Historical Resources Permits

Looking down on a diver above a pile of rocks
An archaeologist photographs ballast rock — all that's left of an old shipwreck. Photo: Brenda Altmeier/NOAA

Within the boundaries of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary rest an array of submerged historical and cultural resources, such as archaeological sites, shipwrecks, structures, or objects associated with past human activities. These physical remains hold clues to the Keys' colorful maritime history, and are protected by NOAA and the state of Florida. NOAA works closely with the state of Florida to manage and protect historical resources for future generations.

While many areas within the sanctuary that contain historical and cultural resources are open to diving and snorkeling, it is illegal to damage a historical resource, disturb a site, or recover artifacts without a permit.

The sanctuary's permit system allows individuals and groups, such as universities or research organizations, to investigate historical resources in the sanctuary. Any disturbance or recovery of these resources must be planned and permitted in accordance with state and federal laws. Individuals and organizations seeking to conduct archaeological research within the territorial waters of Florida must seek a permit to do so from Florida's Division of Historical Resources in addition to a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary permit.

Permit applications for historical resource-focused research activities should be submitted at least 90 days in advance of the requested effective date. However, please note that there is no guarantee a permit application will be processed by the requested effective date.

In addition to the completing the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries permit application, applications for historical resource permits shall include all information contained in Appendix G of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Permit Application Instructions. Permit reporting requirements are also found in Appendix G.

For more information on historical resources permits or to submit a completed application, contact Matthew Lawrence, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary maritime archaeologist.