Visiting Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: On the Water

So you are in the Florida Keys and are planning to take advantage of the area’s diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, and marine wildlife viewing opportunities. Did you know that how you participate in these activities can play a big role in their health and your continued enjoyment of the Florida Keys?

The information below will help you make the right choices, so that, whether you head out for a dive or a day of fishing, you can do so responsibly and can help to protect the very resources that you are here to enjoy. To report an incident on the water, visit for details on who to call.


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Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Boater Education Course
This free, voluntary course teaches you about the natural and historical resources within the sanctuary, offers strategies for responsible boating and stewardship, and highlights relevant sanctuary rules and regulations. The 30-to-45 minute course complements existing safe boating courses. More

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Blue Star Program
Blue Star is a program established by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to reduce the impact of divers, snorkelers, and anglers on the coral reef ecosystems of the Florida Keys. The sanctuary encourages you to book with Blue Star dive and fishing operators, to help protect our ecosystems. More

boat at a buoy

How to Use a Mooring Buoy
It’s important to properly tie up to a mooring buoy to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the mooring system, as well as protect your vessel and other’s vessels. More

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Fishing in the Sanctuary
The sanctuary’s productive mangroves, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs support a diverse array of fish species, making the Keys a world class fishing destination. However, some areas are closed to fishing in order to protect habitat or avoid conflicts between user groups. Learn about these special regulations before you head out fishing. More

diver over a reef

Reef Etiquette
Every year more than 700,000 divers and snorkelers take to the water to discover the wonder and beauty that Florida Keys coral reefs have to offer, which can take a toll on the reef and the critters that call the reef home. The good news is that there are things you can do to minimize your impact on the reef while continuing to enjoy its beauty. More

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Safe Boating in the Florida Keys
Navigating Florida's shallow waters can be a challenge for even the most experienced boater. With a little care, you can avoid damaging valuable Keys habitat (and your boat) and avoid fines, fees, and other costs associated with running aground. More

diver exploring a wreck

Shipwreck Trail
Within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary lies a trail of historic shipwrecks, scattered along the coral reefs and buried in the sandy shallows a few miles off shore. More

pumpout station

Marine Sanitation Device Discharge Regulations
Good water quality is critical to the health of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass habitats of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In order to protect the water quality of the sanctuary, vessels are not allowed to discharge any sewage from their marine sanitation devices. More...

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Things You Can Do OFF the Water
Protection of marine ecosystems can continue long after leaving the water. Even if you live far from the ocean or a coral reef, you still have an impact on reef health and conservation; there is now a greater need than ever to ensure that this impact is positive. There are things we can all do to make a positive difference. More