Shallow Water Wildlife and Habitat Protection Working Group

Seagrass meadow.

Hardbottom communities and seagrass beds are critical habitats of the sanctuary, providing important feeding and nursery grounds for numerous commercially-important fish and protected species. These shallow areas are particularly vulnerable to impacts from small vessels, and are frequently damaged by boat propellers, anchors and more. Vessel strikes also harm animals such as sea turtles and marine mammals. Current zoning of Wildlife Management Areas seek to minimize disturbance to sensitive or endangered wildlife and their habitats while allowing for public use. Rules include no-access buffers, no-motor zones, idle-speed only/no-wake zones, and closed zones. Some restrictions may apply to certain times of the year, while others apply year-round. The Sanctuary's Condition Report and numerous public scoping comments identified ongoing degradation of these habitats and wildlife need to be addressed through the marine zoning and regulatory review.


  • Evaluate existing Wildlife Management Areas for effectiveness in protecting wildlife and their habitats under current as well as emerging public uses and environmental conditions; recommend status quo, modification, and/or new areas.
  • Develop recommendations considering existing regulations and zoning - mainly use of vessel restrictions on access, anchoring, speed, and channel marking - to further protect seagrass and critical shallow water habitats in FKNMS.
  • Address concentrated uses that diminish and destroy seagrass and shallow water habitats.
  • Identify where high impact activities known to occur should be allowed and encouraged for public and private uses.
  • Identify seagrass and shallow water habitat areas for exclusion to allow for research control areas.
  • Evaluate mangrove habitat protection for bird nesting.
  • Reduce damage to natural resources from improper vessel salvage methods.


Advisory Council Lead - Jack Curlett

Advisory Council Representatives: 
Justin Bruland, SAC Commercial Fishing
Jack Curlett, SAC Recreational Fishing
Bruce Frerer, SAC Recreational Fishing
Pete Frezza, SAC South Florida Ecosystem Restoration
Richard Grathwohl, SAC Fishing Charter Flats Guide
David Makepeace, SAC Citizen at Large - Upper Keys
Bruce Popham, SAC Boating Industry 
Jessica Pulfer, SAC Conservation and Environment

Community Experts:
Aaron Adams, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust
Carla Bellenger, Key West Eco Tours, Inc.
Mike Bresette, InWater Research Group, Inc.
Tad Burke, Florida Keys Fishing Guide Association
Charlie Causey, Florida Keys Environmental Fund
John Coffin, Coffin Marine Services Inc.
Roy Herndon, Marine Life Collectors
Meaghan Johnson, The Nature Conservancy
Bill Keogh, Big Pine Kayak
John O'Hearn, Lower Keys Guides Association

Staff Lead: Stephen Werndli

For advisory council meeting archives visit: Current Year or Previous Year Archives.

Draft Recommendations

Materials to be presented at the June 17, 2014 Sanctuary Advisory Council Meeting

Data and Mapping Applications


Community Composition

Injury Recovery