Coral Reefs and Coastal Communities

Trends from socioeconomic surveying in South Florida.

aerial view of Florida Keys ocean with coral reefs visible and scattered boats

Coral reefs are under intense pressure from climate change, pollution, and unsustainable use. So what can we do about it? To answer that question, we need to better understand the connections and interactions between coral reefs and nearby human populations. NOAA socioeconomic survey results, published in 2020, show how the views of South Florida residents have changed between studies conducted in 2014 and 2019. About this image: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Southern Florida is a coral-rich popular destination for boating, fishing, and more. Around five million people visit the Keys each year. Photo: Shawn Verne

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program monitors the biological, socioeconomic, and climate conditions of U.S. coral reefs and communities through the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP). The socioeconomic component of this program collects and monitors knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of coral reefs and coral reef management, human use of coral reef resources, and demographics of the populations living in coral reef areas.

The trends discussed below are based on survey results between South Florida's first (2014) and second (2019) monitoring cycles conducted in five coastal counties that border the majority of the state's coral reefs, known as the Florida coral reef tract. Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have extensive shallow coral reef formations near its coasts.


first slide summarizing results of the 2019 NOAA socioeconomic report on coral reefs in South Florida, full transcript available in caption link

Key Takeaway: More residents believed amount of coral and ocean water quality are getting worse, while mangroves are improving.

The left side of this slide shows the state of Florida with the five counties surveyed by NCRMP highlighted in light blue: Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. The right side of the slide shows survey results: residents in these counties were asked how they perceived the current condition of certain marine resources in South Florida. The percentage of residents who believed that each resource is "good" or "very good" is shown. A full transcript is available that presents these results in plain text.

second slide summarizing results of the 2019 NOAA socioeconomic report on coral reefs in South Florida, full transcript available in caption link

Key Takeaways: The percentage of residents who believed coral reefs are important to South Florida's culture increased. The percentage of residents who believed coral reefs are important for protecting against erosion and natural disasters slightly increased. Participation in island/sandbar recreation, watersports, diving, snorkeling, and fishing has increased.

This slide summarizes the perceived importance of coral reefs (left) and resident activity participation rates (right) based on survey results from 2014 and 2019. Florida residents in each of the five surveyed counties were asked whether they agreed that coral reefs are important to a series of items (to South Florida's culture, for protection from erosion and natural disasters; and for their participation rates for a list of marine recreational activities). A full transcript is available that presents these results in plain text.

third slide summarizing results of the 2019 NOAA socioeconomic report on coral reefs in South Florida, full transcript available in caption link

Key takeaways: Support for the use of fishing catch limits and pollution control has increased. Most residents remain familiar with threats to coral reefs, and have become more familiar with coral bleaching and climate change.

This slide presents a key finding of the 2019 NCRMP report: 63% of residents felt the condition of marine resources will get worse, an increase of 11% from 2014. The slide also summarizes the support for management (left) and threat familiarity (right) based on survey results from 2014 and 2019. Florida residents in each of the five surveyed counties were asked the extent to which they oppose or support various management strategies and for their familiarity with potential threats to coral reefs. Results indicate that support for the use of fishing catch limits and pollution control has increased; and most residents remain familiar with threats to coral reefs, and have become more familiar with coral bleaching and climate change. A full transcript is available that presents these results in plain text.


Infographic Transcript: Perceptions of Current Conditions

  • The left side of this slide shows the state of Florida with the five counties surveyed by NOAA highlighted in light blue: in Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. The right side of the slide shows key results of Florida residents surveyed in these counties. Residents were asked how they perceived the current condition of certain marine resources (mangroves, amount of coral, and ocean water quality) in South Florida. The percentage of residents who believed that the status of these resources were good or very good is shown.
  • In 2014, 36% of surveyed residents said that mangrove resources were good or very good; 17% said that the amount of coral was good or very good; and 47% said that ocean water quality was good or very good. In 2019, 42% of surveyed residents said that mangrove resources were good or very good; 12% said that the amount of coral was good or very good; and 39% said that ocean water quality was good or very good.
  • Key takeaway from these results: More residents believed amount of coral and ocean water quality are getting worse, while mangroves are improving.

Infographic Transcript: Importance of Coral Reefs & Activity Participation Rates

  • This slide summarizes (1) the perceived importance of coral reefs and (2) resident activity participation rates based on survey results in 2014 and 2019 of Florida residents in each of the five surveyed counties.
  • Residents were asked whether they agreed that coral reefs are important to South Florida's culture and for protection from erosion and natural disasters. In 2014, 89% of participants said that coral reefs were important to South Florida's culture; 81% said that coral reefs were important for protection from erosion and natural disasters. In 2019, 92% of participants said that coral reefs were important to South Florida's culture; 82% said that coral reefs were important for protection from erosion and natural disasters.
  • The key takeaways on the above survey results: The percentage of residents who believed coral reefs are important to South Florida's culture increased. The percentage of residents who believed coral reefs are important for protecting against erosion and natural disasters slightly increased.
  • Residents were also asked for their participation in a list of marine recreational activities in 2014 and 2019 surveys. Activity participation rates for some of these activities are presented in this slide. In 2014, 27% of residents said that they participate in island/sandbar recreation; 26% in watersports; 33% in diving or snorkeling; and 26% in fishing. In 20194, 34% of residents said that they participate in island/sandbar recreation; 34% in watersports; 37% in diving or snorkeling; and 30% in fishing.
  • The key takeaway from the above survey results: participation in island/sandbar recreation, watersports, diving, snorkeling, and fishing has increased.

Infographic Transcript: Support for Management & Threat Familiarity

  • This slide presents a key finding of the 2019 NCRMP report: 63% of residents felt the condition of marine resources will get worse, an increase of 11% from 2014.
  • The slide also summarizes resident support for management and threat familiarity based on survey results from 2014 and 2019.
  • Florida residents in each of the five surveyed counties were asked the extent to which they oppose or support various management strategies. This graphic shows the percentage of residents who supported or strongly supported fishing catch limits and pollution control. In 2014, 85% of those surveyed supported fishing catch limits; 90% supported pollution control. In 2019, 88% of those surveyed supported fishing catch limits; 95% supported pollution control.
  • Key takeaway for support to management: support for the use of fishing catch limits and pollution control has increased.
  • Florida residents in each of the five surveyed counties were also asked about their familiarity with potential threats to coral reefs. The percentage of residents who were familiar with two of those threats is shown. In 2014, 44% of those surveyed were familiar with coral bleaching; 79% were familiar with climate change. In 2019, 55% of those surveyed were familiar with coral bleaching; 86% were familiar with climate change.
  • Key takeaway for threat familiarity: most residents remain familiar with threats to coral reefs, and have become more familiar with coral bleaching and climate change.
A thumbnail image of the full infographic

Grab a snapshot of the Florida report: download the full infographic (PDF) presented in this story.

Since 2014, the NOAA National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP) socioeconomic team has collected data to determine the human use of coral reef resources and identify perceptions about coral reefs and coral reef management across all seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions. These indicators allow researchers to measure the complex two-way relationship between the environment and humans.

Last updated:
08/10/21

Author: NOAA

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