Those who have been long-time residents of the Florida Keys, aka Conchs, are intimately familiar with the ocean around them. Many can tell you about the deterioration of reefs in the surrounding waters over the years. What was once a thriving reef tract with healthy corals and an abundance of fish along the Florida Keys are now patches of diseased and bleached corals along with the rubble of dead corals.

The culprit of the problems reefs in the Keys come from a variety of sources. Climate change is a major factor in the health of our reefs. The rising temperatures and lowering pH of the ocean has wreaked havoc on corals. Not to mention they are also impacted by disease and harmful fishing practices.

The time has come to take action and responsibility as humans who have impacted these ecosystems. Everyone plays a part in this race to save reefs. We must advocate for more protections and research to conserve and restore our reefs. Coral reefs provide so many benefits aside from aesthetics including coastal protection from storms, fisheries for many species of fish, and economic benefits from fishing and tourism. Everyone has a part to play and can get involved to protect these beautiful ecosystems.

Natalie Holsclaw

Big Pine Key