Wildlife Management Areas

Brown pelicans roost in a mangrove
Wildlife management areas have been established to protect wildlife from activities that threaten their safety. Photo: Kristie Killam/USFWS

Wildlife management areas (WMAs) are intended to minimize disturbance to sensitive or endangered wildlife and their habitats, such as bird nesting, resting or feeding areas, and turtle nesting beaches. Regulations governing WMAs are designed to provide opportunities for public use while protecting wildlife. These areas often include no-motor zones, idle speed only/no wake zones, and closed zones.

There are currently 27 WMAs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Twenty of these areas are co-managed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of their plan for managing backcountry portions of the national wildlife refuges in the Florida Keys. The remaining seven WMAs are under sanctuary management.

Public-access restrictions in WMAs include idle speed only/no wake, no access buffer, no motor, and closed zones, and are marked as such on white and orange information/regulatory cylindrical spar buoys.

Signs on the water indicating the prohibition of internal combustion engines
The Florida Keys "backcountry" includes many areas where motorized vessels are not allowed. Photo: Scott Atwell/NOAA

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