Diving in the Florida Keys
Take a trip to the Florida Keys!
The Great Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States is the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world.
It lies a few miles seaward of the Florida Keys and is about 4 miles wide.
The barrier reef tract forms a great arc, concentric with the Florida Keys, with the northern end, in Biscayne National Park, oriented north-south and the western end, south of the Marquesas Keys, oriented east-west. The rest of the reef outside Biscayne National Park lies within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Isolated coral patch reefs occur northward from Biscayne National Park as far as Stuart, in Martin County. Coral reefs are also found in Dry Tortugas National Park west of the
Marquesas Keys. There are more than 6,000 individual reefs in the system.
The reefs are 5,000 to 7,000 years old, having developed since sea levels rose during the glacial period (the ice age).
Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have extensive shallow coral reefformations near its coasts. These reefs extend from near Stuart in Martin County on the Atlantic coast, to the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico. The most prolific reef development occurs seaward of the Florida Keys. The most extensive living coral reef in the United States is adjacent to the island chain of the Florida Keys. The Florida Reef Tract which extends from Soldier Key, located in Biscayne Bay, to the Tortugas Banks possesses coral formations very similar to those found in the Bahamas and Caribbean Sea. The Florida Reef Tract is nearly 150 miles long and about 4 miles wide extending to the edge of the Florida Straits. It is the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. All but the northern-most extent of the reef tract lies within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The 2,800 square nautical mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), designated in 1992, surrounds the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys and includes the productive waters of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Discontinuous and less biologically diverse coral reef communities continue northward along western Florida shores to the Florida Middle Grounds, a series of submerged pinnacles rising to within 60-80 ft of the surface, about 100 miles northwest of St. Petersburg.
In addition to local residents, millions of vacationers come to Florida in order to enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing on south Florida’s coral reefs. These activities provide a great source of income for Florida and its coastal communities. It is estimated that coral reef activities in Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties generate $3.4 billion in sales in general and income and support 36,000 jobs in the region each year.
Nov 5, 2004 by Cherylplace
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