Namasté Eco-Excursions of Key West earns sanctuary Blue Star certification

January 17, 2017

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Lisa Symons
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Blue Star Program

NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary welcomes Namasté Eco-Excursions of Key West, Florida as the newest participant in the Sanctuary’s Blue Star education and conservation program.

The Blue Star program, which recognizes companies that commit to training snorkelers and divers in low impact practices, has grown to about 20 operators since its inception in 2009. Research has shown that education can lessen the impact that snorkelers and divers have on marine ecosystems, because they are more careful to avoid damaging contact with corals and other marine life.

Namasté&rsquos co-owner, Jeff Bowman, showing the exent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to customers on a recent reef excusion. Namasté's co-owner, Jeff Bowman, showing the exent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to customers on a recent reef excusion. 
Click for high-resolution version.

Namasté Eco-Excursions specializes in ecologically focused small group excursions.  Staff proudly conduct 30-minute pre-snorkel educational briefings focused on coral reef ecology and reef etiquette. In addition, each group snorkels with at least one professional guide for the duration of their time in the water.

As retired school teachers, owners Jeff Bowman and Trish Pleasant, along with Captain Justin Pasca, take great pride in teaching their guests about how they can help conserve the coral reef, and are passionate about fostering a connection and appreciation of the ocean environment. 

When it comes to sustainable tourism, Namasté practices what they preach; their motor vessel uses an average of 30% bio-diesel to power its engine, and uses solar panels to charge their batteries so that it is not necessary to plug in to shore power at the dock.

The sanctuary is home to the third-largest living barrier coral reef in the world, and is visited by hundreds of thousands of snorkelers and divers each year. This contributes to an estimated $2 billion in annual ocean-based tourism revenue. The reef’s close proximity to land and an abundance of boat operators in the Keys make it easily accessible to both novice snorkelers and seasoned divers.

Operators become Blue Star certified by attending annual training on issues affecting coral reefs, sanctuary regulations and coral reef etiquette. In turn, Blue Star operators educate their customers by incorporating the information into certification classes and dive briefings. They also must offer conservation-related dive courses and participate in activities such as fish counts and reef clean-ups. Operators are re-evaluated on an annual basis.

Visit www.floridakeys.noaa.gov/onthewater/bluestar.html for more information on the program and a list of recognized operators.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats, as well as shipwrecks and maritime heritage resources. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary. Visit us at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join NOAA on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels.