In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Alex Risius (Assistant Program Director) and Mill McCleary (Executive Program Director) to talk about the data behind what’s happening to our coral reefs.
We talk about how Reef Relief® is making a difference on a global scale, and how tiny changes you make, can make a big difference to our oceans.
Reef Relief® is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to improving and protecting our coral reef ecosystem.
Reef Relief® Goals
- Focus on rigorous science to educate the public & advocacy toward policymakers to achieve conservation, protection, and restoration of coral reefs
- Increase public awareness of the importance and value of living coral reef ecosystems
- Increase scientific understanding and knowledge of living coral reef ecosystems
- Strengthen grassroots community-based efforts to protect coral reef ecosystems
- Design, develop, support, and implement strategies for marine protected areas associated with coral reef ecosystems
- Encourage and support eco-tourism as part of sustainable community development that protects and preserves coral reef ecosystems
- Strengthen our organizational capacity to carry out our mission
Reef Relief is a registered 501(c)3 organization.
Discover Coral Reefs School Program
This program provides ocean education to over 6,000 K-12th grade students from public and private schools throughout the Florida Keys. The Discover Coral Reefs School Program, teaches K- 12th grade students from Key West to Miami the importance of ocean and coastal ecosystems through activities in the classroom and on the water. The program supplements the current science curriculum of these schools by focusing on marine science lessons that are of particular importance to students and families residing in Florida.
The Coral Camp Summer Program uses interactive activities and field trips to teach children 6- 14 years of age about ocean ecology, coral reefs, marine life and sustainability. Camp activities include lessons on the identification of common corals, fish, and invertebrates, oceanography, tides, symbiosis, snorkel etiquette and leave no trace principles. Each year Reef Relief offers scholarships sponsored by local businesses and community members so that children regardless of income have a chance to participate in this unique program. Over the summer, 260 local and vacationing youth will take part in the program.
Community & Environmental Stewardship
In partnership with community groups and government agencies, Reef Relief coordinates volunteer programs that cultivate an attitude of stewardship within the community. Since 2010, Reef Relief’s coastal clean-up program has removed over 150,000 lbs of marine debris from the shores and waters of the Florida Keys.
Reef Relief has partnered with the City of Key West to educate residents and visitors about stormwater and local water quality through the Stormwater Education and Outreach Project. The Key West High School Reef Relief Club and alternative spring break volunteers each year have stenciled storm drains throughout the City of Key West with no dumping messages. Other Stormwater Education Programs we run include our “Skip the Straw” Campaign, “Protect your Skin, Protect our Reef” sunscreen campaign, and our storm drain stenciling project.
The distribution of nearly 100,000 brochures to Florida Keys locations including resorts, hotels and guesthouses, Chambers of Commerce, educational facilities, visitor centers and more are an important way to educate the public about our fragile ecosystem. Information found in the “Don’t Teach Your Trash to Swim” poster, “Coral Reef Guide for Kids of All Ages” brochure, “Coral Reefs” brochure and the “Florida Keys is a No Discharge Zone for Boater Sewage” brochure are all important resources to inform the general public. Join in our efforts to improve and protect our coral reef ecosystem.
For 32 years, Reef Relief has made, considerable progress to improve water quality and protect, fish and wildlife of Florida’s coral reef ecosystems by working with environmental, scientific and governmental leaders in Florida. Reef Relief’s State Program Director Dr. Jeff Sharkey and his staff at the Capitol Alliance Group are a driving force for improved water quality. In support of this effort, Reef Relief become a member of the Everglades Coalition in 2012. The Everglades Coalition is an alliance of 57 local, state and national environmental organizations. It is dedicated to the full restoration of the greater Everglades ecosystem encompassing the lakes that connect to Lake Okeechobee, the River of Grass, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Reef Relief will continue to monitor Federal and State activities on water quality, ocean policy, fisheries, and marine species.
Key West Marine Park
In 2012, Reef Relief took over management of the Key West Marine Park through a partnership with the City of Key West. This swim park will become a focal point for Reef Relief’s marine education and scientific programs. These will include the design and implementation of a snorkel trail by Reef Relief staff, partners, and volunteers within the Key West Marine Park. This will be the first interpretive snorkel trail in North America. The park provides an interactive outdoor learning site for students of all ages. The three buoyed areas are for swimming and snorkeling and are closed to motorized vessels. For boaters, there are two access lanes to the shoreline. Key West Marine Park brochure
The public can access the Key West Marine Park from four locations: South Beach at the southern end of Duval St., Dog Beach at the end of Vernon Street, the Mary and John Spottswood Waterfront Park at the foot of Seminole Street, and Higgs Beach from Reynolds Street to White Street.
The Marine Park is located off of Higgs Beach at Atlantic Boulevard, 525 Angela Street. Free to the public
Reef Relief Environmental Center
The Reef Relief Environmental Center introduces visitors, school groups, and community members to the coral reef ecosystem, its threats and what can be done to protect our marine world. A theater shows free daily films related to marine resource issues. A variety of brochures and other printed materials are available to learn more coral reefs and the issues affecting them. The center is located in the historic Old Town of Key West.
The Reef Relief Environmental Center is located at
631 Greene Street in Key West, FL 33040
Open Monday – Friday
Hours 10am-4pm. Free admission.