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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys

In this Issue:

News & Notes
September 2009

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Our Amazing Ocean

Everyone Can Help Protect Coral Reefs

Even if you don't live near a reef, you can help protect coral reefs in the U.S. and around the world. Be a "Blue Tourist" by doing all you can to celebrate the ocean's beauty without harming it. Following are some examples from NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.
Keys Coral Reef
Educate yourself about coral reefs and the creatures they support so you can help others understand their fragility and value throughout the world.
Be a wastewater crusader! Excess nutrients in wastewater can negatively impact coral reef ecosystems.

Support organizations that protect coral reefs. Join Sanctuary Friends today.

Don't use chemically-enhanced pesticides and fertilizers, which can end up in the watershed and, ultimately, the ocean.

Volunteer for a reef cleanup and enjoy the beauty of one of the world's treasures while helping to preserve it for future generations. Team Ocean has volunteer opportunities available in the Keys.

Be an informed consumer and support reef-friendly businesses. Only buy marine fish and other reef organisms when you know they have been collected in an ecologically sound manner.

Recycle and conserve water. Help keep trash out of oceans and landfills where it can have an adverse impact on water quality. Use less water so there's less runoff and wastewater that eventually gets back into the oceans.

Don't litter! Beach litter poses a threat to the health and survival of marine organisms, which can swallow or get tangled in the debris. Report dumping or other illegal activities. Help be the eyes and ears of the reef.

Don't anchor on the reef. Use mooring buoy systems when available.

Respect local guidelines when you visit a reef. Ask local authorities or your dive shop how to be a reef-friendly tourist. Hire local guides to support the local economy, which will help protect the future of the reef.

Spread the word. Sharing your excitement gets everyone involved.

Buy products that are coral-inspired rather than coral-derived. Take the Pledge to Save Coral: Too Precious to Wear.

Hot Issues

Coral Bleaching: High Temps Threaten Reef

High summer temperatures briefly triggered a Coral Bleaching Alert 2 for the Florida Keys this month. Water temps reached 87 degrees, the level where researchers begin to expect coral bleaching. The Alert 2 phase means widespread bleaching and some coral mortality are likely. High water temperatures are expected throughout the Caribbean through October.

Coral Bleaching

Coral bleaching occurs when corals become stressed and expel the algae living within them. The coral tissue becomes transparent and the observer can see through the tissue to the white calcium carbonate skeleton. The corals appear to have been "bleached."

Coral bleaching can be caused by a wide range of environmental stressors such as pollution, oil spills, increased sedimentation, extremes in sea temperatures, extremes in salinity, low oxygen, disease, and predation. Corals are still alive after bleaching and can recover. If the environmental conditions return to normal rather quickly, corals can regain or regrow their zooxanthellae and survive. If the stressors are prolonged, corals are more susceptible to disease, predation and death because they are without an important energy source.

Coral bleaching is a natural event that that occurs, to some extent, every year in the FKNMS; however, the frequency and severity have steadily increased since the 1980s. Large-scale, mass coral-bleaching events in the Keys are normally driven by unusually warm sea temperatures. The effects of these mass events are potentially devastating to ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

The initial onset of mass coral bleaching can vary in the species affected, geographic location, types of reef zones and a fluctuation of severity, which makes it very difficult to predict where or when it will occur.

What can I do? The Florida Keys BleachWatch program utilizes volunteers to provide reports from the reef on the actual condition of corals throughout the bleaching season. SCUBA divers and free divers can help by reporting if they observe or do NOT observe bleaching. Submit a report online or print a report form to mail or fax.

To learn how to recognize coral bleaching, view coral bleaching current condition reports or work with Mote as an observer, visit

 Programs & Projects

Protections for Bonefish and Tarpon?

Bonefish and tarpon are perhaps the most spectacular game fish in terms of speed and fighting power. They occur worldwide in warm subtropical and tropical coastal waters, appearing in extremely shallow near-shore "flats" environments as well as offshore on the coral reefs.

BonefishFlorida Keys fisheries for bonefish and tarpon are world-renowned and support multi-billion dollar industries. Great interest in bonefish and tarpon fishing has helped fuel the explosive growth of recreational angling in south Florida.

At present, an urgent concern expressed by those most knowledgeable about regional bonefish and tarpon fisheries suggests that these resources are declining. At the same time, Florida's marine environment is undergoing extensive changes. Concerns about the effects of rapid growth of the human population, recreational fishing fleets and ongoing environmental changes are magnified by the fact that overfishing is decimating other popular sport and commercial fisheries in the Florida Keys.

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on initiatives that would elevate the status of bonefish in Florida to "catch and release." (Recreational harvest is currently allowed.) Protecting these fisheries also helps protect the coastal habitats that support them and the social culture that surrounds the guides and lodges that depend on them. Attend a meeting to learn more about this initiative.

In addition, the Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has developed a technically sound program for bonefish and tarpon research in South Florida. The Bonefish & Tarpon Conservation Research Center is designed to promote better understanding of stock dynamics paramount to the sustainable future of these valuable fisheries.

Sanctuary Friends Foundation has contributed approximately $250,000 over the years to the Bonefish and Tarpon Conservation Research Center led by the University of Miami.

Sea Turtles Protected in Bahamas
The Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources announced that the Fisheries Regulations governing marine turtles have been amended to give full protection to all marine turtles found in Bahamian waters.

