Florida Coral Reef Tract
The Florida Reef Tract (FRT) stretches from St. Lucie Inlet south to the Dry Tortugas and is 360 miles long. The reef remains an important part of Florida’s ecology and economy. The FRT comprises the only living nearshore coral reef ecosystem in the continental United States. In addition to its unique ecology, the Florida Reef Tract is of huge economic importance to Southeast Florida. This nearshore marine ecosystem is essential for supporting over 71,000 jobs and contributing over $6 billion to Florida’s economy, while annually serving approximately 6 million residents and over 38 million tourists. In addition, Florida coral reefs are the first line of defense for our beaches and coastal communities against wave action and storm surge, providing annual flood protection valued at over $675 million and over $1 billion during extreme weather events.
The Florida Reef Tract continues to experience a significant coral disease outbreak of epidemic proportions stretching from St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County to reefs past Key West in Monroe County (roughly 300 linear miles). Signs of this coral disease have now also been reported in nine locations around the Caribbean, including the US Virgin Islands. Experts agree this is the worst coral disease outbreak ever documented on the planet.
The South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils created the Florida Reef Tract Work Group to address the critical coral reef issue. Active discussions are ongoing with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, county and city elected officials, business leaders, scientists, and conservation groups to develop ways to protect the coral reef through research, legislation, and funding.