Designated: November 16, 1990
Expansion: July 1, 2001
Area: 2,900 mi²
Once you set foot in Florida Keys waters, you have entered Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. That’s because this sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of waters surrounding the Florida Keys, from south of Miami westward to the Dry Tortugas, excluding Dry Tortugas National Park, starting at the mean high-water mark.
Within the boundaries of the sanctuary lie spectacular, unique, and nationally significant marine resources, from the world’s third largest barrier reef, extensive seagrass beds, mangrove-fringed islands, and more than 6,000 species of marine life. The sanctuary also protects pieces of our nation’s history such as shipwrecks and other archeological treasures.
North America’s only living coral barrier reef (the world’s third largest) and one of the most popular diving destinations, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary supports the region’s success in global tourism. Ocean-related activities connected to the Sanctuary bring the local economy more than $4.4 billion in annual revenue and over 70,000 jobs.
World-class diving, swimming, fishing, boating, and other sports draw visitors to the sanctuary. Its approach to sustainable tourism – conserving the site because of, and for, its use – is the key to its continuing popularity and economic importance.
Beyond its recreation riches, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary offers innovative education programs, citizen science, volunteer opportunities, and high-tech research and conservation work. More than 72,000 people annually visit its Eco-Discovery Center, a 6000-square-foot interactive learning experience for all ages. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s first capital campaign provided the exhibits for the Center when it opened in 2007 and we continue to support its management.