Hurricane Irma poses significant threat to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Sanctuary Superintendent Statement:

September 2017

Hurricane Irma is expected to cause extensive damage on both land and sea as it impacts Florida. Due to the sheer size and power of this storm, damage to natural and cultural resources in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary could be significant.

Sanctuary staff will assess damage and possible mitigation when it is safe to do so. Recovery will depend on the extent of damage and the health of the reef ecosystem when the storm strikes.

The continental United States' only barrier reef provides a buffer for the Florida Keys during storms, decreasing impact on lives and property. Minor hurricanes may clear the reef of dead organisms and even enhance biodiversity, however strong hurricanes often result in significant damage, depleting the natural barrier and important marine life habitat.

Hurricanes Georges in 1998 and Wilma in 2005 ripped sponges and sea fans from their bases and reduced many areas of the Florida Keys reef tract to rubble.
Following the storm, the sanctuary will work with its long-standing partners on potential restoration efforts.
For more information about the storm, please 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.

Sarah Fangman, Superintendent
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary