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6 Ways to Protect Florida’s Coastal Waters

Boaters can protect Florida’s coastal waters, keeping them healthy, clean and beautiful for everyone to enjoy. The small, mindful actions we take today can help to protect Florida’s coastal waters for our children and many more generations to come. As people who love life on the water, it’s vital for us to be stewards of our marine environment. When we take care of our water, we’re teaching our children to respect and care for it too.

Here in South Florida, we’re known for warm, crystal clear waters. And that’s what makes these waters perfect for fishing, snorkeling, and so many other fun activities. Read on for 6 ways boaters can protect Florida’s coastal waters and be an environmentally-friendly boater.

Pick up litter (even if it’s not yours!)

A good rule of thumb is that everything you bring out on the boat should come back with you. This includes not just garbage, but also leftover food. Don’t let cans, bottles, bags or wrappers blow overboard while you’re cruising around. We recommend bringing a small garbage bag with you to hold your trash. All our boats have lots of onboard storage hatches to keep garbage safely stowed. When you disembark, our team will take care of the trash!

Or, immerse yourself and your family in a garbage pick-up initiative. You can make a special point with your kids or with friends to protect Florida’s coastal waters with a trash pick-up. Handy things to pack along with you: disposable gloves, a net, a gaff or a grabber, plus extra garbage bags. As you cruise along the intracoastal or anchor at a sandbar or beach, keep a keen eye out for bits of floating or washed-up trash. The water will thank you by staying crystal clear and turquoise.

Pack re-usable containers for drinks and snacks

At Gulfstream Boat Club, any trash you bring back to the dock we’ll be happy to dispose of or recycle for you. But the best way to combat trash in our water is to make none in the first place! An easy way to avoid litter on your boat (and litter back on land) is to pack your snacks and drinks in reusable containers. Resealable silicone bags, snap-lid food containers, and reusable water bottles and tumblers are your best bet.

You’ll find plenty of cupholders on our boats to fit all sizes of drink-ware. And reusable tumblers will keep your drinks cooler than a plastic water bottle or a can!

Watch your depth (keep your engine out of the grass)

Keeping an eye on your depth will not only protect Florida’s coastal waters, it will save your hull and propeller. Wildlife thrives in shallow waters, and a range of aquatic life use shallow waters as breeding grounds and nurseries. Sea-grass and coral reefs play an essential role in keeping the water clean of debris as well as supporting wildlife. They act as a food source, a breeding ground and a hunting ground for small and juvenile marine life.

When sea-grass is healthy and untouched it’s great at filtering sediment out of the water. It also makes a great hiding spot for fish so instead of driving through sea-grass, try casting a line through it and see if you can catch dinner! 

We recommend members maintain a depth of at least 3 feet at all times. Your top-of-the-line onboard depth finder is the critical tool you should rely on. Maintaining a minimum depth means you won’t disturb sea life and you won’t be caught high and dry if the tide goes out!

Take only pictures, leave only ripples

As you cruise the Intracoastal, you’ll notice signs along the way asking you to watch your speed and look out for manatees. These gentle giants are a delight to see up close but they’re also notoriously slow swimmers who struggle to keep out of the way of fast moving boats.

Be ready with your camera or a pair of binoculars to take a closer look at wildlife rather than motoring into their space. Sometimes you can see a lot more if you give animals a wide berth and let them go about their business. When you’re fishing, try not to injure or kill any fish you’re not planning on eating. When snorkeling or diving, leave stars, shells and corals untouched and in the water where they belong. One of the best ways to protect Florida’s coastal waters is to respect the wildlife that lives in those waters. 

Choose reef-safe sun protection

Sunscreen is essential for protecting our skin out on the water, but some ingredients have been proven to be harmful to aquatic wildlife, especially corals. Avoid sunscreens that include ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead, choose sunscreens that are biodegradable, and contain mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

You can double-down on sun protection by also wearing UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing. Sun shirts and hats—like the attractive ones Gulfstream Boat Club gives our members!—are a must-have on the water. Plus the shirts dry quickly so you can wear them in the water if you’re swimming or snorkeling. Whether you’re spending the day in or on the water, wearing protective clothing means you won’t have to continually reapply your sunblock.

Get involved!

Boaters in South Florida have some wonderful options for getting involved, both on and off the water. There are many organizations looking out for our coastal waters that do great hands-on work with conservation and preservation. They work collaboratively with local and state government, and have events and opportunities for the general public to get involved.

Whether you want to provide broader support or help a specific area, some local not-for-profits we think are doing a great job include: Captains for Clean Water , Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Miami Waterkeeper, and Debris Free Oceans.

There are many ways to be a good steward of our marine environment, and these tips can help you get started.

Contact us to rent a boat and get out on the water!

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