Marine Debris Working Group

person on deck draining water from a boat while others prepare to remove it

When Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys with Category 4 winds, it created a significant storm surge. This surge broke apart docks, homes and sunk vessels the length of the Florida Keys. An estimated 2.5 million cubic yards of terrestrial debris was collected and removed from Monroe County in the months following the storm. Hurricane Irma also left in its wake a significant amount of marine debris that may float subsurface making navigation challenging or become submerged and continue to pollute our delicate ecosystem. Recent reef assessments and information from local dive operators catalog everything from sofas and refrigerators to pipes and trap debris on the reef tract and backcountry flats.

After Hurricane Irma, many in our community are working to rebuild our environment, both above and below the water. You can play an integral role in helping our sanctuary stay healthy and resilient. At its October 2017 Special Session post Hurricane Irma, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council established a marine debris working group to help mobilize the community and coordinate underwater marine debris cleanup efforts across the Florida Keys.


  • Engage local dive and snorkel tour operators in an effort to identify and remove marine debris in Sanctuary Preservation Areas and other target areas of the sanctuary.
  • Provide training materials for local tour operators to train staff and customers in proper marine debris removal techniques and reporting.
  • Support efforts to identify, remove, return, and dispose of marine debris.
  • Identify, seek out and secure funding to support marine debris removal efforts.


Advisory Council Leads:
Elena Rodriguez - Diving, Upper Keys
Lisa Mongelia - Tourism, Upper Keys Alternate

Advisory Council Representatives:
Bob Smith - Diving, Lower Keys Alternate
Joe Weatherby - Toursim, Lower Keys Alternate
Mimi Stafford - Citizen at Large, Lower Keys
Shelly Krueger - Research and Monitoring Alternate

Community Experts:
Allison Estape - Citizen at Large
Angie Cohan - NAUI
Bill Kelly - Florida Keys Commercial Fisherman's Association
Carlos Estape - Citizen at Large
Cory Walters - Mote Marine Lab, C-OCEAN
Hannah Pragnell-Raasch - Project Aware
Jack Fishman - Project Aware
Kayleigh Michaelides - National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Laura Palomino - REEF Environmental Education Foundation
Luke D'Urso - Rainbow Reef Dive Center
Pam Meyer - Florida Keys Dive Center

Government Agencies:
Ann Lazar - Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Charles Grisafi - NOAA Marine Debris Program
Jennifer Mcgee - Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Pamela Gruver - Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Staff Lead:
Marlies Tumolo

How to Get Involved

We invite members of the public who frequent the waters of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to provide information about marine debris, and other unusual events, witnessed out on the water.

card with list of marine debris items to report to mote

To report an observation, go to and click on "Report an Observation" or contact Cory Walter, Project Coordinator, at (305) 395-8730 (call or text), or email

If you would like to participate in a cleanup dive to support Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys, please contact one of the dive shops or organizations permitted to conduct these cleanups. Permitted organizations include:

Conch Republic Divers
Cristal Clear Charters
Dive N2 Life
Forever Young Charter Company
Fury Water Adventures
Horizon Divers
Key Dives
Rainbow Reef Dive Center
Southern Satisfaction

If your dive shop or organization would like to lead underwater cleanups within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary you will need to participate in the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys marine debris removal training.

Training provides guidance on conducting marine debris removals without damaging protected resources and includes an explanation of the permitting process. To be permitted, at least one staff member from an organization must attend training.

For more information, contact, 305-434-9385.

Blue Star dive operators are eligible to apply for financial assistance from The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to participate in Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys.

Meeting Schedule

The advisory council marine debris working group meets via teleconference on a biweekly bases. A summary of key points from each meeting can be found below. For additional information on these meetings, contact Marlies Tumolo.

January 4, 2018

  • Reviewed and confirmed working group objectives
  • Developed subgroups to work on various components
  • Developed project timeline

January 18, 2018

  • Developed contact form and spreadsheet to organize contact information of dive shops that would like to participate
  • Identified stakeholders to reach out to regarding this effort
  • Outlined what educational and training materials would be needed

February 1, 2018

  • Reviewed and provided comment draft of Marine Debris Removal Protocols for dive professionals.
  • Discussed permitting requirements
  • Choose reporting platform to keep track of data on removal efforts
  • Discussed project funding

February 15, 2018

  • Update on Florida Marine Debris Regional Collaboration Portal
  • Finalized Marine Debris Removal Protocols
  • Approved overview presentation on the marine debris removal effort to be shared with dive shops in the Florida Keys