Special Use Areas

An undersea lab on the seafloor.
The Aquarius Reef Base is an underwater habitat operated by Florida International University, located 5.4 miles off Key Largo in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters. Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

Special-use areas set aside areas for undisturbed scientific research.

The sanctuary's four special-use research only areas are located at Conch Reef, Tennessee Reef, Looe Key (patch reef), and Eastern Sambo.

The following activities are prohibited in special-use research only areas:

  • No entry or activities without a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary permit
  • Discharging any matter except cooling water or engine exhaust
  • Fishing by any means; removing, harvesting, or possessing any marine life
  • Touching or standing on living or dead coral
  • Anchoring on living or dead coral, or any attached organism

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