Existing Management Areas

From the water's surface we look up at the side of a small boat
Sanctuary vessels are often seen conducting work throughout designated marine zones. Photo: NOAA

Existing management areas are located within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and were established by NOAA or another federal agency prior to 1997 when sanctuary zoning regulations went into effect.

There are six existing management areas in the sanctuary, including Key Largo and Looe Key existing management areas, which are managed by the sanctuary, and Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, National Key Deer Refuge, and Key West National Wildlife Refuge, which are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition to regulations that apply to all sanctuary areas, existing management areas have their own protections and restrictions. Check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for applicable rules and regulations that apply in the areas they manage, in addition to the personal watercraft regulations listed below.

In the Key Largo and Looe Key Existing Management Areas, the following activities are prohibited:

  • Removing, taking, spearing, or otherwise damaging any coral, marine invertebrate, plant, soil, rock, or other material is prohibited. However, commercial taking of spiny lobster and stone crab by trap and recreational taking of spiny lobster by hand or hand gear consistent with applicable state and federal fishery regulations are allowed.
  • Taking any tropical fish is prohibited.
  • Fishing with wire fish traps, bottom trawls, dredges, fish sleds, or similar vessel-towed or anchored bottom fishing gear or nets is prohibited.
  • Spearfishing is prohibited. Spearfishing equipment may only be possessed if passing through without stopping.

In the Great White Heron and Key West national wildlife refuge management areas, the following activities are prohibited:

  • Operating a personal watercraft, operating an airboat, or water skiing is prohibited, except within Township 66 South, Range 29 East, Sections 5, 11, 12 and 14; Township 66 South, Range 28 East, Section 2; Township 67 South, Range 26 East, Sections 16 and 20, all Tallahassee Meridian.

A summary of all sanctuary regulations is available online. For the full text of sanctuary regulations, see 15 CFR 922 Subpart P.