The new regulations prohibit the harvesting, possession, purchase and sale of turtles, their parts and eggs, and prohibit the molestation of marine turtle nests. The regulations went into effect September 1. This is a time for celebration for sea turtles! More information.

blue & green occasions

celebrating the event...
                 honoring the earth and sea


We invite you to hold your special celebrations, business meetings and other occasions in a meaningful way at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. Our staff will help you celebrate in a green way, and your donations will help to give back to the “Sanctuary.” Call today to reserve your date and share your celebration with the earth and sea! Call 847-612-4712 or email.

Our Facebook Group is now a FAN PAGE.
Won't you please click below to change over?

Find Us on Facebook

Updates, photos, videos, latest coral reef headlines and like-minded friends:
all in one place!

We want your input! If you have stories of note or just want to comment on our newsletter, please email:
We're developing a Central Environmental Calendar for the Keys. If you have an upcoming event with an environmental focus or that relates to our fabulous Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, please email:

Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization (Tax ID# 59-2443959).
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Say Goodbye to Summer ... Cooler temps are on the way!

Become a Sanctuary Friend
and support our coral reef
and marine ecosystems.

 From the Board


We are coming to the end of a long, warm summer and, luckily, so far we have not been threatened by any hurricanes or serious tropical storms. At this time of year, with higher sea surface temperatures, we sometimes begin to see coral colonies fading and turning a shocking stark white. This phenomenon has been studied here in the FKNMS by scientists who want to understand what is happening at the cellular level and to learn what might be done to prevent the "bleaching."

Even though the coral colonies appear to be dead or dying, many do recover and regain their health. Other researchers are seeking to find these resilient corals to discover possible genetic or physical characteristics that make them strong. The concept of resilience may help protect future reefs.

If you have a reef that you visit regularly, please let us know if you observe bleaching corals. Watch for recovery and see if you can spot the colonies that continue to live and regain color. This information could be helpful to sanctuary scientists.

If you care about corals and coral reefs, we hope you will join us as a member of Sanctuary Friends to learn more about how to support these studies and how to help preserve our precious marine ecosystem here in the Florida Keys. Thank you for your interest and your support!

Judy Halas
SFFFK Board Secretary

Upcoming Events

Coastal Clean-up
Sept. 23, 9 am-1 pm, Hurricane Hole Marina
Public is invited to help clean up the waterways. Gloves and drinking water provided. Meet at the marina before being dispersed to the airport area, North Roosevelt Boulevard and Stock Island. Both water and land crews needed. RSVP to Mike via email or tel: 305-434-0058. More information.

Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival
Sept. 23-27, Curry Hammock State Park, MM 56.2, Marathon.
During the peak of the fall birding season, this event includes presentations, an environmental fair and field trips focusing on education and conservation as they relate to Keys birds and wildlife. Call 305-852-4486 to register. More information.

Smithsonian Museum Day
Sept. 26, History of Diving Museum, Islamorada
Free admission to the museum all day. Download your free admission card or find it in the September issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Public Workshops on Bonefish
Oct. 7, 6-8 pm, Key Colony Beach City Hall
The purpose of the workshop is to examine possible options for rule changes for the bonefish fishery. FWC will be gathering comments on extending state regulations into federal waters, establishing a tagging program, including all species of bonefish in the current rule, and making bonefish a catch and release only fishery. More information.

International Day of Climate Action
Oct. 24, worldwide
Join a global movement to solve the climate crisis.

Coming This Fall
"Eco-Discovery Tours:
Discover the Florida Keys through eco-friendly and historical excursions."
Thousands of islands ... thousands of stories

The Eco-Discovery Center and Sanctuary Friends team up to take visitors on journeys that will teach them about the history and natural wonders of the 1,700 islands that are called the Florida Keys.

Learn underwater photography from an instructor who knows the secrets of the reef, experience the rich history of writers that have called Key West their home, discover nature's beauty as you kayak under the moon through canopied mangrove islands or share a gourmet dinner with local chefs who are dedicated to using organic, local and Floridian delights.

For more information, call 305-289-2288 or e-mail to request a brochure.

EcoWeek 2010
Coming! Nov. 1-14, 2010
A Keys-wide event to educate and celebrate environmental preservation. Special activities in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. Inaugural event in 2010 to celebrate healthy living, a healthy planet and peaceable and sustainable communities.

Long, sharp, brittle spines,
the Diadema sea urchin.
Nemesis of divers,
salvation of the coral reefs

The long-spined sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, of the tropical western Atlantic coral reefs was the keystone herbivore that maintained the balance of growth between the fast growing macro algae and the slow growing, reef building corals.

Diadema populations suffered a great plague in 1983 that almost drove the species to extinction. An estimated 98% of all the billions of these urchins throughout the Caribbean, Florida, and the Bahamas succumbed to this plague. It was thought that those that remained, because of their great reproductive potential, would soon enable the reef cleaning urchin populations to rebound to their former levels, but this did not happen.

Population levels remain very low; the species is functionally ecologically extinct, and macro algae, not coral, rule the reefs. The only hope for restoration of vibrant coral reefs to the Florida Keys is the return of these essential herbivores in ecologically functional numbers.

by Martin Moe


Ken Nedimyer photo

Our Mission
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys supports the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the preservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our coral reef and marine ecosystems. We focus on development of community support and advancement of public awareness, education, outreach and scientific research.

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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
11450 Overseas Highway
Suite 102
Marathon, Florida 33050

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