Fish and marine invertebrates, like lobster, crabs and shrimp, are integral to maintaining healthy reef ecosystems. Learn and observe fishing regulations, seasonal closures and bag limits. Visit www.floridaconservation.org for more information.

Support reef-friendly businesses.

Ask what your dive shop, boating store, tour operator, hotel and other coastal businesses are doing to protect coral reefs. This is especially important in coastal areas with reefs. Let them know you are an informed consumer and care about reefs.


Last updated: July 25, 2016

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