Special-use Areas

diver doing research

Special-use Areas are used to set aside areas for scientific research and educational purposes, restoration, monitoring, or to establish areas that confine or restrict activities. These areas minimize impacts on sensitive habitats and reduce user conflicts.

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.

Map of Sanctuary Marine Zones

Florida Keys National  Marine Sanctuary map

Click on the map to see locations of marine zones within the sanctuary, or view a complete list of all marine zones.

While there are currently no other types of Special-use Areas within the sanctuary, there are three other types of Special-use Areas possible in the zoning scheme. “Restoration” or “recovery areas” may be implemented for the recovery or restoration of injured or degraded resources; while “facilitated-use areas” can be created to prevent user conflicts and to enhance access or use of sanctuary resources. Regulations may confine or restrict activities such as personal watercraft operation and live-aboard mooring.


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


Other Types of Marine Zones