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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys

In this Issue:

News & Notes
March 2010

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Our Amazing Ocean

Cold Takes Toll on Keys Marine Life 

Likely you’ve heard about, if not experience first hand, the cold snap in the Florida Keys in January. The record chill that gripped South Florida for two weeks has taken a heavy toll on marine life.


LOST_IN_THE_COLD.jpgSustained cold water temperatures triggered severe coral bleaching and even coral death. Temperatures in some nearshore areas of the FKNMS dropped to 52 degrees F. for several days.


Coral bleaching occurs when stress causes corals to lose their symbiotic algae. It is most frequently associated with elevated water temperatures, but also occurs when water temperatures dip below the preferred 60-degree threshold. Corals can cope with gradual, seasonal temperature swings, but more sudden jolts up or down can send corals into a tizzy.

Corals sometimes recover, but divers are already reporting dead patches from the event. A cold-water bleaching and die-off hasn’t occurred in Florida since the late 1970s.


Many of the Florida Keys' signature diving destinations such as Carysfort, Molasses and Sombrero reefs have escaped heavy losses, thanks to warming effects of the Gulf Stream. But shallower reefs took a serious, perhaps unprecedented hit.


Divers should be aware that bleached corals are extremely vulnerable to additional stress. Seek non-stressed areas and, as always, to pay careful attention not to touch corals.


cold snap fish kill.jpgMassive fish kills also have been reported across the state. Losses have occurred in the snook, permit, bonefish and grouper populations. According to the FWC, 368 manatees have died in Florida this year with at least 193 attributed to cold stress. This is by far the largest die-off of manatees in recorded history.


The cold also affected sea turtles with an estimated 2,000 perishing. Turtles rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature, so when the water gets too cold, turtle body systems shut down. In order to "fix" the turtles, they must be removed from the water, warmed up and eventually be released into the wild once water temperatures normalize.


Sources: The Nature Conservancy, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, Key West Citizen, Science News, Key West Keynoter


Hot Issues

Permit in Peril?
New Tagging Program & Proposed Regulations
Very little data is available about permit populations in Florida; however, the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) hopes a new program will change that. Supported by a grant from the Costa Del Mar sunglass company, BTT recently kicked off a five-year statewide project to tag permit. (Despite its omission in the organization name, permit is one of the fish supported by the BTT.) The trust will partner with the FWC to provide 6,000 tags to anglers and guides.


Project organizers want to collect data that will inform fishery managers on permit movements in Florida waters and provide them with new data that might be applied to management zones. They want to know whether permit that spawn on artificial reefs off Southwest Florida are the same permit that inhabit the Florida Keys. They also want to know if permit are a single population or several smaller regional groups.

In addition, BTT is turning its attention to improve the conservation outlook of permit populations in Florida. Currently, harvesting of permit is not regulated in federal waters and is a year round practice in local regions. BTT is an advocate of regulating further than state waters as well as deeming permit spawning season (April through June) as catch-and-release only. 

In December, the FWC drafted rules that would regulate permit fishing in federal waters adjacent to state waters, including a six-per-day bag limit. The FWC board may review the rule in June and hold a final hearing on it in fall. The agency also is considering tighter restrictions on spearfishing. According to the BTT, "Precautions are necessary to sustain the fishery, and actions we take now can directly impact the permit fishery's future."

 Programs & Projects

Alternative Spring Breakers Assist Team OCEAN by Robert Keeley, Team OCEAN Coordinator

Ten students from the University of Tampa spent their spring break assisting the FKNMS Team OCEAN staff in removing marine debris from several sensitive Sanctuary shorelines. These P.E.A.C.E. Volunteers (People Exploring Active Community Experiences) helped by removing entanglement and ingestion threats from sea turtle nesting habitats and removing debris and entanglement threats from mangrove shorelines.



P.E.A.C.E. Volunteers


Fourteen miles west of Key West on the Key West National Wildlife Refuge island of Boca Grande, the volunteers collected 277 pounds of marine debris their first day! On the second day, the weather cooperated and they visited one of the most remote beaches in the Refuge where they collected 1,277 pounds of marine debris. Day three, the wind picked up and the volunteers went ten miles east of Key West to hike the shoreline of the FKNMS Western Sambos Ecological Reserve where they bagged 500 pounds. On day four, the group traveled thirty-five miles east of Key West and then kayaked the northern shoreline of award-winning Bahia Honda State Park where they collected 300 more pounds of debris from the sensitive mangrove shoreline.


