Ocean Divers of Key Largo earns sanctuary Blue Star certification

February 13, 2017

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Lisa Symons
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Blue Star Program

NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is proud to add Ocean Divers in Key Largo, Florida to the growing list of participants in the Sanctuary’s Blue Star program

Blue Star is a voluntary program for dive and snorkel tour operators who commit to educating and training guests in low impact and responsible practices. Since 2009, the sanctuary has recognized over 20 operators in the Florida Keys. Research has shown that education can lessen the impact that snorkelers and divers have on marine ecosystems and maritime heritage sites because they are aware of, and more careful to avoid, damaging contact with corals and marine life.

Photo of Ocean Divers owner and crew. Ocean Divers owner, General Manager, Assistant Manager, and crew display their Blue Star certificate. 
Click for high-resolution version.

Ocean Divers is a long-standing dive operator in the Key Largo area with a fleet of boats and enthusiastic staff focused on providing a thoroughly educational and exciting experience on every dive. Their staff commit to a comprehensive pre-dive discussion focusing on coral reef ecology and etiquette. They also offer and encourage dives with professional guides who are experts at keeping the wildlife wild and reducing injury to the reef by teaching best practices in and out of the water.

“Ocean Divers is proud to be a Blue Star Operator,” said Hadriam Vega, General Manager of Ocean Divers. “We will do our part to help educate divers and protect the sanctuary’s resources. Our goal is to send you home with a smile, with a new appreciation of our amazing marine ecology, and with a desire to understand and protect our natural resources for generations to come.”

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.