They are breath taking, mesmerizing, but in the next few decades, will likely be gone.
CBS12's Jeff Berardelli gets to the bottom of what's killing Florida's coral reefs.
Tourists flock to our beautiful beaches, but it's what's under the sea that divers want to see.
"people come from all over the world all over the country to dive here."
Gary Thomas and Jeff Torode have both spent a good part of their lives underwater, exploring our coral reefs. Their lively hoods depend on them - but the reefs are dying.
"I would say it is pollution, not so much climate change, but it is pollution," says Thomas.
Andia Chaves Fonnegra a student researcher at Nova Southeastern University is leading a study on what's killing the coral. She says because the reefs have been weakened by pollution and climate change, it's orange sponge that is literally destroying the reefs from the inside out.
"They make their own home inside of the coral skeleton but to do that they have to kill the coral tissue," explains Fonnegra.
Losing the coral reefs could have serious consequences for South Florida.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates natural reefs in Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties generate $3.4 billion dollars in sales and income and support. 36,000 jobs in the region each year.
According to reef rescue.org researchers predict show reefs in red 75% gone by 2050. In addition, they estimate more than 75% of the worlds reefs will be gone by 2050.
To find out more about local efforts and how you can help protect our local reefs, visit: