mission iconic reefs logo

Iconic Reef Guardians Program

Help us Restore Florida's Coral Reef

diver photographing a underwater coral nursery

"It was interesting to see how they grow the coral and then plant them. I wish I lived close enough to take part in this more often." - Joni Balfanz, Port Charlotte, FL

Photo: Coral Restoration Foundation's Tavernier Nursery photographed by JD Reinbott

Over the last 40 years, coral reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have suffered dramatic declines. Nearly 90% of the live corals that once dominated the reefs have been lost. NOAA and partners have developed a first-of-its-kind approach to restore corals at seven ecologically and culturally significant reef sites in the Florida Keys through a project known as Mission: Iconic Reefs.

The Florida Keys region has become a world leader in coral reef restoration. The effort to put Florida Keys coral reefs on track for recovery is an enormous undertaking, requiring long-term collaboration between many partners. Now, we are inviting the public to lend a hand with coral reef restoration efforts through the Iconic Reef Guardians program.

What is the Iconic Reef Guardians Program?

A unique opportunity for divers and snorkelers to contribute to Mission: Iconic Reefs, a first-of-its-kind calling to restore the health of coral reefs in the Florida Keys for future generations. The program is administered by NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, restoration partners, and the community.

Working directly with Blue Star Dive operators, Iconic Reef Guardians empowers scuba divers and snorkelers to be knowledgeable and supportive of coral restoration efforts, and become stewards of reef sites undergoing active restoration efforts. Blue Star Dive operators are trained to lead divers and snorkelers through experiences that teach them about coral reefs, coral reef restoration, and allow them to experience the sensitivity and resilience of the coral reef ecosystem first hand. Currently, the operators listed below are offering passive visits to in-water nurseries.

How can individual divers participate in Iconic Reef Guardians?

Contact one of these Iconic Reef Guardians permitted dive shops or organizations to book a dive or snorkel experience. Be sure to mention that you are interested in helping to restore coral reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!

Florida Keys Dive Center

2024 Schedule

  • Jan 9 
  • Feb 13
  • Mar 12
  • Apr 9
  • May 14
  • June 11
  • July 9
  • Aug 13
  • Sept 10
  • Oct 8
  • Nov 12
  • Dec 10
  • Dec 23
  • Jan 3 (2025)


2024 Schedule

  • Jan 18
  • Feb 15
  • Mar 21
  • Apr 18
  • May 16
  • Jun 20
  • Jul 18
  • Aug 15
  • Sep 19
  • Oct 16
  • Nov 21
  • Dec 19
  • Dec 27
  • Dec 30
A coral tree in the foreground and a snorkeler on the surface above.
Participants in the Iconic Reef Guardians program will visit active restoration nurseries. Photo: Jay Clue.

How can my business or organization get involved with Iconic Reef Guardians?

Want to become a steward of the reefs your customers know and love? If your dive shop or organization would like to take part in Mission: Iconic Reef's Iconic Reef Guardians program through Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, contact Maddie Cholnoky at Madeline.Cholnoky@noaa.gov.