Sundiver Snorkel Tours earns sanctuary Blue Star certification

October 1, 2015

Media Contact:

Rachel Pawlitz
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Blue Star Program

NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary welcomes Sundiver Snorkel Tours of Key Largo, Florida as the newest participant in the sanctuary’s Blue Star education and conservation program.

The Blue Star program, which recognizes charter companies that commit to training snorkelers and divers in low impact practices, has grown to include 19 operators since it was initiated in 2009. Research has shown that education can lessen the impact that snorkelers and divers have on marine ecosystems, because they are more careful to avoid damaging contact with corals and other marine life.

Dive shop staff display Blue Star decal. Captain Ken Vaughn (right) and First Mate Matt Hetman (left) of Sundiver Snorkel Tours display the shop's new Blue Star decal aboard the Sundiver IIIClick for high-resolution version.

“Congratulations to Sundiver Snorkel Tours for their commitment to ensuring local tourism is sustainable,” said Sanctuary Superintendent Sean Morton. “We rely on our Blue Star partners to help keep the reefs healthy for the next generation of visitors.”

The sanctuary is home to the third-largest living barrier coral reef in the world, and is visited by hundreds of thousands of snorkelers and divers each year. This contributes to an estimated $2 billion in annual ocean-based tourism revenue. The reef’s close proximity to land and an abundance of boat operators in the Keys make it easily accessible to both novice snorkelers and seasoned divers.

Operators become Blue Star certified by attending annual training on issues affecting coral reefs, sanctuary regulations and coral reef etiquette. In turn, Blue Star operators educate their customers by incorporating the information into certification classes and dive briefings. They also must offer conservation-related dive courses and participate in activities such as fish counts and reef clean-ups. Operators are re-evaluated on an annual basis.

To learn more about the program and see a list of recognized operators, visit:

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats, as well as shipwrecks and maritime heritage resources. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary. Visit us at, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join NOAA on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels.