Advisory Council Regulatory Review Workplan and Working Groups

The Sanctuary Advisory Council, using its 2012 workplan as a guide, worked with the public and community experts, to develop ideas and alternatives for potential changes to the sanctuary's marine zones, boundaries, and regulations as part of its overall management plan review. Below are the nine priority items and four additional items that the advisory council reviewed, with links to details about the council's discussions, presentations, and actions on each of these topics. Learn how to participate or sign up for marine zoning and regulatory review email updates.

   pdf Download the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council Regulatory and Zoning Alternatives Development Workplan (383 kb).

Priority Items

Discussion circle
  1. Shallow Water Wildlife and Habitat Protection
  2. Coral Reef Ecosystem Restoration
  3. Ecosystem Protection: Ecological Reserves / Preservation Areas and Wildlife Protection
  4. Artificial Habitats
  5. Permit Procedures and Adaptive Management
  6. Study Areas and Boundary Modifications
  7. Personal Watercraft Tours / Fishing Conflicts
  8. Water Quality
  9. Fishery Management Coordination

Items for Discussion and Potential Action

  1. Law Enforcement
  2. Education and Outreach
  3. Vessel / Boating Licensing and Education
  4. Alternative Funding Mechanisms / User Fees

Working Groups

Working groups were created to address the most complex topics, gathering information from community experts, user groups, and scientists in a series of workshops held throughout 2013, 2014, and 2015. Detailed information about the working groups and their recommendations to the advisory council are available at the links provided below.


Learn more and find related documents on the marine zoning and regulatory review homepage.

Florida Keys and South Florida Ecosystem Connectivity Team

Birds stand on a mangrove stump

The Florida Keys are part of a complex hydrological system that is influenced by waters from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, as well as the Greater Everglades ecosystem, which includes Lake Okeechobee and its headwaters, The Everglades Agricultural Area, Water Conservation Areas, Everglades National Park, Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, Biscayne National Park and mainland south Florida. As such, Keys’ water quality is highly influenced by factors that originate outside the islands and waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The Florida Keys Sanctuary Advisory Council and Water Quality Protection Program have created a joint working group for the purpose of facilitating multi-agency and stakeholder collaboration related to Everglades restoration and other regional issues of importance to water quality, habitats and living marine resources within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.


  • Inform and engage members of the SAC, WQPP and the Florida Keys community in South Florida Ecosystem Restoration by providing regular updates at meetings, facilitating dialogue, and generating recommendations that can be made on behalf of the SAC and WQPP to decision makers.
  • Ensure the interests of the FKNMS are represented in South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and other relevant decision-making processes by staying involved in ongoing activities, including opportunities for public participation and engagement, and providing direct input from the SAC and WQPP to the NOAA Task Force representatives and other relevant agencies and decision makers as needed.
  • Facilitate regular participation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District at working group, SAC and WQPP meetings to allow information sharing and dialogue.
  • Provide a platform for collaboration between members of the SAC, WQPP and Florida Keys community on South Florida Ecosystem Restoration and other South Florida regional issues of mutual interest and most urgent importance to the Florida Keys.


Advisory Council Lead: Jerry Lorenz

Advisory Council/WQPP Steering Committee Representatives:

Joe Weatherby, SAC (Diving - Lower Keys)
Erinn Muller, SAC (Research and Monitoring)
Suzy Roebling, SAC (Citizen at Large – Upper Keys)
Chris Bergh, WQPP Steering Committee
Shelly Krueger, SAC (Education and Outreach)/WQPP Steering Committee
Kelly Cox, SAC (South Florida Conservation and Environment)

Community Experts:

Steve Friedman, Upper Keys Fishing Guide
Mike Goldberg, Key Dives/Islamorada Conservation and Restoration Education (I.CARE)
Emma Haydocy, Surfrider Foundation
Steve Davis, Everglades Foundation
Cara Capp, National Parks Conservation Association
Matt Semcheski, College of the Florida Keys
Jolly Benson, Lower Keys Fishing Guides Association
Amelia Moura, Coral Restoration Foundation
Paul Julian, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

