Types of Marine Zones

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary established the nation’s first comprehensive network of marine zones in 1997 after years of planning, design, and public input. Marine zoning is designed to protect and preserve sensitive parts of the ecosystem while allowing activities that are compatible with resource protection.

The marine zoning plan for the Sanctuary includes five types of zones with varying levels of protection.


reef scene

Ecological Reserves
Ecological Reserves are the largest of the sanctuary zones and are able to protect an entire range of marine habitats found in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. More

fish under a reef

Sanctuary Preservation Areas
Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs) within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protect shallow reefs along the reef tract. SPAs encompass discrete, biologically important areas that help sustain critical marine species and habitats. More

view of the water

Wildlife Management Areas
Wildlife Management Areas are intended to minimize disturbance to sensitive or endangered wildlife and their habitats, such as bird nesting, resting or feeding areas, and turtle nesting beaches. More

seagrass and seastar

Exisiting Management Areas
Existing Management Areas are areas within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that were established by NOAA or another federal agency prior to 1997 when sanctuary zoning regulations went into effect. More

diver doing research

Special-use Areas
Special-use Areas are used to set aside areas for scientific research and educational purposes, restoration, monitoring, or to establish areas that confine or restrict activities. More