How To Enjoy Wildlife in a Sanctuary

The Florida Keys are one of 15 areas that are part of the National Marine Sanctuary. This program is administered by NOAA and protects 2,900 square nautical miles from Miami to Dry Tortugas. Within the barriers of the Florida Keys Sanctuary you will find that everything from history to living species are protected.

The Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary is home to over 6,000 species of marine life, shipwrecks and treasures, seagrass beds, mangroves and the world’s 3rd largest barrier reef.

Over 2 Million visitors come to the Florida Keys each year. That is a LOT of people to come through an area of  only 2,900 square miles. Of course, I don’t blame them for wanting to come here and enjoy our scenic views and wildlife. We have white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, chickens and iguanas that roam free and the most beautiful sunsets.

During your visit please keep in mind these Do’s and Don’ts:


  • Move, remove, take, injure, touch, break, cut or possess coral/ live rock, protected wildlife or historical resources
  • Discharge or deposit sewage from marine sanitation devices, trash, and other materials, except for cooling water or engine exhaust.
  • Dredge, drill, or alter the seabed in any way including abandoning items on the seabed.
  • Operate a vessel in a way to strike or injure coral, endanger life, limb, marine resources, property, seagrass, or other organisms living on the seabed, or cause prop scarring.
  • Anchor your vessel on living coral in water less than 40 feet deep when the bottom can be seen. Anchoring on hard-bottom is allowed.
  • Anchor your vessel 0n living or dead coral/ any organism attached to the seabed or when a mooring buoy is available.
  • (Unless you are in a marked channel) Operate a vessel at more than 4 knots/no wake within 100 yards of shorelines, stationary vessels, navigational aids or within 100yds of a “divers down” flag.
  • Dive or snorkel without a dive flag, touch or stand on living or dead coral.
  • Damage or remove any markers, mooring buoys, equipment, boundary buoys, and trap buoys.
  • Fish, remove, harvest, possess or land any marine life except as allowed by the FWC.
  • Release exotic species


  • Take pictures
  • Pick up any waste/garbage that you find
  • Report any mistreatment of living species you witness
  • Fish under the regulations allowed by the FWC
  • Anchor on a mooring buoy when available
  • Observe marine life from a safe, respectful distance
  • Visit the Key West Aquarium and the Eco-Discovery Center to learn more on conservation and protection efforts for the ecosystems in the Florida Keys

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