A Blueprint for the Future: Restoring Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and draft management plan (known as “Restoration Blueprint”) for proposed updates to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s boundary, regulations, and marine zones. NOAA’s “Restoration Blueprint” synthesizes lessons learned from more than 20 years of on-the-ground experience in science, management, education, and local community involvement.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects the only barrier coral reef in the continental United States, stretching south from Miami to the Dry Tortugas. Within these waters lie nationally-significant resources including seagrass beds, coral reef colonies, mangrove-fringed islands, and thousands of marine species.

With the diverse habitat for thousands of species, including commercial fishing species, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary annually attracts approximately 5.3 million visitors who spend an estimated $4 billion in recreational activities in the sanctuary. The fragile habitat is increasingly under threat from hurricanes, disease, boat groundings, rising ocean temperatures, pollution, and human interactions. The proposed alternatives in the DEIS are in response to public input that new or expanded protection strategies may be necessary to better address increasing marine uses, as well as emerging and ongoing threats to marine resources.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s Blueprint website states, “Meeting the challenges of the future will take dedication, passion, and appreciation from all of us. The health of sanctuary habitats has a profound effect on our economy and our unique way of life in the Keys.”

NOAA will accept public comment until January 31, 2020. In addition to the public comment period, multiple advisory council meetings and public information meetings (listed below) will provide opportunities for engagement and public comment. 

The DEIS is available online

Informational Public Meetings (Public may provide written comment only) 

Key West
Monday, September 23 at 6:00 P.M.
Key West High School
2100 Flagler Avenue

Monday, September 30 at 6:00 P.M.
Marathon Middle High School
350 Sombrero Beach Road

Monday, October 7 at 6:00 P.M.
Coral Shores High School
89901 Old Highway

Informational Meeting and Public Comment Opportunity (Public may provide oral comment)

Coral Gables
Monday, October 28 at 6:00 P.M.
University of Miami Newman Alumni Center
6200 San Amaro Drive 

Fort Myers
Monday, November 4 at 6:00 P.M.
Holiday Inn Airport at Town Center
9931 Interstate Commerce Drive 

Sanctuary Advisory Council Meeting, open to the public (Public may provide oral comment)  

Tuesday, October 15 at 9:00 A.M.
Isla Bella Beach Resort
1 Knights Key Boulevard
Marathon, FL 33050

Tuesday, December 10 at 9:00 A.M.
Isla Bella Beach Resort
1 Knights Key Boulevard
Marathon, FL 33050