Iconic Reef Guardians
The Iconic Reef Guardians program offers a unique opportunity for divers as well as snorkelers to get involved in coral reef restoration in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and help to preserve these delicate ecosystems for current and future generations by working alongside a wide array of committed partners. In support of Mission: Iconic Reefs, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary oversee the Iconic Reef Guardians Program.
Iconic Reef Guardians (IRG) works directly with Blue Star Diving Operators, a Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary program that recognizes tour operators who are committed to promoting responsible and sustainable diving, snorkeling, and fishing practices to reduce the impact of these activities on ecosystems in the Florida Keys. Blue Star operators take the extra step to educate you to be better environmental stewards and to interact responsibly with natural resources in the Keys. These operators are trained to lead divers and snorkelers through experiences that teach them about coral reefs, coral reef restoration, and allow them to experience the sensitivity and resilience of the coral reef ecosystem firsthand.
In doing so, IRG participants are empowered to be knowledgeable and supportive of coral restoration efforts and subsequently become stewards of Mission: Iconic Reef sites.
Photo: Reef Renewal
There are currently three program opportunities within the Iconic Reef Guardians Program
Passive Coral Nursery Experience – Have you ever wondered where we raise baby corals for reef restoration? Jump into the turquoise blue waters of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and take a tour of some of the largest and most innovative coral nurseries in the world.
Active Coral Nursery Experience – How do we care for baby corals? Participate in the Active Coral Nursery Experience and lend a helping hand doing nursery maintenance, like cleaning coral trees, that helps baby corals have a safe place to grow.
Reef Experience – Once baby corals are placed at Mission: Iconic Reef sites they need support to grow and thrive. Join an IRG Reef Experience to help provide regular care for corals as well as reporting to support the long-term success of restoration.
Bleaching Experience – When high water temperatures hit, our corals can be at risk! Dive into an Iconic Reef Guardians Bleaching Experience to help monitor bleaching events and submit vital data on the health of our reefs.
Photo: John Reinbott
- 13Passive Coral Nursery Experience with Florida Keys Dive CenterJoin Florida Keys Dive Center for an Iconic Reef Guardians trip to the Coral Restoration Foundation’s Tavernier Coral Nursery. During this half-day morning trip, you will be led on a tour of the coral nursery by a trained Iconic Reef Guardians dive professional and passively observe these innovative underwater lo , ...
- 15Passive Coral Nursery Experience with Quiescence Diving ServicesJoin Quiescence Diving Services for an Iconic Reef Guardians trip to the Coral Restoration Foundation’s Tavernier Coral Nursery. During this half-day morning trip, you will be led on a tour of the coral nursery by a trained Iconic Reef Guardians dive professional and passively observe these innovative underwater , ...
Mission: Iconic Reefs
Mission: Iconic Reefs is a large-scale, NOAA-led coral restoration initiative within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to restore seven ecologically and culturally significant coral reefs to self-sustaining levels by 2040. Launched in late 2019, the unprecedented effort is a collaboration with world-renowned scientists, local restoration partners, academia, industry, and federal and state agencies.
The coral reefs of the Florida Keys are a national and international treasure of biodiversity, flourishing with glowing life. Threatened by hurricanes, heat-induced bleaching, cold snaps, disease, marine debris, invasive and nuisance species, and increased human use, the degradation of these reefs has spurred an unprecedented, bold undertaking to restore them: Mission: Iconic Reefs.
This innovative undertaking is a collaboration between NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the State of Florida, Coral Restoration Foundation, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, The Florida Aquarium, The Nature Conservancy, Reef Renewal and University of Florida.
Together, the partners will restore nearly three million square feet of the Florida Reef Tract, about the size of 52 football fields, at seven key reef sites. It is one of the largest strategies ever proposed in the field of coral restoration.
All recreational participants within the Iconic Reef Guardians Program must complete an online course via the Iconic Reef Guardians Learning Platform. This training is housed via the Tovuti Learning Management System and allows participants to complete their training either via computer or on their phone. So, whether you want to do your training at home before your trip down to the Keys or while you are waiting for your flight at the airport, we have got you covered!
Upon booking an Iconic Reef Guardians trip, the corresponding Blue Star Diving Operator will reach out to participants with further instructions on which training course(s) to complete before your dives and pass along any additional information.
Photo: Jay Clue
Meet the Coral Restoration Practitioners
Coral Restoration Foundation – The Coral Restoration Foundation works to actively restore coral reefs on a massive scale, educate others on the importance of our oceans, and use science to further coral research and coral reef monitoring techniques. Learn more here.
Mote Marine Laboratory – Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit marine research institution comprising world-class marine scientists committed to the belief that the conservation and sustainable use of our oceans begins with research and education. Learn more here.
Reef Renewal USA – Reef Renewal, USA, Inc. (RRUSA) is a global model that inspires volunteers to restore and protect coral reefs systems for future generations by using education, innovation, and science through grassroots community involvement. Learn more here.
Photo: John Reinbott
Meet the Blue Star Dive Operators
Florida Keys Dive Center – Florida Keys Dive Center, AKA “Flakeys”, is a full service PADI scuba diving center in the Florida Keys, offering daily guided scuba diving trips, scuba instruction, spear fishing and private dive charters. Learn more here.
Quiescence Diving Services – Quiescence caters their private charters to the needs of their customers, focusing trip locations on the desire of their customer instead of a pre-set schedule. With forty years of scuba diving experience, this shop has found their own signature sites off the beaten trail, which offer new and exciting experiences to new and seasoned divers alike. Learn more here.
Photo: Mote Marine Lab