Southeast Florida’s reef ecosystem is home to thousands of different species of fish and other animals such as shrimp, sea urchins, conch, sea stars, dolphins, crabs, sharks and lobsters.
Many reef fish depend on Florida’s Coral Reef nearshore hardbottom, seagrass beds and mangrove forests to maintain growing populations. Popular seafood species like snapper, grouper, hogfish, and lobster spend their early life in these habitats, where food is abundant, and they can mature to later return to the reef.
Various reef residents play an important role in our coral reef ecosystems. For example, wrasses, parrotfish, sea urchins and other herbivores help corals by grazing on different algae, which can overwhelm a reef through overgrowth if these animals are not present.
Larger predators, such as snappers, groupers, barracudas and sharks, also have important roles in the ecosystem. Many of these larger predators are also important to Southeast Florida’s economy as they are sought by fishers as game fish and seafood.