A partnership to make a difference: “Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys” is an initiative started in May 2018 among Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and its local chapter, participating Blue Star dive operators and Project AWARE seafloor monitoring program Dive Against Debris to protect wildlife, corals and sponges.
The actual work: Dive professionals and recreational divers remove marine debris that threatens the health of the sanctuary and the local economy. The program engages the community and promotes prevention through education and awareness. See a video here.
By the numbers: In year one, which closed July 2019, established Blue Star operators who received financial support from the foundation made 49 cleanup trips. Nearly 450 recreational divers and 158 professional divers spent 897 hours underwater removing 14,693 pounds of debris, 16,369 feet of line, 78 intact lobster traps and hundreds of damaged traps.
Why it is important: Lost traps, trap rope and fishing gear damage critical habitats, such as reefs and seagrass beds, and can entangle and harm corals, sponges, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles.
Want to help? Program activities require permits from state and federal agencies to ensure removal is done in an environmentally responsible manner. Learn more at marinesanctuary.org.