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Oceans and Coasts Should be Top Priority for State of Florida
Groups Provide Ocean, Coastal Renewal Blueprint for Florida, Highlight Opportunity for State to Lead the Nation in Coastal Protection

TALLAHASSEE, FL (April 16, 2007) – Citing escalating problems with coastal pollution, red tide outbreaks, plummeting fish catches, unsustainable beach development, and loss of coral reefs and other marine habitats, over 160 coastal and ocean businesses, civic, outdoor, and conservation organizations have now endorsed a blueprint for protecting and preserving Florida’s coastal environment and economy. It is the first time such a large number of diverse groups has joined together in the name of comprehensive ocean conservation for Florida.
 
The report, “Florida’s Coastal and Ocean Future: A Blueprint for Economic and Environmental Leadership,” originally published in September 2006 and reprinted this April, identifies the major problems threatening Florida’s ocean waters and coastlines, and the actions needed to solve them. It builds on the recommendations by two recent national reports warning that the oceans are in serious trouble, and calling for urgent action to reverse the decline.
 
 
“Florida’s huge fishing and tourism economies generate more than $60 billion a year, and they depend on clean coasts and healthy oceans,” said Sarah Chasis, director of the Ocean Initiative for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “No state is more dependent on the natural resources of its coastal waters for food, jobs and recreation. Florida has an opportunity to be the leading state in the nation for ocean and coastline protection.”
 
The cumulative impacts of decades of overfishing, coastal development and pollution are endangering Florida’s marine ecosystems,” said David White, Regional Director of The Ocean Conservancy. “We have an obligation to future generations to improve the way we manage these resources. An ocean of vanishing species and unraveling ecosystems should not be the legacy that we bequeath to our children.”
 
The report addresses six key threats to a healthy Florida coast: Unwise coastal development, pollution, coastal drilling, unsustainable fishing practices, global warming, and the lack of a coordinated management and regulatory framework. Solutions include the reduction of government subsidies that encourage growth in high-risk coastal areas; strengthening of water quality standards; adoption of an ecosystem-based management approach to marine life and fisheries; and establishment of unified, coordinated government leadership for ocean and coastal resources.
 
By implementing these solutions, Florida will be protecting both the fishing and tourism industries that sustain the state’s economy, as well as Florida’s unique and precious coastal habitat that spans from the sand dunes on the shore to the coral reefs off the coast.
 
“Florida's endangered coral reefs generate so much for so many in our state, yet they are among the most endangered in the world due to heavy use, pollution, global warming, and loss of marine habitats,” said DeeVon Quirolo, Executive Director of Reef Relief. “Our leaders can turn the tide by implementing common sense solutions to reverse the decline and insure that Florida's future includes healthy coral reefs, clean ocean waters and abundant fisheries.”
 
“Florida perpetuates its own financial and insurance problems by allowing development in high risk areas adjacent to and beyond the coastal construction line,” said Ericka D'Avanzo, Florida Regional Manager of the Surfrider Foundation. “By hiding the risks of coastal development in the existing subsidy programs, such as so-called ‘beach renourishment,’ residents are given a false sense of security while taxpayers foot the bill, twice. Citizens pay for the projects and pay again with the destruction of public trust resources -- our reefs--which provide natural storm-surge protection on top of their economic and environmental value.”
 
“It is important that Florida address global warming because warmer ocean temperatures and sea-level rise threaten to undercut the vast majority of our efforts to protect Florida's ocean ecosystems,” said Gerald Karnas, Regional Outreach Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation. “If we do not confront global warming in a meaningful way, many of Florida's coastal ecosystems will forever be altered and not for the better.”
 
“The future of Florida’s beaches, dunes and coastal habitats hangs in the balance, threatened by coastal development, sea level rise, increasing coastal erosion, and construction of miles and miles of sea walls,” said Gary Appelson, Policy Coordinator for the Caribbean Conservation Corporation. “Now is the time to protect these resources through bold leadership and innovative new policies.”
 
At present, Florida’s ocean and coastal policies are outdated, fractured and unfocused. Ineffective marine programs are currently scattered in various state agencies that do not communicate with one another. Following the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report in 2004, the state legislature attempted to update the state’s ocean policy by creating the Florida Oceans and Coastal Resources Council. The council, which had wide public support and involvement, was to have established a statewide ocean research plan and made management recommendations to the legislature. But the former Governor subsequently vetoed the budget appropriation for priority ocean research recommended by the Council. 
 
Florida’s new leader, Governor Charlie Crist, is poised to show outstanding conservation leadership. In his first State of the State address, Governor Crist identified global climate change as one of the most important issues of the century and committed Florida to becoming a leader in the worldwide movement to reduce global warming emissions. The governor has also addressed several of the Blueprint recommendations in his budget proposals.
 
“There is great opportunity now for Florida’s policy makers to show that the State will protect its ocean resources and the economies that rely on them,” said Environmental Defense Policy Analyst Amanda Leland.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


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