Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is part of a national system of protected natural resources from the Keys to the Canadian border. The living coral reef runs parallel to the entire 126 mile chainn of islands known as the Florida Keys. It’s a unique ecosystem and the only on in North America, making it one of The U.S.’s great treasures. Known as America’s Caribbean, the living coral reef extends from the coast off Miami all the way to the Dry Tortugas. The sanctuary protects wildlife, the coral reef, and also important historical shipwrecks on the ocean floor. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuarycover 2,800 square nautical miles and goes from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas. It protects one of the most diverse collection of species in North, both plants and animals. It’s the third largest coral reef in the world, in fact. Only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the reef off Belize are larger. It lies under ten miles from short in the Keys, making it very accessible for divers, snorkelers, anglers and anyone else on the water.

The sanctuary was created in 1990 and covers over 3668 square miles. The Gulf of Mexico, Florida Bay, as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Why Was the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Created?

Within the borders of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary visitors will find a spectacular variety of coral, fish, fields of seagrass, forests of mangrove islands, an entire ecosystem waiting to be discovered. The Sanctuary protects all the species within, The marine ecosystem is fragile, and everyone works together to protect the wildlife and plants in these waters. Healthy coral benefits everyone! The coral reefs also support a vital commercial fishing industry and a booming tourism trade. Visitors who come to the Florida Keys usually take a boat trip out to the reef or beyond for snorkeling, diving, fishing, or just dinner and a sunset.

What Does a Sanctuary Mean?

Visitors to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary should respect the rules set in place. This includes not removing any coral and not operating a boat in a way that would strike coral or seagrass. Snorkelers and divers must display a Diver Down flag, which is red with a white stripe through it. Boaters must stay at least 100 feet from that flag, or operate at idle/no wake speed.

How do I Get to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary?

If you travel to the Florida Keys and go out on the water, you’re in the Marine Sanctuary. It surrounds all the islands of the Florida Keys, right up to the shoreline.