Many ocean lovers anchor to pursue their favorite pastime. While some are careful when anchoring, others aren’t. 

Carelessly or maliciously dropping anchors onto reefs causes serious harm to the reef below. Boat anchors, chains and lines break coral, as well as basket sponges and marine life. Pulling it up drags the anchor, chain and line over the reef, destroying large areas of living coral.

Divers in the Florida Keys see it all too often. Of course, it is against the law with penalties in place for damaging coral with anchors, but it’s no easy task to enforce. Therefore, it’s important the individual take personal responsibility for safe anchoring in sand away from the reef. 

Modern technology with depth finders that show bottom profiles make it easy to anchor off reefs. Not every boat has sophisticated bottom profilers, however. Those boats must then use mooring balls to tie off. 

Once thought to be infinite, coral reefs today are in peril. Coral disease, turbid water, increased ocean temperatures and coral bleaching with acid rain have all contributed to coral death. In the Keys alone, one of the world’s largest reef systems, scientists have reported that live coral coverage amounts to only 3% to 5%. In the 1970s live coral coverage was 50% to 70%. 

Human activity is changing the land and ocean environment throughout the world and in places like Florida. Under a couple of inches of trucked-in topsoil and sod, sand and limestone substrate receive everything that is put on the soil above. The percolation ends up in the marine environment. 

Agricultural runoff with high nitrogen content has destroyed vast reaches in not only Florida Bay, but also the ocean environment. Evaporation of chemicals and animal waste along with sewage and stormwater runoff have created favorable conditions for algae, which eventually choke coral and deplete oxygen in the water when they die and sink to the bottom.

Life in the oceans depends on coral reefs to spawn, nurture and live. Add to that significant coral damage from careless anchoring and the problem becomes critical.

Be sure to anchor securely off and away from coral reefs. Be mindful of chains and lines that will destroy vast underwater areas when an anchor is pulled. Do not let anchors slip and get pulled into reef areas. Use mooring balls that are provided almost everywhere to prevent anchor damage. Educate friends and family about safe anchoring. Every little bit helps. 

— John Christopher Fine, an avid Florida Keys diver

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