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Sanctuary Friends 
            Foundation of the Florida Keys

In this Issue:

News & Notes
  May 2009

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Hot Issues

Shifting Baselines ...
and How We See the World

Shifting baselines,” an ecological term coined in 1995, refers to the incremental lowering of standards with respect to nature. It occurs when each new generation lacks knowledge of how the environment used to be and redefines what is “natural” according to their own current personal experience. Think of it as “Old Timer’s Syndrome,” as in: “You should’ve seen what it was like when I was a kid!”
Another example: if your ideal weight used to be 150 pounds and now it’s 165, your baseline — and your waistline — has shifted. And it’s not something you want to get used to.
Shifting Baselines
Is this the size fish will be in the future? Watch the video from
In environmental studies, a baseline is an important reference point that measures the health of an ecosystem and provides information for evaluating changes. These changes can be slow, chronic, hard to notice and irretrievable. Shifting Baselines reminds people how things used to be in an effort to keep them from settling for a continually degraded world.

What can we do?
Policies implemented by the FKNMS represent our nation's most comprehensive, large-scale efforts so far to manage coral reefs, mitigate pollution, and reduce effects of human activities in and on the water. Whether the Keys Sanctuary will be successful in restoring and preserving its coral reefs ultimately depends upon the degree to which concerned citizens get involved. Support well-informed management and science-based policies that will prevent or control the most damaging effects of increasing urbanization and allow society to prosper by living sustainable with the environment.

View images of how the baseline has shifted in some of our precious coral reefs in the Keys. These photos dramatically underscore the importance of protection, preservation and restoration activities.
To receive the educational brochure “Shifting Baselines in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary” (supported by Sanctuary Friends), contact This literature sheds light on shifting baselines as applied directly to our local national treasure.

Our Amazing Ocean

Mind Your Manners: Reef Etiquette

Summer is almost here! Snorkeling and diving are at their best in the Keys this time of year. Before you go, brush up on your reef etiquette so everyone, including corals and marine life, remain healthy and happy. We all have a responsibility to protect our National Marine Sanctuary so current and future generations can continue to enjoy its natural bounty.

"Clarity" by fine art photographer Alan S. Maltz
Here are some tips to help protect the sanctuary during your visit:
  • DO NOT TOUCH CORAL. Just touching can cause damage.
  • NEVER stand on or kick corals.
  • Wear protective clothing rather than excessive sunscreen to reduce the potential of contamination from chemicals in sunscreens.
  • Take only pictures; leave only bubbles. This includes “empty” shells, which are often actually harboring startled animals deep inside or soon will be.
  • Use permanent mooring buoys where provided. Do not anchor in coral or seagrass. If you must drop an anchor, do so only in sandy areas.
  • Do not hand-feed fish. This modifies their behavior and produces an unnatural environment.
  • The red and white dive flag must be flown while snorkeling or scuba diving.
  • Federal law prohibits polluting the sea.
  • Florida law requires a fishing license in state waters.
  • Spearfishing is only allowed in certain areas.

There’s nothing more exciting than spotting a shark, sea turtle, or sting ray while snorkeling or diving. Even the littlest fish, corals or algae can be beautiful and mesmerizing. Have fun and enjoy our national treasure. Just remember to always be courteous of the animals' home -- you are the visitor in their world.

Guidelines courtesy John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

  Programs & Projects

Blue Star of Achievement

Blue Star is a voluntary recognition program to reduce the impact of divers and snorkelers on the local coral reef ecosystem. By partnering with commercial operators to educate customers on diving and snorkeling etiquette and about the fragile nature of corals, FKNMS hopes to engage these groups as partners in coral reef conservation.

Blue Star Logo

The program is designed to increase coral reef protections by publicly recognizing reef-friendly dive and snorkel charter businesses that have completed a training program and provide standardized information and education to customers. The program is designed to increase awareness of the coral reef ecosystem and its threats, turning visitors to the Florida Keys into reef stewards in the process.

Why practice responsible diving and snorkeling?
Coral reefs are threatened by stressors that originate at local, regional and global levels. In theory, non-consumptive diving and snorkeling should have no impact on coral reefs. In practice, individuals make contact with corals or cause stress to marine life as a result of inexperience, carelessness, poor training or lack of awareness.

While divers and snorkelers may not be major contributors to reef decline on the larger scale, they can significantly harm heavily-visited reef sites due to repeated, cumulative impacts. But unlike major causes of reef decline, diver and snorkeler impact is entirely preventable through local action.

Blue Star is a collaboration among FKNMS,
Mote Marine Laboratory and Sanctuary Friends and was launched in April. For more information on the program, contact Karrie Carnes.

