Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys

A diver collecting underwater marine debris.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is collaborating with local dive operators to remove harmful marine debris from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, while engaging the local community to prevent future debris.

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Florida and the Caribbean

Project Dates: September 2020 - August 2021

Who is involved?
With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation  is working with local dive operators in the Florida Keys to find economical solutions to high cost debris removal and directly support the local economy. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will partner with Blue Star Dive Operators and businesses recognized for training staff and educating clients in responsible practices to reduce impacts on sensitive marine habitats, to carry out the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys project.

What is the project and why is it important?
Marine debris is an ongoing challenge in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, with underwater debris posing a high risk to important marine life and habitats, including the only living barrier reef in the continental United States. Trap loss, in particular, is a prevalent and persistent issue in the Florida Keys. Lost fishing traps and trap rope not only damage critical habitats, but can also entangle and harm a variety of species, such as corals, dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Hurricanes and large storms can worsen the problem of marine debris in the Florida Keys. Even two years after Hurricane Irma, dive operators are still seeing areas of reef tract that have debris and derelict fishing gear from the storm.

The purpose of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys project is to continue efforts to remove underwater marine debris, including traps, other fishing gear, and trash, from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and to educate the public about their role in marine debris prevention. The project also contributes to the blue economy by partnering with and engaging local businesses that rely on healthy marine ecosystems in removal efforts, such as Blue Star Dive Operators. Throughout the project, Blue Star Operators will remove, dispose of, and, when possible, recycle underwater debris, specifically derelict spiny lobster traps and other ghost fishing gear. As a method of prevention, the project will also engage the local community and recreational fishers to increase understanding of the sources and impacts of marine debris.

For more information about this project, visit the Marine Debris Program Clearinghouse.