The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is home to over 6,000 species of marine life and covers 2,900 square nautical miles of water. Photo Credit – NOAA
Greetings! There have been countless times when I’d swim the beautiful, turquoise waters along the Florida’s Keys. Well it just so happens that these waters are part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, designated on November 16, 1990, is actually one of 15 protected regions, which encompass the National Marine Sanctuary System and is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA]. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects “2,900 square nautical miles of waters surrounding the Florida Keys, from south Miami westward to encompass the Dry Tortugas, excluding Dry Tortugas National Park.”
Now here’s where it gets interesting, once you put your foot into the Keys waters, you have entered the sanctuary! Another way of looking at it is the mean high-water mark is the shoreward boundary of the sanctuary. Inside the borders of the sanctuary, you will find extraordinary and unique marine resources. These include the world’s third largest barrier reef, extensive seagrass beds for yours truly and my other manatee friends to feast on! Additionally, you will uncover mangrove rich islands with over 6,000 species of marine life.
History of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
The history of the national marine sanctuary system goes back to 1975. This is when the first sanctuary was established. Since that time, the National Marine Sanctuary System has grown to 13 sanctuaries and two marine national monuments. Here are their 15 locations…
Florida Keys – Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Grays Reef – located 16 miles (17.5 nautical miles) off Sapelo Island, Georgia.
Flower Garden Banks – located 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
Northeast and Great Lakes Region…
Thunder Bay – located in the Great Lakes water off the coast of Alpena, Michigan.
Stellwagon Bank – located at the mouth of the Massachusetts Bay.
Monitor – designated as the nation’s first national marine sanctuary on January 30, 1975. The site was named after the wreck of the USS Monitor, a Civil War vessel that lay deep beneath the ocean surface off the coast of North Carolina.
Mallows Bay – located on the Potomac River in Maryland. It is home to nearly 200 known shipwrecks spanning from the Revolutionary War through the present.
Wisconsin (Lake Michigan) – This marine sanctuary contains an extraordinary collection of 39 known shipwrecks. 15 of these shipwrecks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
West Coast Region…
Olympic Coast – This sanctuary provides visitors with a spectacular, unpopulated and undeveloped shoreline for almost the entire length of the sanctuary.
Greater Farallones – Located along the Pacific Coast where its boundaries begin just west and continue north of San Francisco.
Monterey Bay – Located in the Pacific Ocean just off the central California coast. This sanctuary was designated as a national marine sanctuary in 1992. It stretches almost 300 miles north to south and extends an average of 35 miles offshore.
Channel Islands – The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is located 25 miles (22 nautical miles) off the coast of Santa Barbara, California
Pacific Islands Region…
Papahanaumokuakea – Off of Hawaii’s coast, this sanctuary is the single largest conservation area in the United States. It is also one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world encompassing 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean. The area of Papahanaumokuakea is larger than all the country’s national parks combined!
Hawaii Humpback Whale – This sanctuary is vital for the protection of the Humpback whale because it is the only place in the U.S. where Humpback whales reproduce.
American Samoa – This sanctuary encompasses 13,581 square miles around the spectacular islands of American Samoa.
So if you plan on visiting Florida to see us manatees, why not check out the spectacular Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Or any of the other 14 National Marine Sanctuaries!
If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee