New Ocean Report Card: Florida Making Progress, But Not There Yet

Environmental experts deliver first-of-a-kind progress report to Capitol

TALLAHASSEE (March 2, 2009) – While Florida has made several improvements in its efforts to restore the health of its ocean and coasts, the state still has work to do, according to a report card released today by a group of nationally and internationally recognized environmental organizations. The report card evaluated the progress the state has made in reversing the decline of its ocean and coastal resources in 2007 and 2008.

The Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, of which the Natural Resources Defense Council is a member, based its report card on the progress the state has made in implementing a set of recommendations the coalition first set forth in 2006, in a report titled “Florida's Coastal and Ocean Future: A Blueprint for Economic and Environmental Leadership.”

“The state’s huge tourism economy alone generates more than $63 billion a year and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs – their success relies on clean coasts and healthy oceans,” said Sarah Chasis, Director of the Ocean Initiative at NRDC. “The challenges facing Florida are big – and we’re seeing progress. But we’re not there yet.”

The report card assigned grades in eight categories: curbing unwise coastal development (C+), reducing pollution (C+), blocking coastal oil drilling (D), restoration of marine ecosystems (D), ensuring robust fisheries (B-), species conservation (B), reducing global warming pollution (A-), and strengthening governance (D). It was delivered to the governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President and other state officials. The report gave Florida a “C” grade overall.

The coalition emphasized that Governor Charlie Crist and the state legislator have made progress on a range of ocean policies. The governor has developed a plan to counter climate change, supported restoring funds for Florida Forever, stood up for manatees, vetoed a weak seagrass bill and fought for stronger seagrass legislation. The legislature passed a bill to eliminate stormwater outfall, a Clean Oceans bill, and a measure that ensures better management of inlets.

However, the coalition called on the state be a bold leader by raising the bar higher and setting a national example for healthy ocean and coastal resources.

To prepare the report card issued Monday, the coalition revisited the policy recommendations in its Blueprint report (available online at,and assessed the state’s interim progress. Since its publication in 2006, more than 160 coastal and ocean businesses, civic, outdoor and conservation organizations have endorsed the Blueprint and its recommendations. The coalition intends to issue report cards biannually.

Reactions from other members of the coalition follow:

Coalition member and Surfrider Foundation Florida Regional Manager Ericka D’Avanzo said the coalition’s assessment and recommendations “highlight new opportunities to make remarkable progress by, for instance, creating a central executive coastal and ocean office charged with the co-coordination protection and restoration programs. We are calling on executive, and especially legislative, support for such a policy office.”

“The state of Florida has made progress in moving toward policies that can protect the Gulf of Mexico and preserve places like Florida’s Nature Coast for future generations. Under Governor Crist’s leadership Florida has made great strides in working to reduce the cause and impact of climate change,” said coalition member Joe Murphy, Florida Program Director of the Gulf Restoration Network. “While we applaud these efforts, there is still much work to be done to truly protect our coasts. The work that has been done thus far should be continued and expanded.”

“Shoreline development is at risk from erosion along almost half of Florida’s sandy beaches already designated as critically eroded,” said Gary Appelson, a coalition member and policy director of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation and Sea Turtle Survival League. “The time to reassess coastal policies is long overdue. We may need stronger coastal building setbacks, improved design criteria, and creative new policies in order to protect our beaches and dunes for future Floridians.”

“There is overwhelming scientific and public consensus that Florida needs to move towards ecosystem-based management to protect and restore marine resources,” said Ocean Conservancy Regional Director David White. “Florida is still using 19th Century management tools to address 21st Century resource problems and lags behind other coastal states in implementing proactive conservation strategies.”

“Florida’s coral reefs are some of the most spectacularly diverse and threatened ecosystems on the planet,” said Reef Relief President Paul Johnson. “We cannot afford to continue to allow them to degrade. A grade of ‘C’ is not acceptable if we’re serious about making these resources a priority.”