Tips For Being a Responsible Diver

Book your dive trip with a Blue Star operator

Book your dive trip with a Blue Star operator who is committed to promoting responsible and sustainable diving and snorkeling practices to reduce the impact of these activities on coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

Avoid contact with the reef

Even a minor brush with hands, fins, or gear can damage delicate coral animals. Touching coral can even hurt you, as some corals can sting and many are sharp enough to cut skin.

Never stand or rest on corals

If you need to rest or adjust equipment while snorkeling, lie on your back or float in a seated position. If you need to stand to adjust equipment, return to the boat. Pay attention to where your feet are while making adjustments, as fluttery fins can stir up sand and smother corals.

Maintain proper buoyancy

Maintain proper buoyancy through practice and proper weight. Use proper horizontal dive posture, with feet remaining slightly elevated above the head. Novice snorkelers can use a snorkel vest to stay afloat. Do a buoyancy check and get comfortable before each dive.

Make sure that all equipment is secure

Make sure that all equipment is secure and does not come into contact with the reef. Avoid using gloves in coral environments. Keep all hoses, regulators, and other gear streamlined and clipped to your BCD. If snorkeling, opt for a snorkel vest rather than a pool noodle to stay afloat, since pool noodles can drift away and become marine debris.

Maintain a comfortable distance from the reef

Maintain a comfortable distance from the reef and avoid shallow areas. Carefully select entry and exit points to avoid reef areas.

Do not touch, handle, feed, or chase marine life

Interaction with animals can stress them, disrupting feeding and mating, and possibly provoking aggressive behavior. Remember that you are visiting the animals' home—treat them and their home with respect. Become familiar with our national marine sanctuaries Wildlife Viewing Guidelines and take the pledge for wildlife.

Don't collect "souvenirs" from the reef

Everything in the sanctuary has meaning and purpose. Even dead coral, rocks, and shells are important components of the marine ecosystem, providing surfaces for baby corals to grow or a home for a hermit crab. Leave these items where you found them.

Historical resources, such as shipwrecks, are non-renewable. Similar to natural resources, such as coral reefs, they are protected by law in sanctuary waters. Historical resources provide opportunities for heritage tourism and can offer clues to our human past. Removing items not only disrupts the natural balance of sites but can limit the sustainability of sanctuary resources over time.