National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Seeks Applications for Underwater Marine Debris Removal in the Florida Keys

Funding available to Blue Star dive operators to remove and dispose of underwater marine debris as part of the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys program.


Key West, Fla.  – October 27, 2020 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced a funding opportunity for Blue Star dive operators to remove marine debris within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary as part of the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative. 

The Foundation is currently seeking applications that support removal and disposal of marine debris that present high risk for damaging important resources in key sanctuary management areas. Blue Star-recognized dive operators are eligible to apply for funding. The Foundation will award contracts to Blue Star dive operators to locate (through scoping trips) and remove marine debris including displaced and destroyed lobster traps, fishing gear, and other large debris items from target areas within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The application deadline is October 31st. 

Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary suffered unprecedented damage including a significant amount of marine debris, presenting challenges to navigation, damaging the Sanctuary’s ecosystem, and severely impacting regional tourism and fisheries-based businesses. Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys partners with the sanctuary to engage local Blue Star-recognized dive operators and businesses in marine debris removal efforts as part of local hurricane recovery. The Blue Star program, established in 2009 by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is a voluntary recognition program for dive, snorkel, and fishing charters seeking to reduce damage to coral reef ecosystems by emphasizing proper etiquette for responsible diving, snorkeling, and fishing, educating customers, and engaging them as partners in coral reef conservation. 

In August 2020, the NOAA Marine Debris program awarded the Foundation and its local chapter in the Florida Keys $134,928 in funds to continue removing underwater marine debris in Florida Keys NMS. 

Funding for Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys is available now. To apply, visit  



Chip Weiskotten

Director of Strategic Communications



Sara Rankin

Florida Keys Chapter Director




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 develops strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a local chapter of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to inspire the public to protect Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The chapter’s priorities include establishing partnerships with local businesses and organizations to invest in on-the-water conservation projects. The chapter’s programs include supporting marine debris removal, improving buoy and marker infrastructure to support sustainable recreational use, and supporting efforts to combat coral disease and restore the reef ecosystem.