Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Administration and Legislation

Administered by NOAA, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was created and exists under federal law. However, because approximately 60 percent of the protected area falls in state waters, the sanctuary is also effective in these state waters under consent of the State of Florida. This creates a unique partnership whereby the sanctuary is administered by NOAA and jointly managed by NOAA and the State of Florida under a co-trustee agreement.

people looking at sanctuary map

Under this agreement, NOAA’s primary management partner is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) enforces sanctuary regulations in partnership with sanctuary managers and the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement.

The sanctuary also works with multiple state and federal agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations to protect the complex coral reef community in the Keys. The relationship with some of these groups, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is based on the legislation that created the sanctuary. Other relationships have evolved through cooperative agreements or arrangements based on shared geographic boundaries, missions, goals, or interests.

There are two primary pieces of legislation the govern Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary:

  • National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Commerce to designate and protect areas of the marine environment with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archeological, educational, or esthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries. 
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act, which designated Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to be managed as a national marine sanctuary under the National Marine Sanctuary Act.