Plastic bag ban suggested to protect reefs

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 18:58:39-05

Our ocean’s reefs are one the most remarkable resources available to us. Some say their proximity to our shore is a blessing and a curse.

“Lots of beautiful corals used to be off shore here and it’s kind of decimated over time.” Nikole Heath became a dive instructor about 10 years ago to teach people the importance of protecting our reefs.

Lately she says she has seen a lot of carelessness.

I see a lot of plastic wrapped around the coral reef, I’ve also seen a lot of dead coral because of people kicking it,” Heath said. “It’s very clear that we need to do our part.”

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection says our reefs are going fast; 20% of the world’s reefs were lost before the year 2000 and a third of them sit off our coast from Martin to Monroe counties.

“When you compare the historical data from corals and fishes, there have been some drastic changes,” Vincent Encomio of “Our Florida Reefs” said.

To protect the reefs DEP says we need a management plan, something this coast has never seen. “Our Florida Reefs” is trying to create one.

On Tuesday they held the first of several meetings to gauge public opinion on suggested solutions.

Ideas include banning plastic bags, increasing penalties on reef-related violations and hiring more enforcement officers.

They are ideas Heath says are worth talking about.

Click here to see a full list of proposals. You may also provide feedback on that website or attend one of the following meetings:

North Palm Beach County
Amara Shriner’ Temple Auditorium
3650 RCA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Wednesday, January 27, 2016 12pm – 2pm & 6pm – 8pm

South Palm Beach County
Delray Beach City Library
100 West Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33444
Friday, January 29, 2016
12pm – 2pm & 6pm – 8pm