Protecting our Reefs
Right here in Martin County lies the very northern extent of the Florida Coral Reef. This iconic and hugely important coastal ecosystem is right off the Florida coast extending from the St. Lucie Inlet to the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico, totaling 350 miles. As the only state in the Continental United States with extensive shallow reef formations near its coast, Florida and its southern counties have been working together to understand, protect and restore this valuable treasure. With many stressors facing our reef today, collaborative and informative efforts are increasing awareness of this extraordinary resource. Below you can learn more about our reef and how you can play a role in its protection.

How to Protect Florida's Coral Reef

Reef-Safe Sunscreen

This article by the Coral Reef Alliance discusses the negative impacts that certain chemicals in sunscreen have on our reef system, notable Oxybenzone and Octinoxate.

As an alternative, this article lists the top 10 reef-safe sunscreens in 2023. Many mentioned are sold in our locally owned surf and paddle shops, so look for them when you are shopping!

Snorkeling + Diving Tips

Snorkeling and diving are some of the best and most popular ways to explore Florida’s Coral Reef.

Below you’ll find some coral-friendly practices that can help you explore the reef when snorkeling or diving without damaging it.

  • Learn how much weight is ideal to get you to the bottom. Practice your buoyancy skills before diving on coral reefs.
  • Swim at an attitude parallel to the reef to avoid kicking it with your fins. Shallow artificial reefs are good places to practice.
  • Try to not disturb any sand with your fins, as the sediment can smother coral.
  • You will enjoy a longer, safer dive if you hover a bit above the reef. The air in your SCUBA tank will actually last longer.
  • It is imperative that you clean your gear when moving to different areas along the reef. Microbial organisms can hitch a ride on unwashed dive gear, spreading disease from dive to dive.
  • Clip the alternate second stage regulator (octopus) to your Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) so that it does not drag across the reef.
Fishing + Boating Tips

Whether fishing, sailing, or cruising, Southeast Florida is a mariner’s paradise. Calm, clear waters, spectacular scenery, and abundant wildlife beckon boaters from around the world.

Read below to learn how to responsibly enjoy the reef and its wildlife.


  • Learn and abide by the science-based fishing regulations established by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
  • Learn about proper fish handling and gear to increase a released fish’s chance of survival.
  • Properly dispose of your fishing line at one of FWC’s monofilament recycling bin locations.
  • Take only what you need. Fish are not just products of the coral reef ecosystem; they are also part of its fragile ecology.


  • Anchor in sand as opposed to on the coral reef.
  • When available, use mooring buoys for a risk-free way to enjoy the reef! HERE is a map to mooring buoys in Martin County.
  • Boats can be disease vectors and transplant exotic species. Wash your boat thoroughly, including the bilge, before traveling from one area to the next.
  • Always check for corals, seagrass, or other sensitive habitats before anchoring.
  • Report marine incidents to SEAFAN or C-OCEAN.
Marine Debris Tips

Marine debris is anything man-made and discarded that enters the marine environment. Most trash comes from land-based sources, such as through inland waterways or trash left on the beach.

Debris can spread diseases, invasive species, become navigational hazards, endanger human health, and harm wildlife. For example, sea turtles mistake plastic for the jellyfish they feed on. Here are few ways how you can help:

  • Participate in marine/ beach/reef cleanup events and activities.
  • Recycle! – Dispose of trash and recyclable materials in the proper receptacles or bring trash and recyclables home.
  • Reduce marine debris from fishing gear.
  • Bring lost fish traps and tangles of fishing line to recycling bins.
  • Hire local guides when visiting the coral reef ecosystem
  • Respect marine animals and their environment; leave coral and living shells where you found them.
  • Re-use works! Keep reusable bags handy, carry a metal straw, use a refillable water bottle, consider reusable containers instead of disposable baggies.
Coral Reef Ambassadors

The Florida counties of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin have banded together to create a “Coral Reef Ambassador” Initiative. The five counties have developed this regional program to help residents, tourists, boaters, fishers and divers understand how they can help conserve and protect our local reefs. By following the Coral Reef Ambassador’s set of easy to remember rules, you can help defend the reefs too!

Stand with Martin County as we work to #ProtectOurParadise. Learn more about Florida’s iconic reef here.


Invasive Lionfish

The highly invasive lionfish is here to stay in our Atlantic coastal ecosystems and Martin County is no exception. Despite their venomous spines, they are a delicious fish to eat and many local divers and fishers help to get them on restaurant plates. To learn more, click here and never hesitate to ask about how you can help at any local dive shop! Whether you are an avid diver and spear fisher or you like to snorkel and just want to report seeing one, it all makes a difference!

Common Questions
Why are living corals valuable?
What is happening to the coral reefs?
What are “Coral Reef Ambassadors?" How can I help?
What do we know about the Coral disease outbreak taking place across the Florida Reef Tract?
What is the Florida Reef Resilience Program?
What is Florida’s Coral Reef Conservation Program?
What is the northern section of the Florida Reef Tract?