The organization sought to communicate that coral reef ecosystems are not just corals but are actually a system of interdependent and delicately balanced connections between the water and land. They communicated that coral reefs are the most biologically diverse
ecosystems on Earth and their conservation must become a global priority. This was expanded to Monroe County schools through a variety of educational programs and the creation of a Coral Reef Teacher’s Guide. In addition, the education and outreach programs were incorporated into the effort to reach out to charter boat captains, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, divers, and local businesses involved in water sport activities to emphasize the importance of conserving and protecting the coral reef ecosystem.
Later, a Clean Water Campaign was launched to identify problems with sewage, agricultural runoff, cruise ships waste, boating impacts, and other sources of pollution that affected the water quality at coral reefs in South Florida and around the globe. Reef Relief effectively organized campaigns with other sister organizations, government agencies, the business community, and citizens. In 25 years Reef Relief’s achievements
include advanced wastewater treatment for the City of Key West, establishment of a boater No Discharge Zone for sewage in the Florida Keys, passage of a phosphate ban for laundry detergents, approval of bans on offshore oil drilling and exploration in South Florida, increased state standards for shallow injection wells, and a host of other actions. Reef Relief has, also, helped to establish coral reef conservation programs in Jamaica, Honduras, Mexico, St. Kitts, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Cuba.
Today, Reef Relief continues to educate residents and visitors and to reach out to young people through its Key West based Environmental center, a summer Coral Camp for Kids youth program and its Discover Coral Reefs Schools Program. Last summer, Coral Camp was nationally recognized by the Marine Educators Association. Reef Relief continues to be a lead advocate for state and federal clean water policy. State Program Director Jeff Sharkey and Capitol Alliance Group keeps Reef Relief on the front line of
state water policy issues in Tallahassee.
This year Reef Relief took over management of the Key West Marine Park which they helped to create in 2001 with the City of Key West. The marine park will be used as an education and outreach tool in Reef Relief’s work for coral reef conservation.