Sanctuary Preservation Areas

A large yellow buoy on the surface of the water and a lighthouse in the distance
Yellow buoys mark the boundary of Alligator Reef Sanctuary Preservation Area in the middle Keys. Photo: Andy Newman

Sanctuary preservation areas (SPA) within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protect shallow reefs along the reef tract. SPAs encompass discrete, biologically important areas that help sustain critical marine species and habitats. SPAs have mooring buoys for boaters to use in order to prevent anchor damage to corals. There are 18 SPAs within the sanctuary, which together cover a total of about 4.97 square nautical miles.

Regulations for this zone type are designed to limit consumptive activities such as fishing and harvesting, and to separate users engaged in different kinds of activities. Diving, snorkeling, and boating are allowed inside these zones, but fishing and collecting are not.

In addition to activities prohibited by sanctuary-wide regulations, the following activities are prohibited in sanctuary preservation areas (with exceptions where noted):

  • Discharging any matter except cooling water or engine exhaust
  • Fishing by any means; removing, harvesting, or possessing any marine life. Catch and release fishing by trolling is allowed in
  • Conch Reef, Alligator Reef, Sombrero Reef, and Sand Key SPAs only.
  • Touching or standing on living or dead coral
  • Anchoring on living or dead coral or any attached organism
  • Anchoring when a mooring buoy is available for use

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