Agency Advisors:

Gina Ralph, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Christopher Madden, South Florida Water Management District
Nicholas Parr, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Luke McEachron, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Adam Gelber, Office of Everglades Restoration Initiatives
Steven Blackburn, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Tylan Dean, National Park Service
Brian Cumbie, Florida Department of Environmental Protection

FKNMS Staff Lead: Karen Bohnsack


Beginning May 2021, meetings of the Connectivity Team will be held every other month on the 3rd Tuesday, from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

To join these meetings virtually via the Google Meet Platform:

Log-in online at: (recommended) or join by phone: 225-414-2291; PIN: 776-665-531.

Meeting #9: Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Meeting #10: Tuesday, March 21, 2023

  • Agenda

Meeting #11: Tuesday, May 16, 2023

  • Agenda TBD

Meeting Notes

Meeting #1: Tuesday, March 18, 2021

Other Materials

Meeting #2: Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Meeting #3: Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Meeting #4: Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Meeting #5: Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Meeting #6: Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Meeting #7: Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Meeting #8: Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Meeting #9: Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Recreational & Charter Fishing Working Group

Boat transiting

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is working with charter fishing operators to develop a voluntary education and recognition program. This Blue Star Fishing Guide program may be modeled after the current Blue Star program for charter dive and snorkel operators.

The Sanctuary Advisory Council created a community working group to help develop this program. Following a series of meetings, this working group will provide recommendations to the Advisory Council in April of 2017. Upon consideration of these recommendations, the Advisory Council may direct FKNMS to move forward in developing Blue Star Fishing Guide for 2018.

Advisory Council Lead - Will Benson


  • Cultivate a voluntary program which will recognize charter fishing operators who meet set criteria to educate their customers to conserve the special ecosystem of the Florida Keys;

  • Increase the awareness and stewardship of the FKNMS within the resident and visiting angling community;

  • Increase communication and partnership between FKNMS and the recreational and charter fishing community; and,

  • Promote FKNMS as a multiple use recreational area.


Advisory Council Lead - Will Benson

Advisory Council Representatives:
Suzy Roebling – Citizen at Large, Upper Keys
Martin Moe – Education and Outreach
Joe Weatherby – Tourism, Lower Keys
Shelly Krueger – Research and Monitoring

Community Experts:
Brice Barr – Key West Charter Boat Association
Luke Kelly – Lower Keys Guides Association
Steve Freidman – Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association
Brooke Black – Bonefish Tarpon Trust
Trip Aukeman – Coastal Conservation Association
Gary Jennings – Keep Florida Fishing
Mike Weinhofer – Compass Rose Charters

FKNMS Staff Lead: Nicole Uibel

Meeting Schedule

Initial Workshop: Wednesday January 25th 9:30am-3:30pm
City of Marathon Council Chambers
9805 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050
pdf  Agenda (100 kb)
See the Notes tab for additional information on this meeting.

Public Engagement Meeting Marathon: Wednesday February 1st 6:00pm-8:00pm
City of Marathon Council Chambers
9805 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050
pdf Draft Agenda for Public Engagement Meetings (350 kb)

Public Engagement Meeting Islamorada: Wednesday February 8th 6:00pm-8:00pm
Monroe County Public Library – Islamorada
81830 Overseas Highway
Islamorada, FL 33036
pdf Draft Agenda for Public Engagement Meetings (350 kb)

Public Engagement Meeting Key West: Wednesday February 15th 6:00pm-8:00pm
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
35 E. Quay Road
Key West, FL 33040
pdf Draft Agenda for Public Engagement Meetings (350 kb)

Final Workshop: Wednesday February 22nd 9:30am-3:30pm
City of Marathon Council Chambers
9805 Overseas Highway
Marathon, FL 33050
pdf Draft Agenda for Final Workshop (190 kb)

Meeting Notes

Meeting Agendas and Meeting Summaries will be posted as available.

January 25th Initial Workshop

   Other Materials

February 22th Final Workshop

Draft Recommendations

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