Anglers Help Gather Valuable Tarpon Data

Anglers from across the state are helping biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation Commission's (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and the Mote Marine Laboratory gather valuable information about tarpon.

Results from the Tarpon Genetic recapture Study yield new insight into how tarpon can survive catch-and-release angling and how tarpon move throughout Florida waters. Read the entire article.

Anglers who would like to participate in this study can obtain a free, easy-to-use tarpon DNA sampling kit by emailing or by calling 800-367-4461.

For more information on the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study, visit

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

Join our Facebook group! Join our Facebook group!

 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)

We take your privacy seriously. Your email address will never be sold, rented or given away. All our emails include an easy opt-out feature.

  Let the governor know you support better protection and restoration of our seagrass beds and coral reefs!
E-mail Governor Charlie Crist
and tell him you support House Bill 1423. This bill will provide better protection and restoration of damages to sea grass beds and coral reefs from careless boaters and provide the boating community with greater boater safety and mooring opportunities. Additionally, it will help pay for better management of fish and wildlife species and help wildlife law enforcement.

Let Governor Crist know you enjoy and support better management of Florida's marine resources through this bill!

May is about celebrating Mothers everywhere!

Don't forget to honor Mother Earth this month:

Join as a Member

and become a Friend of the Sanctuary!

 From the Board

Dear friends,

Let me extend a special welcome to our new subscribers this month! Many exciting things continue to develop in the Florida Keys and our precious National Marine Sanctuary. We're glad to have you on the journey with us.

In lieu of a letter from the board, we thought it would be appropriate to do a tribute to those who make this organization run -- your SFFFK Board of Directors, who volunteer of their time, expertise, energy and efforts for such an important mission.

Thank you to our board members: Dolly Garlo, George Neugent, Judy Halas, Bruce Popham, Steve Frink, David Rice, Skip Moe, John Morrill, Tom Davidson, Billy Causey, Sean Morton, Dave Score and Allison DeFoor.

I'd also like to acknowledge Administrative Assistant Diana Ruelens and Event Coordinator Peggy Russell. It is truly great to work with such a wonderful team committed to an important cause.

We'd love your participation, too. Send us your ideas, subscribe to our e-newsletter or forward this message to a friend.

Your membership and contribution in any amount is also most appreciated – we welcome it and thank you in advance for helping us help our Sanctuary. It’s a special place to live and to visit – but only if we keep it that way.

Support the work of your board by becoming a Sanctuary Friend


Katie Leigh, Newsletter Editor

Upcoming Events

The Sinking of the Vandenberg
May 27, 2009

The 523-foot General Hoyt S. Vandenberg will rest on the ocean bottom approximately six miles south of Key West, entrancing divers with its awesome size and distinguished military history. It will be the second largest artificial reef in the world.

One of the goals of the new artificial reef is to attract users from the surrounding natural reefs and thus reduce pressure from recreation on those reefs. A decrease in use of the natural reefs is interpreted as an ecological benefit.

Watch for more about "Vandy" in the June newsletter.

June 8 is World Oceans Day
After three years and thousands of petitions, the United Nations has officially declared June 8 as World Oceans Day.

Capitol Hill Ocean Week
When: June 9 – 11, 2009
Where: Washington, DC
Complete agenda is now posted!

Florida Keys Lobster Mini Season
July 29 -30, 2009

In Monroe County (The Florida Keys), the Sport Season regulations are different from the rest of the state. The county has many areas that are closed to lobstering. Get the details, from FKNMS's brochure, "Regulations for Recreational Harvest and Lobster Information."

Ocean Hero Among Us

John HalasOne of the Keys’ own has been nominated for the first annual Ocean Heroes Award, sponsored by Oceana. Cast your vote for John Halas, marine biologist and Upper Keys Regional Manager of FKNMS.

Diving since 1964, John observed coral damage caused by careless anchoring, so he developed an environmental anchor and mooring buoy system that quickly spread worldwide. Marine parks, dive operators, resorts and private citizens wanted secure moorings to protect their sensitive habitats and preserve them for the future. John has personally assisted more than 38 countries – from Africa to Yap – protect corals, provide secure anchorages, and mark sites with moorings.

Voting ends May 31, so vote today!

FKNMS Volunteer of the Year

Dolly M. GarloSanctuary Friends’ Chair Dolly M. Garlo has been nominated by FKNMS for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Volunteer of the Year Award. One person has been selected from each of the 14 marine sanctuaries to compete for the award, which will be selected during Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) in Washington, DC, June 9-11.

The goal of this year's CHOW is to highlight the inextricable link between the ocean and the economy, and to suggest tangible ways sound ocean policies might impact improvements in our economy.

Look for details of what happened during Ocean Week in the June newsletter.

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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