Environment

Monroe County, including the Florida Keys, is an archipelago of islands that extends over 200 miles southwest from the southern point of the Florida Peninsula. The Florida Keys are contained within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary which was established in 1990 to protect the extensive network of coral reefs that stretch along the southern boundary of the island chain. The area is home to one of the most valuable commercial fisheries in the country, typically ranking fourth to sixth in the nation in terms of value of landed product. Our major fisheries include the spiny lobster, shrimp, and stone crab as well as sponges and finfish (snappers, mackerels, and groupers). Likewise, the Keys have a large for-hire offshore charter and inshore flats guide-boat fishing fleets and over 100 dive boat operations to serve the two million tourists that come to the area annually primarily for fishing or diving.

When boating, remember to "Pump it - Don't Dump it"

The Florida Keys have been declared a No Discharge Zone for boater sewage. Help improve water quality for our endangered coral reefs by honoring the No Discharge Zone.

  • The No Discharge Zone designation prohibits discharging sewage into all State waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  This includes treated sewage from marine sanitation devices, but does not apply to gray water from showers or sinks, only sewage.
  • Through hull-fittings for disposal of sewage should be closed and appropriate measures to dispose of sewage should be implemented.  The No Discharge Zone strengthens existing regulations so that even chemically treated sewage cannot be discharged overboard.
  • All State waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are included in the No Discharge Zone.  Waters of the State extend to three (3) miles from land on the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys and nine (9) miles from land on the Gulf of Mexico side of the Florida Keys.
  • The Clean Vessel Act also prohibits discharging raw/untreated sewage into all State waters and sewage may not be discharged at any of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary SPAs (Sanctuary Preservation Areas) or the Western Sambo and Tortugas Ecological Reserves.
  • Most pump-out facilities have universal deck fittings, but you should install a fitting on your vessel that provides a tight seal from your holding tank.

Be Kind to Coral

Help preserve our beautiful natural resource!

  • Before heading out, check weather conditions.  Strong winds and rough seas can result in poor visibility and reduce safe interaction with the reef.
  • Use reef mooring buoys or anchor in sandy areas away from coral and sea grasses, so that anchor, chain and line do not contact or damage coral or sea grass.
  • Accidental boat groundings damage the reef.  Consult tide and navigational charts and steer clear of shallow areas.  Boat propellers in shallow water can cause sea grass scars and damage the coral.  Fines are imposed for such damage.  Avoid areas that appear brown in color.  Shallow reef areas and sea grass beds will appear brown.
  • If you run aground, immediately turn the engine off and tilt it up if possible.  Do not try to motor off.  Wait until high tide to remove vessel.  Call for assistance when necessary.
  • When in dive area, slow down to an idle speed.  Make sure your bow is down and the motor or stern is not digging down deep in the water.
  • Practice good seamanship and safe boating.  Maintain safe distances from fishermen.  Avoid wildlife disturbance; stay 100 yards or more offshore and keep speed, noise, and wakes to a minimum near mangroves.
  • Harvesting coral and shells from Florida waters is against the law.
  • Do not feed the fish; it will destroy their natural feeding habits.
  • Dumping trash at sea is illegal; plastic bags and other marine debris can injure or kill marine animals.  Try to retrieve fishing gear and equipment, especially monofilament line.  Remember, Don't Teach Your Trash to Swim!!!"
  • Use sewage pump-out facilities if available and biodegradable bilge cleaners and never discharge sewage or bilge water at the reef.

Marine Science/Sea Grant

The Sea Grant Marine Extension Program is active in many areas related to boating, fishing, and diving but concentrates on working with industry and government agencies to address resource management issues by sponsoring workshops and providing the fishing public with fisheries management and regulatory information; food wholesale and retail dealers are provided assistance with seafood safety and general information is available on a variety of marine and environmental topics.