see more
  • Share
By: Shayne Benowitz

With beautiful Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean as our treasured natural resources, Miami’s waterways and beaches are a top attraction for visitors and a major part of our local culture. So much depends on clean water in Greater Miami & Miami Beach, from the environment to recreation, tourism, the local economy and even the job market. Fortunately, Miami is home to many advocacy groups dedicated to marine conservation and environmentalism, working toward ensuring that our waters and beaches can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Read on to get to know some of these local advocates – and learn how you can get involved in conservation in fun and engaging ways.

Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition

Their Mission: Founded by Luiz Rodrigues, the Biscayne Bay Marine Health Coalition is a group of volunteers who work collaboratively with government agencies, academic institutions, businesses and nonprofits dedicated to advocate for solutions for a healthy and resilient Biscayne Bay watershed.

How to Get involved: The annual Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summit will be held May 25, 2022. The organization will share a progress report, make recommendations and identify new restoration opportunities. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and educate yourself about the complexities and urgency of protecting Biscayne Bay. You can also join the coalition, learn how to organize your own cleanup and donate to their cause.

Debris Free Oceans

Their Mission: Debris Free Oceans is a Miami-based organization with a singular mission that has far-reaching impacts: to eradicate marine debris from beaches, reefs and oceans by responsibly managing the lifecycle of plastics and other waste. Plastics are particularly harmful to our oceans because they are not biodegradable. In addition, they make their way into the world’s waterways at the alarming rate of 10 million tons a year, killing 100 million marine animals annually. Debris Free Oceans works to educate students, organizations and businesses about the zero-waste lifestyle and eliminating the use of single-use plastics. Their mission is promoted through events, cleanups and sustainability consulting.

How to Get involved: Debris Free Oceans organizes a wide range of regular cleanups, including Biscayne National Park snorkeling cleanups, scuba cleanups, Biscayne Bay boat tour cleanups, SUP and kayak cleanups, and even a pub crawl pick-up in Wynwood. Their Chef Andrew Scholar Program is an opportunity for local college students who are passionate about addressing the plastic pollution crisis to participate in a six-month internship. Donations to the organization are always welcome.

Friends of the Everglades

Their Mission: Founded in 1969 by the legendary author, journalist and environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Friends of the Everglades carries on its decades-long mission to preserve, protect and restore the unique ecosystem that is the Florida Everglades. The organization’s initiatives are often directed at state government reform, including campaigns to reject oil drilling in Big Cypress National Preserve, protect communities from sugar cane burning, prevent toxic algae blooms and protect endangered species such as the Florida panther.

How to Get involved: Friends of the Everglades hosts events throughout the year, including educational programs for children. Check out their website for more on their mission, local events and how to donate.

Miami Waterkeeper

Their Mission: Miami Waterkeeper’s mission is simple: to ensure swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for all. Their unique approach to marine conservation combines community outreach and education with science, research and advocacy. A branch within the broader Waterkeeper Alliance that was established in the 1960s, Miami Waterkeeper was founded in 2010. Led by Rachel Silverstein, they’ve played a hand at everything from rescuing hundreds of threatened corals from a dangerous dredging project to curbing the discharge of millions of gallons of toxic chemicals into waterways.

How to Get involved: Miami Waterkeeper works with hundreds of volunteers who have picked up thousands of pounds of trash and restored many acres of habitat. Consider joining one of their regularly scheduled volunteer restorations and cleanups at local parks and habitats to pick up trash and remove invasive species from dune habitats. It’s a great way to do something good while learning about Miami’s ecosystem. If you’re a local, you might also consider participating in a virtual training session and joining their 1,000 Eyes on the Water program, which teaches you how to detect and report pollution. Also consider donating to Miami Waterkeeper or spearheading a personal fundraising campaign.

Ocean Advisory Council

Their Mission: Part of the Hispanic Access Foundation, the Ocean Advisory Council is a nationwide network for the Latino community and others who support conservation efforts through advocacy, lobbying and community outreach. The council’s Florida representatives, Shley Suarez-Burgos, Virginia Ansaldi and David Riera, all reside in Miami. They’re currently working on securing public support of the proposed 30 x 30 federal bill, which would protect 30 percent of land and water by 2030. The foundation’s overall mission is to improve lives and create an equitable society.

How to Get involved: With future dates to be announced, the Hispanic Access Foundation organizes the annual Latino Advocacy Week and Latino Conservation Week, when local chapters plan events throughout the community in collaboration with local government and non-profit organizations. In Miami, the Ocean Advisory Council has organized conservation projects with Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Matheson Hammock Park and Biscayne Bay National Park. Most recently, they held a hike and training with the Florida Trail Association and Big Cypress National Park to educate the community about conserving Biscayne Bay. Donations to the organization are always welcome.

Surfrider

Their Mission: Founded in 1984 by a group of surfers in Malibu, Surfrider is an international environmental non-profit organization with 180 chapters and clubs worldwide. Dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches, Miami’s Surfrider chapter is an active and engaged group of local volunteers led by Seth Bloomgarden.

How to Get involved: This grassroots organization plans regular beach cleanups and dune restorations, as well as other events such as movie nights and Earth Day celebrations. You can also become an annual member with a $25 donation.

Miami-Dade County & Local Municipalities

Miami-Dade County and local municipalities also play a leadership role in the conservation and protection of Miami’s waterways. The county recently passed the Plastic Free 305 Program, joining municipalities such as Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and Coral Gables that had already adopted similar programs. Plastic Free 305 is a volunteer certification and education program aimed at getting businesses to pledge to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastics in their establishments. The program officially launches this year as part of the Baynanza celebration and cleanup of Biscayne Bay on April 23, 2022.