Protect Our Oceans

Tens of thousand urge NOAA to save the Florida Keys and their wildlife

Home to North America's only coral barrier reef, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary needs greater protections.

Oceans

National Marine Sanctuaries via Flickr | Public Domain

Home to North America’s only coral barrier reef, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary needs greater protections. 

This place is a national marine sanctuary — but climate change, overuse and pollution are making it no safe refuge for the wildlife that call it home.

Found off the southern tip of Florida, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is home to manatees, bottlenose dolphins, mangrove-ringed islands and North America’s only coral barrier reef. Unfortunately, this amazing place is at risk: Over the past four decades, nearly 90% of the sanctuary’s coral cover has been lost, and many of its seagrass beds have been damaged, marred by scars left by boats’ propellers.

Manatee face

Manatees call the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary homePhoto by Bob Bonde/USGS | Public Domain

To protect this special place from further damage, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released a draft plan to increase the area’s protections. The plan, called the Restoration Blueprint, represented a good step forward. Still, if NOAA is going to restore the Keys’ ocean ecosystems, they need to do even more. 

That’s why, this fall, Environment America Research & Policy Center worked alongside our partners at Environment America and the Florida Keys Restoration Partnership to build public support for a better future for the Florida Keys. 

We recruited more than two dozen people to speak at a virtual public meeting, organized a letter from over 50 environmental organizations, aquariums and faith groups highlighting the need for more large highly protected zones within the Sanctuary and greater safeguards for the Keys’ shallow water habitats. Student and youth groups also made their voices heard. Finally, nearly 14,000 supporters of Environment America and its national network submitted public comments urging NOAA to adopt the strongest possible protections. In total, the coalition generated 40,000 comments from the public calling for action. 

Environment America Research & Policy is dedicated to protecting our country’s wild places. You can read more about how we can protect our oceans below.

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