National Marine Sanctuary Foundation releases report on 2020 marine debris removal

Goal: Clean Seas project removed 13,002 lbs of debris from Florida Keys and Channel Islands in 2020 with Foundation support


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Silver Spring, Md. – April 12, 2021 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation released a report on the marine debris removal work it supported through Goal: Clean Seas in 2020 in both Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The report details the program highlights, including the launch of Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands in the summer of 2020. Overall, the Foundation supported the removal of 13,002 lbs of debris from 12,000 square meters of underwater area and 2.5 miles of shoreline in national marine sanctuaries through the Goal: Clean Seas program. Dive shops in the Florida Keys have reported having to go to deeper reefs in order to find marine debris at sites, an indicator of the program’s success after three years of work. 

In both the Florida Keys and Channel Islands, support from the Goal: Clean Seas program served as a financial support by replacing a portion of lost tourist income for tourism industry operators that have seen their businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report also looks to the future for plans to continue growing the success of the program. Thanks to a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the Foundation will add new dive operators to the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative. In the Channel Islands, the program will institutionalize yearly cleanup efforts and address marine debris in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary by introducing new elements, including integration of smaller scoping cleanups with lobstermen; expanding the number of lobstermen who are engaged in cleanup efforts; and adding new cleanup locations on the islands.

Sarah Fangman, Superintendent of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, said, “Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has developed a go-to team of reef stewards by educating Blue Star dive operators on best practices for debris removal, including advance reconnaissance dives, permitting, recycling and post-dive analysis and reporting.  I am grateful for the leadership and commitment of Blue Star operators and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation who are meeting our goal of clean seas in the Florida Keys.” 

Sean Hastings, Policy, Management and Information Officer at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, said, “Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands is making a real difference in abating marine debris in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary with the support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and commercial fishermen, tourism operators and local conservation organization partners.  Together, we are literally carrying our weight as measured in the tremendous amount of marine debris removed from the sanctuary.”

In the Florida Keys, the Foundation announced that it will grant funds for underwater marine debris removal to 10 Blue Star Dive Operators in the Florida Keys in 2021 through Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys. The Foundation is granting a total of $51,621 for scoping and removal dives in the Keys in 2021 through a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

Sara Rankin, Florida Keys chapter director for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “The purpose of Goal: Clean Seas is to empower the community to act as stewards of the environment. The coral reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are still suffering from the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, but our results over the past year show that we are making progress. I am proud that our eight Blue Star Dive Operator partners removed 4,642 lbs of debris and 9,339 feet of line last year, and I know we can accomplish even more with 10 dive operators now on board. We look forward to working with all of these outstanding dive operators to protect and restore our treasured reefs.” 


About Goal: Clean Seas

Goal: Clean Seas was established in May 2018 as a community stewardship partnership to remove marine debris between Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and sanctuary-recognized Blue Star Dive Operators. Blue Star is a program established by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary recognizing 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. 

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation now partners with two sanctuaries, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, to train and equip community partners—local businesses and industries that rely on the marine ecosystem—to conduct specialized removals and empower long-term conservation of these sites. Goal: Clean Seas also engages the public in marine debris awareness and prevention through education and outreach.

For more information, visit Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys or Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands.

Contact: Chip Weiskotten

Director of Strategic Communications 



The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve America’s maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at

Designated on November 16, 1990, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of the marine protected areas that make up the National Marine Sanctuary System. Administered by NOAA and jointly managed with the State of Florida, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 3,800 square miles of waters surrounding the Florida Keys. Within the boundaries of the sanctuary lie spectacular, unique, and nationally significant marine resources including North America’s only coral barrier reef, extensive seagrass beds, mangrove-fringed islands, more than 6,000 species of marine life and archeological treasures.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1980 to protect marine resources surrounding San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands. The sanctuary spans approximately 1,470 square miles, extending from island shorelines to six miles offshore, and encompasses a rich diversity of marine life, habitats, and historical and cultural resources.