Major Sanctuary Accomplishments: 1990 - 2007
Many accomplishments occurred within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary between its designation in 1990 and the release of the sanctuary’s revised management plan in 2007. Major items from this time period are summarized below.
- An “Area To Be Avoided” designation put into place with the sanctuary establishment has restricted large ship traffic in parts of the sanctuary and resulted in a significant decrease in the number of major ship grounding on coral reefs, with only two major groundings occurring between 1990 and 2007.
- All oil drilling and hard mineral mining was banned when the sanctuary was created, thus preventing these activities from occurring in the sanctuary.
- The sanctuary’s Water Quality Protection Program fully implemented 26 of 49 high-priority activities.
- Since 1993, sanctuary staff have been active in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, helping to protect water quality in the Everglades ecosystem by eliminating catastrophic releases of freshwater into Florida Bay following rain events.
- In November 2002, the United Nations International Maritime Organization approved designation of the Florida Keys as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, which elevates public awareness of the threat of oil spills and hazardous materials to sensitive marine environments and ensures that the sanctuary’s Area To Be Avoided is noted on nautical charts worldwide.
- Research and monitoring efforts produced significant scientific data, hypothesis testing, mapping, and trend documentation and resulted in the wide dissemination of these findings.
- Through education, outreach, and volunteerism, the sanctuary brought information to managers and educators and engaged the local community, all of which contribute to the long-term effectiveness of the sanctuary. For example, more than 120,000 volunteer hours, a $1.8 million value, were donated to the sanctuary between 1996 and 2000.
- The City of Key West and the State of Florida declared Florida Keys waters under their jurisdictions as “no-discharge” zones, a key accomplishment in implementing the Enforcement and Regulatory Action Plans.
- State-certified law enforcement officers were cross-deputized, allowing them to enforce some federal laws, including fisheries regulations.
- Sanctuary staff developed cross-disciplinary strategies for assessing and restoring damages to sanctuary resources.
- The 2002 discovery of a previously unknown shipwreck within the sanctuary resulted in a community-endorsed research and interpretation plan for the maritime heritage site.
- The use of mooring buoys was proven to be a simple yet effective strategy for reducing vessel damage to coral reefs and seagrass beds. The success of the buoy program has largely been due to a unique interface of education, outreach, enforcement, and research and monitoring activities.
- The sanctuary integrated the administrative functions of two former sanctuaries—at Key Largo and Looe Key—into a single headquarters umbrella with two regional offices. This integration streamlined delivery of human resources, community relations, and policy development. It also resulted in a series of accomplishments, ranging from an updated electronic financial reporting system to the 130-episode television series, Waterways.