The National Marine Sanctuaries Act of 1972 authorized the designation and management of marine
environments with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical,
scientific, cultural, archaeological, or educational qualities as National Marine Sanctuaries. Managed by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program, these
sanctuaries are designed to protect marine resources.
Florida Keys Reef
The Florida Keys are known for their coral reefs as well as other interdependent habitats including
mangroves and seagrass beds. The Florida Reef Tract is home to over 6,000 species of plants, fishes, and
invertebrates, including the only coral reef system in U.S. waters. This complex ecosystem is the foundation
for the commercial and recreational fishing industries as well as the tourism-based economies that are vital
to south Florida.
Close-up of Brain Coral
In 1990, 2,800 square nautical miles (16 square kilometers) of coastal waters surrounding the Florida Keys
were designated as a national marine sanctuary. The sanctuary extends in a northeast to southwest arc
beginning at the Biscayne National Park for over 200 miles (322 km) to, but not including, the Dry Tortugas
Islands. From that point, it turns north and east, covering a large area of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary utilizes zoning to manage the resources within its boundaries.
This zoning helps to reduce user conflicts and to minimize the overall impact to heavily used areas on the
reef. Other management techniques are dependent upon the reef, water quality, fish, and invertebrate
Dry Tortugas National Park
The Dry Tortugas National Park is approximately 70 miles (112.9 km) off Key West. This park includes a
group of seven islands composed of coral reefs and sand, called the Dry Tortugas. These islands were
first discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513 and named after the abundance of sea turtles or "tortugas" along
with the absence of freshwater as these islands were dry. During the early 1800's, the U.S. military began
the construction of a massive fort in the Dry Tortugas. However, the fort was never completed due to the
invention of the rifled cannon which made this fort obsolete. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt set aside
Fort Jefferson and the surrounding waters as a national monument. It was later redesignated as Dry
Tortugas National Park in 1992 to protect marine life as well as the historical aspects of the area.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, located in Florida, was the first underwater park within the United
States. Located adjacent to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and extending into the Atlantic
Ocean, this park covers approximately 178 nautical square miles (1.3 square km). Coral reefs, seagrass
beds, and mangroves are included within the park boundaries.
Dr. Gilbert Voss of the Marine Institute of Miami observed damage to the reefs off the Florida Keys during
the late 1950s. Much of the damage was a result of the collection of coral, shells, seahorses, and other
marine life for souvenirs to tourists. He suggested that there should be some restrictions on the
exploitation of the reefs to avoid destruction of the reefs. A powerful ally, John D. Pennekamp had played a
major role in the establishment of the Everglades National Park and later became the assistant editor for
the Miami Herald. They, along with other conservationists, eventually convinced the Florida Board of Parks
and Historic Memorials to designate a 75 square mile (194.2 square km) section of marine habitat as a
preserve. Dedication ceremonies were held on December 10, 1960, when Governor Leroy Collins named
America's first underwater park as John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park was named after
John D. Pennekamp in appreciation of the support that had been given by Pennekamp and the Miami