The South East Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI), coordinated under Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, momentum is driven by a  tax exempt organization 501 (c) (3)  – Friends of Our Florida Reefs (FOFR), founded in 2015. The non-profit makes prominent the words “Our Florida Reefs” as a mantra for its movement to support and enhance the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (FDEP CRCP).  Florida Statute 112.3251 identifies such an organization as a citizens’ support group (CSG), which can raise money for its organizational needs, but it also can raise funds to help fill government budget gaps. Helping to fill budget gaps could garner favor with government decision makers.  The non-profit strives to secure protections for the coral reefs offshore from the St. Lucie Inlet south to the northern border of Biscayne National Park.

FOFR established Community Working Groups (CWG or the Groups) that invite citizens to gather and discuss mutual reef issues of concern; the groups have benefit of the state government providing public notices for their meetings. The Groups’ members have identified an array of concerns they believe threaten the reefs, including recreational fishing.  Most all who enjoy Florida’s marine waters embrace the goal of conserving reefs, but the devil will be in the details.  The Groups are drafting management recommendations for the “use and protection of Florida east coast reefs,” which no doubt will include restrictions on recreational fishing, yet recreational fishing interests included in the discussions are extremely limited. Management of recreational fishing should be under the jurisdiction of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Before targeting responsible users of offshore state waters, why didn’t the Groups focus their energy directly on the major threat to the east coast reefs –government discharge of toxic runoff from Lake Okeechobee into the Atlantic Ocean and rivers?  Toxic water, 70,000 gallons per second, poses more harm to Florida’s east coast reefs than recreational fishing or boating.  

The next “all day” Community Working Group meeting is scheduled for June 1 between 8:30 am – 5:00 pm at the Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek.  The purpose of this meeting is to continue developing more management recommendations.  All day meetings are not conducive to genuine public inclusion for most people work eight hours a day. Please make your comments heard here. TBF will stay on top of this issue and be present at meetings. Stay Tuned and share with your friends.