Television show highlights successes of sanctuary’s Tortugas Ecological Reserve

Red grouper next to a head of star coral Researchers studying the effects of marine zones on the marine life and habitats of the Florida Keys have documented positive ecological changes in places like the Tortugas Ecological Reserve.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with Everglades National Park and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has recently released “Marine Zones and the Tortugas Ecological Reserve” a new 26-minute episode of the educational television series “Waterways.”

Just as areas of land may be set aside for specific uses, so too can parts of the ocean. Marine zones can help protect sensitive natural resources from overuse, separate conflicting uses, and preserve the diversity of marine life in an area. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary established the nation’s first comprehensive network of marine zones in 1997 after years of planning, design, and public input. The sanctuary’s zones are designed to protect and preserve sensitive parts of the ecosystem while allowing activities that are compatible with resource protection.

The latest “Waterways” episode provides an overview of the types of marine zones used in the Florida Keys and highlights the sanctuary’s crown jewel – the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. This 151-square nautical mile reserve, located more than 70 miles west of Key West, is closed to all anchoring and fishing. Since reserve protection in 2001, scientists have documented the return of historic gatherings of spawning fish and other ecological improvements. 

“Waterways: Marine Zones and the Tortugas Ecological Reserve” has begun airing on public and government channels throughout the state of Florida — check local listings for scheduling. This and other episodes can be viewed on Waterwaystvshow YouTube channel.

More than 200 episodes of” Waterways” have aired since 1993. The series is a joint project between Everglades National Park, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Waterways” educates viewers on the diverse wonders of the south Florida ecosystem and the conservation programs that protect them.