Administered by NOAA under the Department of Commerce, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was created and exists under federal law. Since approximately 60% of the protected area falls in state waters, the sanctuary is administered by NOAA and jointly managed by NOAA and the state of Florida under a co-trustee agreement.

Under this agreement, NOAA's primary management partner is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 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 and interconnected marine habitats in the Keys.

There are two primary pieces of legislation that 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.

Managing this complex system of marine and cultural resources takes public involvement, multi-faceted strategies, and numerous partners. Using extensive public input with current scientific and socioeconomic data, sanctuary managers have designed projects and programs to address impacts, pressures, and threats to Florida Keys marine resources.

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Restoration Blueprint

Learn more about the comprehensive plan for restoring and managing our sanctuary resources. We call it the "Restoration Blueprint" and it includes updates to the sanctuary's regulations, marine zones, and management plan.

A diver above the seafloor using scientific instruments.

Management Plan

Regulations are a vital tool in protecting the sanctuary resources, but the management plan holds equal importance.

A large dive boat navigates a complicated channel with markers.

Marine Zones

Many areas within the sanctuary require specialized protections. Learn more about these unique marine zones.

A white buoy in the foreground tied to a boat in the distance

Buoy Program

Since the 1980s, the sanctuary has kept boaters safe and protected corals from anchor damage by supplying mooring buoys. The vast network of buoys is a vital part of our responsibility.

law enforcement officers on a boat

Sanctuary Regulations

We want you to experience and enjoy Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and there are rules in place to keep the natural and cultural resources here safe.

A yellow, half-moon object on the seafloor


A permit is required to conduct many activities within sanctuary boundaries, like research projects and placing objects on the seafloor. Plan ahead, and start soon.

A bullet-proof vest with the words: Federal Officer


Federal officers patrol sanctuary waters along with state law enforcement partners. Officers board and inspect boats; hand out brochures and maps; and make sure divers, boaters, and fishermen understand and follow sanctuary regulations.

An aerial view from nearshore waters with tan color illustrating shallow area where an m-shaped gouge is cut

Injury Assessment

When sanctuary resources are damaged, we assess the injury and make plans for remediation, often requiring the offender to pay for the work.

a coral reef in clear waters

Water Quality

Coral reefs need clean, clear waters to thrive, and places where the land meets the sea is a critical tipping point for water quality. Learn about the sanctuary's role in water quality stewardship.