Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects spectacular, unique, and nationally significant marine resources, including the world’s third largest barrier reef, extensive seagrass beds, mangrove-fringed islands, and more than 6,000 species of marine life. The sanctuary also protects pieces of our nation’s history such as shipwrecks and other archeological treasures.
Within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, water quality has improved and the size and abundance of some fish species and spiny lobster in large sanctuary reserves are on the rise. However, coastal development, vessel groundings, marine debris, climate change, and poaching continue to threaten the more than 2,900 square nautical miles of marine habitat that the sanctuary protects. Also, many historically abundant marine resources such as green sea turtles and coral habitat continue to be at risk.
These are some of the findings from the recently released “Condition Report 2011 for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.” This comprehensive report examines the status of the sanctuary’s water quality, habitats, marine life, and cultural resources; outlines resource threats; and highlights actions to address these threats.
The Florida Keys have a long history of environmental exploitation dating back to the late 1800s. Since its designation in 1990, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has worked to address human-related impacts in the Keys through activities such as public education, research, discharge regulations, and the designation of no-take marine zones.
While the condition report, the first of its kind for the sanctuary, indicates that human activities continue to take their toll on the habitat and living resources within the sanctuary, findings also suggest that long-term management efforts, regulatory compliance, and community involvement can have a positive impact.
The report will serve as an important baseline on the status of sanctuary resources and will guide a comprehensive review of the sanctuary’s regulations and management plan.