Development of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Management Plan

Date of Award


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Major Paper


The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary grew from concept to reality in less than a year, bypassing the normal designation process through congressional legislation. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Acct (the Act) of 1990 establishes the waters of the Florida Keys as a multiple-use marine protected area featuring management by a state-federal partnership with public participation. The sanctuary was legally created by the Act in December of 1990, but at this stage it is only a boundary on a chart with infinite possibilities. The fate of the sanctuary rests on the formulation of its management plan, which must be accomplished within 30 months of the Act's passage. After the Key Largo and Looe Key National Marine Sanctuaries had achieved some success through their educational, enforcement, and mooring buoy programs, one of the leading dive boat operators in the Keys commented that "it's all very nice, but you are still only presiding over the death of the reefs." The comment is well taken because the major weakness of a management system based on multiple uses is that the net effect of those uses may be underestimate, leading to unanticipated and uncontrollable damages to the natural resources of the area. The task which lies ahead of the National oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Florida Department of Natural Resources (FDNR), and the public is to capitalize on the extraordinary opportunity of the Florida Keys national Marine Sanctuary by devising a truly functional management plan.

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