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Keep a watchful eye on the water

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Now that the diving season in South Florida is going strong, giving us gorgeous days filled with sunshine, flat seas and climbing water temperatures, it is time to do some double duty below the surface.

As you embark on your diving adventures, each dive brings with it a new experience. While enjoying your bottom time, keep a watchful eye out for marine debris, vessel groundings which include anchor damage, invasive species disrupting the ecosystem, harmful algal blooms, fish disease, coral bleaching and discolored water. So if you just happen to come upon any of these warning signs, what do you do? Who do you notify?

Southeast Florida Action Network (SEAFAN) is a responsive service which takes the information that comes in via an online method at www.seafan.net or by phone at (866) 770-SEFL (7335). SEAFAN, as it is known by, is more of a reporting and response system that tracks this crucial incoming information so that action can be taken where and when necessary before the problem begins to expand. The area that is currently monitored goes from the northern third of the Florida Reef Tract, from the northern border of Biscayne National Park in Miami-Dade County, all the way up to the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County.

The SEAFAN force is a growing population of divers, snorkelers, fishermen, boaters, law enforcement officers, environmental professionals and all those water enthusiasts who are concerned about saving our oceans and the habitat that resides within them.

It may not be so obvious, but our precious coral reefs in South Florida not only enhance the ocean, but stimulate our economy on land as well. They are responsible for 61,000+ local jobs, more than $5.7 billion to the local economy and provides habitat for 30% of our fisheries.

In the end, once the reports are documented and filed accordingly, they become the responsibility of one of three particular agencies/programs and they follow through. Those agencies/programs are the 'Marine Debris Reporting & Removal Program', 'Reef Injury Prevention and Response Program' and 'Southeast Florida Marine Event Response Program.'

The assistance that you provide, no matter how large or how small, gives SEAFAN the ammunition they need to conquer the obstacles that will have an effect that will last a lifetime. Go to the website and see how easy it can be to become a 'reef watcher.'

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