Despite all their hard work, the students had a great time as stewards of these sensitive shorelines! All 11 volunteers (10 students and their faculty advisor) were awarded honorary membership in Sanctuary Friends.

Let's Say Thanks
This cool website gives you an opportunity to send a free printed postcard to US military personnel stationed overseas showing your support and appreciation for their service to our country. Whether you’re for or against the war, our soldiers are in harms way and need to know those of us back home support their efforts. It is free and it only takes a second. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these?
 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.

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.

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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:

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March is
Alternative Transportation Month

Have you done your part this month to help the environment?

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

 From the Board
Hello Sanctuary Friends:

Last month, it was my pleasure to attend the open meeting of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) in Islamorada. It was impressive to hear the scope of the efforts of the research scientists in learning about these sport fish which are so important to our ecosystem and our economy - not only in the Sanctuary and the state, but in our region and internationally.

Locally our "rainforest" of mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs provide sustenance and habitat for a record catches of both bonefish and tarpon. But they also support myriads of juveniles and adolescents that eventually grow and migrate as far north and east as the area where the Titanic sank and westward and south to Central America.

Sanctuary Friends supports the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and it was a pleasure to see the recognition that our organization was given for those efforts. The investment has been well worth it. BTT is truly an organization that deserves our attention and support of its goals.

For more information about what the BTT is doing, read on. If you would like to support valuable true science research like that being conducted by the BTT, please join us as a member of Sanctuary Friends.

Warm regards,
Judy Halas
Secretary, SFFFK Board of Directors

Upcoming Events

The first and only Florida Keys Environmental Event Calendar is up and running! This community-wide resource allows any environmentally-related organization or group to set up an account and post events. We hope it will be THE place to find great activities to both support and celebrate our precious local natural resources.

It's easy to add YOUR event. The first step is to request an account. Once you've been approved and have selected a username and password, you can "add your group's event to our calendar." Give it a try!

Florida Keys Ocean Festival
Mar. 27, noon to sunset, Truman Waterfront at the Eco-Discovery Center

Celebrate the ocean and Mote Marine Laboratory's 55th anniversary! Bring the kids, listen to great music and spend a few hours having fun to celebrate our treasured waters! Free admission and free parking. This day-long celebration will offer food, beer and cocktails, raffles, Mote's Mobile Exhibit (with special touch tanks), kids activities, a kids' fishing clinic, and local marine artists.

Earth Hour Lights Out

Mar. 27, 8:30-9:30 pm
Hundreds of millions of people around the world will come together to call for action on climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour. The movement symbolizes that by working together, each of us can make a positive impact in this fight, protecting our future and that of future generations.

National Week of the Ocean

April 4-10

Earth Day

April 22

Visit the EPA’s website for a history of the holiday, events, podcasts, tips and other Earth Day resources.

Florida Keys Days in Tallahassee
April 20-21

A two-day advocacy event and your best chance to get up close and personal with lawmakers and staff who shape the policies that affect you! Florida Keys Days will be a pairing of both the public and private sector presenting a unified voice to the Florida Governor and Legislature for Monroe County’s unique needs, including wastewater policies and funding, affordable housing and tourism initiatives. It’s an opportunity to lobby legislators and network with state agencies.

Coming ...
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.

Welcome New Members
/ March 2010
Thank you for your support!
Sanctuary Buddy $30
  Jessica McCarron
Colleen Crawford
Kyle Stewart - Frantz
Marianne Mersch
Christine Crespo
Megan Frisque
Heather Ptak
Kaylyn Wilkin
Shahana Ansari
Sommer Kuhn
Logan Engle
Sanctuary Donor $100
John Edwards
Sanctuary Advocate $200
Billy & Laura Causey
Sean Morton
Sanctuary Advocate $300
Thomas N. Davidson
Sanctuary Patron $500
Harold and Mona Brewer

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

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