New Coast Guard Auxiliary partnership increases boater education

Coast Guard Auxiliary patrols protected area.Photo by David Gross. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has begun patrolling sanctuary marine zones in the upper Florida Keys to promote safe boating and boater education. Photo by David Gross.

Boater education is getting a boost in the upper Florida Keys thanks to a new partnership between the Sanctuary and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Since February, the Upper Keys and Ocean Reef Coast Guard Auxiliary flotillas have begun patrols of the 11 Sanctuary Preservation Areas and two Research Only Areas between Tennessee and Carysfort reefs in an effort to educate boaters and protect the coral reef environment.

Auxiliary members in marked vessels are conducting patrols weekly to inform boaters about the Sanctuary's special zones and rules, and promote boating safety. The additional on-the-water outreach provided by Auxiliarists will help maintain the integrity of sanctuary "no-take" areas and avert both accidental and intentional violations. Auxiliarists will distribute educational packets containing charts and conservation information to boaters unfamiliar with sanctuary rules, and have the ability to contact FWC and U.S. Coast Guard enforcement teams if necessary.

Two of the five Florida Keys flotillas currently patrol sanctuary zones, and the program is anticipated to expand Keys-wide in the coming months. More than 350 individuals in the Florida Keys donate their time to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, whose mission is to contribute to the safety and security of the nation’s citizens, ports and waterways.

Coast Guard Auxiliary educational patrols will complement similar boater education conducted by Sanctuary volunteers with the Team OCEAN program who use Sanctuary vessels to engage boaters at heavily visited reef sites during summer weekends and busy holidays.