Common Sea Fans (<em>Gorgonia ventilina</em>) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Common Sea Fans (Gorgonia ventilina) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Photo: Chantal Collier

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Photo: Joe Marino

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Southeast Florida Reef News

2nd Annual SE Florida Reef Cleanup Results Are In!

Karen Bohnsack
NOAA Coral Fellow

a.	A lawn chair was the largest single piece of debris removed during the reef cleanup. Photo: Jessica Levy.  b. Percent contribution by group to the total marine debris collected during the 2nd Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup – sponsored by SEAFAN.
a. A lawn chair was the largest single piece of debris removed during the reef cleanup. Photo: Jessica Levy. b. Percent contribution by group to the total marine debris collected during the 2nd Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup – sponsored by SEAFAN.

In our last newsletter, we told you about the wildly successful 2nd Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup hosted by the Southeast Florida Alert Network (SEAFAN).  The event consisted of three separate cleanup days in July, when a total of 76 volunteer divers aboard seven local dive charters removed debris from 14 reefs across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. At each site divers used gloves, cutting shears, and catch bags to collect debris from the reef, and then returned to the boat to sort and record their findings.

Now, the results are in! While all marine debris has the potential to damage or entangle reef organisms, the only direct impacts to marine resources observed were a stony coral and a sponge found entangled in monofilament (fishing) line. The most unusual piece of debris recovered was a pair of dentures, while the largest single piece of debris removed was a lawn chair (see Figure a).

In total, an estimated 485 pieces of debris were removed and categorized into 5 main groups:  fishing, boating, diving, trash, and household debris. Among the total debris collected across the three counties, fishing debris was the most prevalent (43.7%), followed closely by trash (39%). The remainder of the items recovered consisted of household debris (10.3%), boating debris (4.9%), and diving debris (2.1%) (See image b above). Interestingly enough, the most common types of marine debris collected varied greatly throughout the region; in Miami-Dade County only 13.8% of the total debris recovered was attributed to fishing activities, whereas 56.9% was identified as trash. In Palm Beach County, 72.6% of the debris collected was associated with fishing activities and only 19.3% was categorized as trash.

While additional data is necessary to determine if these debris patterns will persist or fluctuate over time, such information about the general sources and distribution of marine debris provides a first indication of strategies that may eventually help reduce the total amount of marine debris generated in the first place. Because fishing debris and trash were the most common types of debris collected during the reef cleanup dives, it is possible that outreach to fishing user groups about marine debris and how to reduce its impact, combined with efforts to improve land-based waste management, may significantly reduce the amount of debris found on southeast Florida’s reefs.

For the full report from the 2nd Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup, refer to the Year Two Cleanup Summary. The 3rd Annual Southeast Florida Reef Cleanup will be held during Summer 2013. If you are interested in participating and would like more information as it becomes available, please contact Karen Bohnsack at karen.bohnsack@dep.state.fl.us.



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