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

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kate Slusark, 917-553-5099

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

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

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - 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
www.flcoastalandocean.org),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."

 

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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