Offshore Reef Guide
Dive Hollywood’s Reefs!
Did you know that….the Florida Reef Tract stretches from the Dry Tortugas all the way to the St. Lucie Inlet for nearly 360 linear miles making it the fifth largest coral reef ecosystem in the world!
But what exactly are coral reef ecosystems and why should you check them out?
Coral reefs are large underwater ecosystems that have been formed over hundreds of years by invertebrates called coral polyps! These coral polyps come in all shapes, colors, and sizes but they join in colonies to form the iconic reefs you might recognize; they are living animals but when they pass away their exoskeletons form stony limestone support for the coral formation which is how they grow over centuries!
They are often called the ‘rainforests of the sea’ because although they only occupy 1% of the ocean floor, they are a crucial habitat for about 25% of all ocean species! Coral reefs are home to thousands of different plants and animal species! To learn more about our coral reefs, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s informational page!
The Florida Reef Tract is the only coral reef ecosystem in the continental United States and is divided into the Inner Reef, which is 20-30 feet deep, the Middle Reef, which is 40-60 feet deep, and the Outer Reef, which is 50-100 feet deep! When diving our reefs you can expect to see colorful parrotfish, angelfish, barracuda, nurse sharks, stingrays, delicate corals, turtles, and more!
However, coral reefs are sensitive ecosystems that are sadly being threatened by a variety of factors like climate change, coral bleaching, overfishing, boat anchoring, etc.
Visit NOAA's Coral Reef Ecosystem to learn more about the dangers our reefs are facing and what you can do to help!
One way that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is getting involved and protecting our oceans and everything that lives in them is by administering a state artificial reef program that provides financial and technical assistance to coastal local governments, nonprofit corporations and state universities to construct, monitor and assess artificial reefs.
Now, how do artificial reefs work?
Artificial reefs are man made structures that mimic some characteristics of natural reefs such as providing habitats for different underwater species!
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) determine what materials can be used for artificial reef sites and once approved large structures are sunk onto the ocean floor. Artificial reefs can be submerged shipwrecks, lighthouses, limestone boulders, etc. Visit the FWC’s Artificial Reef Program to learn more.
Hollywood is proud to have over 3 miles of Atlantic coast that are home to over 20 artificial and natural reef sites for everyone to dive! Refer to the table below to see the coordinates for all of Hollywood’s different reefs!
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has an interactive map Opens a New Window. where you can view all the artificial reefs along Hollywood’s coast!
If you’re interested in visiting more reefs in Broward County, you can visit Florida Go Fishing Opens a New Window. for a list of all the artificial reefs in Broward County’s 23 miles of Atlantic coast! To read more about Broward County’s involvement in various reef deployment programs or more general information, visit Broward's Beach and Marine Reefs Opens a New Window. .
Boaters, anglers, snorkelers, and divers know the importance that this fragile ecosystem has for our community. It is estimated that the Florida Reef system supports more than 70,000 jobs and $6 billion in annual income. A survey study from June 2000 to May 2001 concluded that in Broward County a total of 9.4 million residents and visitors visited natural and artificial reefs along the County’s shoreline. The same study showed that reef related expenditures generated $2.1 billion in annual revenue for the County. It is every users’ responsibility and obligation to help protect and educate those who do not know the importance and value of this ecosystem.
Tips to help protect our reefs:
Boaters and Anglers
- Never anchor on coral reef or hard bottom. Preferably use the mooring buoys, but if you must anchor do so in sand bottom.
- Do not throw trash or food into the water. Dispose and recycle Opens a New Window. of it properly when back on shore.
- Do not touch, harass or disturb any marine life.
- Be careful not to spill any gas or oils into the water. Dispose of any hazardous waste materials Opens a New Window. properly.
- Use environmental friendly sun protection, cleaning products and bottom paint on your boat.
- Follow proper USCG Opens a New Window. and FWC boating Opens a New Window. and fishing Opens a New Window. regulations.
- Dispose of monofilament line in proper recycling receptacles, sponsored by the FWC program Opens a New Window. .
Snorkelers and Scuba Divers
- Take time to find the correct weight needed to maintain neutral buoyancy.
- Maintain all gear tucked-in or clipped to avoid dragging on the reef.
- Do not touch, harass or disturb marine life.
- Follow proper spearfishing Opens a New Window. and lobstering Opens a New Window. regulations and techniques.
- Use reef-friendly sun protection.
- Properly clean gear between each dive.
- Some trash can be picked up to help clean our reefs, like monofilament fishing line, bottles and cans. Larger or more unwieldy debris such as rope, anchors, or abandoned lobster traps can be reported.
Happy diving, Hollywood!