National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Seeks Proposals to Remove Marine Debris in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

In support of Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is providing $80,000 to Blue Star dive operators to remove underwater marine debris and aid in restoration efforts.

Monroe County, FL  – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (the Foundation) announces a funding opportunity for the removal of marine debris within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) following Hurricane Irma. The effort supports the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative to engage local tour operators and businesses in marine debris removal efforts as part of local hurricane recovery. Projects supported include identifying and removing displaced and destroyed lobster traps, fishing gear and other large debris from target areas within the sanctuary.

“Recovery will require a long-term, comprehensive effort and removing underwater debris will help restore both the marine ecosystem and economy of the Keys,” said Kris Sarri, President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “We are proud to support Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Monroe County, the state of Florida, and Blue Star dive operators in helping the Keys recover from Hurricane Irma.”

The Foundation is currently seeking applications to support removal and disposal of marine debris in the Florida Keys NMS that present high risk for damaging important resources. Blue Star-recognized dive operators are eligible to apply for funding. Up to $80,000 is available. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis in order to expedite removal efforts.

On Sept. 10, 2017, when Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys, approximately 350,000 spiny lobster traps were deployed in Monroe County. Approximately 154,000 traps were severely damaged or displaced due to the storm. Of those, roughly 60,000 have been recovered based on estimates from the community in ongoing recovery.

Organizations and agencies participating in marine debris removal efforts in the sanctuary include the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Park Service, Florida Sea Grant, Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Florida Keys Dive Center, History of Diving Museum, MOTE Marine Lab, National Association of Underwater Instructors, NAUI Green Diver Initiative, Project Aware Foundation, Rainbow Reef Dive Center and REEF Environmental Education Foundation.

To learn more about Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys including removal protocols and information about funding, visit



Marcus Reamer
Strategic Communications Director
301.608.3040 x 311

Gena Parsons
Communications and Outreach Manager