The Florida reef tract

Why Coral Reefs are so important for FL
August 9, 2018
Diving in Florida Keys
August 9, 2018

The Florida reef tract

Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have extensive shallow coral reef formations near its coasts. These reefs extend from near Stuart in Martin County on the Atlantic coast, to the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico. The most prolific reef development occurs seaward of the Florida Keys. The most extensive living coral reef in the United States is adjacent to the island chain of the Florida Keys. The Florida Reef Tract which extends from Soldier Key, located in Biscayne Bay, to the Tortugas Banks possesses coral formations very similar to those found in the Bahamas and Caribbean Sea. The Florida Reef Tract is nearly 150 miles long and about 4 miles wide extending to the edge of the Florida Straits. It is the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. All but the northern-most extent of the reef tract lies within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The 2,800 square nautical mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), designated in 1992, surrounds the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys and includes the productive waters of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Discontinuous and less biologically diverse coral reef communities continue northward along western Florida shores to the Florida Middle Grounds, a series of submerged pinnacles rising to within 60-80 ft of the surface, about 100 miles northwest of St. Petersburg.In addition to local residents, millions of vacationers come to Florida in order to enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing on south Florida’s coral reefs. These activities provide a great source of income for Florida and its coastal communities. It is estimated that coral reef activities in Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties generate $3.4 billion in sales in general and income and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year.