The Great Florida Reef, along with its beauty, is a major economic engine for our state.
SPECIAL COVERAGE:Protecting Paradise
The system stretches from the Keys to Martin County.
A leading conservation group says the reef brings in billions of dollars to our economy every year.
But our coral reefs are threatened by warming seas, scientists say.
Dive Instructor Jeff Nelson in Riviera Beach can’t say enough about our reef system.
"Coral is very important to us as an industry," said Nelson. "It used to be a lot better."
"Reefs are declining, they’re having some challenges," said Cristin Krasco with the Nature Conservancy.
Challenges may be understatement, as those beautiful coral reefs deal with warming seas and a massive bleaching disease.
"What the corals build over time are not going to build anymore because the corals are dead," said Krasco. "The reef itself will just erode over time and all that habitat for animals will just go away."
A new federal report on climate change states that many of the remaining coral reefs in our waters will be lost.
"The time to act is now," said Krasco.
She is part of an effort called #RespectOurReef. The campaign encourages divers and anglers to take action and educate folks about taking care of our reefs.
"People are out fishing on the reef. Make sure that you don’t leave fishing lines behind. Take all your gear with you. If you’re scuba diving, make sure you don’t touch the corals," said Krasco.
She says even a little effort can make difference for this underwater economic engine.