Florida has an iconic natural environment. It is surrounded by and dependent on clean water. From the Panhandle to the Treasure Coast to the Florida Keys, you’re never more than 60 miles from the ocean. Florida’s coasts serve as treasured sanctuaries and economic engines—places to enjoy as well as earn a living and build a life. To find in depth information about our work in Florida, read our report “Currents and Crossroads.”
Florida is blessed with incredible ocean and coastal environments and wildlife, but Florida also faces enormous challenges. Harmful algal blooms plague Florida’s waterways. Pollution and water quality problems seem to flow everywhere. Proposals for offshore drilling threaten Florida’s beaches. And impacts from ever-present threats like ocean trash, overdevelopment and carbon emissions are visible at nearly every turn.
The numbers are staggering. 40,000 acres of seagrass died in Florida Bay in 2015 due to drought and decreasing freshwater flows from the Everglades. 2018 saw both devastating impacts from a major red tide crisis that originated offshore, as well as the worst blue-green algae bloom in Florida’s history, originating inland in Lake Okeechobee and then flowing into coastal waters on both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. An unprecedented outbreak of coral disease has spread across at least 200 linear miles of reef in the Florida Coral Reef Tract, reaching from the Florida Keys to as far north as Martin County. And Florida is ground zero for sea level rise, with more homes and businesses threatened by chronic flooding from sea level rise than any other U.S. state. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts 15 inches of sea level rise in the Florida Keys by the year 2045.
“Beaches are Florida’s most valuable asset. They are culturally and economically important and provide habitat for many species, as well as storm and flood protection for coastal communities.”Senior Manager and Policy Counsel for Florida Conservation
For the Florida residents and visitors who have spent years enjoying the state’s beaches, waterways and wildlife, these threats raise difficult questions. What will happen to the places I love? Are the beaches and waterways I care about being destroyed? Will my children or grandchildren get to enjoy the same moments with the ocean that I grew up with? Are we on the verge of losing some of what makes Florida so special?
The good news is: we get to answer those questions. Florida is at a crossroads, and we get to decide what the future holds.
For Florida’s ocean and coasts, this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. If we work together, there’s a lot that we can do to tackle these problems. It’s going to require action on all levels—from individual citizens to powerful policy makers in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to local leaders in the cities and towns across the state.
It’s important that the elected officials who work for YOU hear from you. They need to know that you want them to be a part of the solution. We invite ALL of Florida’s elected officials and policy-makers to join us.
“We can’t address each of Florida’s environmental issues in a vacuum. For Florida’s ocean and coasts, this is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”Director of Government Relations
You can make a big difference as an individual. Start by rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. You can join or organize a neighborhood beach cleanup to pick up trash, volunteer for a sanctuary that rehabilitates injured marine wildlife, or spend time helping one of the many organizations that patrol Florida’s beaches to locate and protect sea turtle nests. And then ask your elected officials to do the same!
We know this is a phenomenal challenge—to imagine and then realize a Florida whose beaches are (even more) vibrant, whose waters are clean and accessible to all, and whose ocean is thriving and providing for millions. We are up to the challenge—and we hope that you are, too.
Ocean Conservancy is collecting photos and stories from Floridians and Florida visitors who are experiencing the crisis first hand. Send us your photos.
Photos by © Carlos Mitchell 📷
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