Buoy Program

Every year, thousands of boaters enjoy visiting the Florida Keys to fish and dive. Mooring buoys installed and maintained by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary make it possible for them to do this safely without damaging the reef. Buoys are also used to mark areas that have specific regulations, assist with navigation, and provide information.

Mooring buoys, which are 18 inches in diameter with a blue stripe, have been used in the Keys since 1981 as an alternative to anchoring, which can break and damage the coral reef. There are nearly 500 mooring buoys available for use within the sanctuary on a first-come, first-served basis at no cost to the boater. Anchoring is prohibited on living coral within the sanctuary in waters less than 40 feet and when the bottom is visible. If no mooring buoy is available and you are outside a no-anchor zone, you may anchor in sand.

A boat uses a bridle made of blue rope that passes through the eye of the yellow line of a mooring buoy

How to Use a Mooring Buoy

Proper use of a mooring buoy will keep boaters safe and increase the buoy's lifespan and usage.

An aerial view of boats tied to buoys

Mooring Buoy Locations

As many as 40 buoys can be found in some mooring fields, accommodating both large and small boats.

Other buoys are used for marking zones such as sanctuary preservation areas, ecological reserves, and special-use/research only areas. These buoys are yellow and have a 30-inch diameter. There are no mooring lines on these yellow buoys and vessels are not permitted to tie up to them.

Spar buoys that are cylindrical, tall, and white with orange markings indicate wildlife management areas and sites on the Shipwreck Trail.

If you find a lost buoy or notice one missing

If you notice a damaged or missing line, or to report a missing or a found buoy, please call the appropriate sanctuary office.

From Key Largo to Marathon, call 305-852-7717 or email keylargobuoy@noaa.gov.

For Marathon through Key West and the Tortugas, call 305-809-4700 or email keywestbuoy@noaa.gov.

Learn more about how to report different types of buoys.

person pulling up marine debris from the ocean on to a boat

How We Recycle Plastic Waste

Maintaining the buoy network produces hundreds of pounds of plastic waste each year. Check out this video that explains how we reduce our impact to the environment.

a buoy with the words Monohansett on it and a boat tied off to the buoy

Buoys Support Recreation in National Marine Sanctuaries

Learn the history of the national marine sanctuaries buoy system.

a person in snorkeling gear swims next to a buoy

Florida Keys Mooring Buoy Team

Meet the Florida Keys buoy team: the people who maintain the sanctuary's vast collection of buoys.