About the Regulatory Review

NOAA is undertaking the first comprehensive review of the management plan, zoning plan and regulations for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary The first revision to the plan and regulations was the modification to the sanctuary's boundaries that created the Tortugas Ecological Reserve in 2001, while the 2007 management plan revision had streamlined and updated the management action plans but did not involve changes to the regulations. This review is a public process that will eventually culminate in an updated management plan and potential modifications to regulations, marine zones, and the sanctuary boundary.

Current Step:

Agency Analysis and Development of Alternatives

NOAA is currently reviewing a broad range of ideas that were advanced by the advisory council by analyzing and compiling them into a set of alternative management options. To help assess those ideas and develop management alternatives, NOAA is consulting partner agencies, such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as well as other experts within the agency and scientific community. The management alternatives will be described in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that details the actions (i.e. zone, boundary, and regulatory modifications) that would be taken under each alternative along with a description of its socio-economic and environmental impacts. Once the DEIS is released, there will be an open public comment period of at least 90 days during which the Florida Keys community, stakeholders, resource users, and the general public will be able to provide feedback and recommendations.


Steps to Date:

  • Sanctuary Condition Report


    A Sanctuary Condition Report provided detailed information on status and trends on the living marine resources and submerged cultural resources of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, including threats and pressures the resources faced. This triggered public interest in a comprehensive re-examination of sanctuary zones, regulations, and boundaries.

  • Advisory Council Goal Setting


    August 2011

    The Sanctuary Advisory Council passed a resolution requesting that the sanctuary initiate a formal review process looking at sanctuary zones, regulations, and boundaries, and by December 2011 the council had adopted a set of guiding draft goals, objectives, and principles for the review. The final version was adopted at the December 11, 2012 advisory council meeting.

  • Public Scoping - Notice of Intent


    April 2012

    NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) formally began a joint federal regulatory review process by publishing a Notice of Intent. During a scoping period from April to May 2012, public scoping meetings were held throughout the Keys as well as in Miami and Ft. Myers. The public was able to make comments at meetings or submit written comments directly through the Federal eRulemaking Portal regarding potential updates to both the sanctuary's management plan and the adjacent Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex’s backcountry management plan.

    August 2012

    Sanctuary staff compiled a summary of the comments received during the scoping period; this informed Advisory Council deliberations by helping identify priority management issues to address in the review.

  • Advisory Council Workplan


    December 2012

    The advisory council created a draft marine zoning and regulatory review workplan that included nine priority items and four additional issues. Most workplan items were dealt with during the council's regular bimonthly meetings over the next few years. In October 2015, the advisory council reviewed the last of the workplan issues before voting on, and passing, formal motions requesting that NOAA analyze the ideas in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). (Here is most recent copy of the workplan, updated to include members of the first three working groups).

  • Advisory Council Workgroups


    January 2013

    Working groups were created to address some of the most complex questions: coral restoration, shallow water wildlife and habitat protection, ecosystem and wildlife protection and, later, artificial habitats. The first three advisory council and working groups began meeting in January 2012 and by July 2014, they completed their reviews of data and information and developed a range of options for modifications to zones, boundaries, and regulations. In June and August 2014, the advisory council reviewed and accepted the working groups’ recommendations and made some specific additions to those recommendations by adding further zones and ideas. In February 2015, an Artificial Habitat working group was created to examine that issue in more detail. After holding a workshop in July 2015, they received unanimous approval from the advisory council in August 2015 to continue exploring potential recommendations for an artificial habitat plan in the sanctuary.

    Full details of all advisory council motions related to the regulatory review can be accessed from the advisory council workplan and working groups page.

Next Steps:

  • Release of Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Public Comment Period

    Once the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is released, NOAA and FWS will publish a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register and an open public comment period of at least 90 days will begin. This is an opportunity for the Florida Keys community, stakeholders, resource users, and the general public to read through the proposed management alternatives and provide feedback, such as preferences and concerns. This period of time will also allow the advisory council to discuss the proposed alternatives and provide recommendations.

  • Final Environmental Impact Statement


    Once the public comment period closes, NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) will review public comments and address them in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) with responses to the comments. The FEIS will explain the final course of action the agency has decided to take and describe how, if at all, the impacts of those actions are being mitigated.

  • Release of Draft Regulations and Public Comment Period


    Some of the actions outlined in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) may include new or amended regulations. Regulations will also be first released in draft form by the respective agencies, such as NOAA and/or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), with a public comment period before they become final.

  • Final Regulations


    Once NOAA has reviewed and addressed public comments, the final regulations will be released.

For more information: