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Sanctuary Friends Foundation

In this Issue:

News & Notes
June 2009

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Hot Issues

Our Newest Reef:
Vandenberg Sinks Off Key West

When the decommissioned military ship "Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg" sunk to the bottom of the ocean at 10:24 a.m. on May 27 just 7 miles south-southeast of Key West in the FKNMS, many a diver rejoiced over the possibility of exploring this new underwater playground. But even someone who's never put on a SCUBA tank can celebrate its ability to take pressure off the surrounding natural living coral reefs.

As the world's second-largest artificial reef, "The Vandenberg" will provide recreational diving, ecotourism and fishing enhancements to the Florida Keys and result in an annual increase of about $7.5 million in expenditures in the Monroe County economy, according to NOAA projections.

But the more important mission of the $8.6 million project is ecological -- to divert fishing and diving pressure away from natural reefs near the ship by attracting users to the new site.
A decrease in use of the natural reefs is interpreted as an ecological benefit. FWC estimates "the vessel's minimum 100-year lifespan will contribute stable, long-term habitat for scores of marine fish species."

An artificial reef is a structure that is deliberately or accidentally introduced to the seabed and that attracts marine life. It provides shelter from predation and surfaces for larvae to settle on. The organisms that are attracted create new food sources and thus attract other species. In addition to being spectacular dive sites, artificial reefs provide additional hard bottom habitats that favor many species of large reef fish.
Diving the Vandenberg
credit Haig Jacobs/Florida Keys News Bureau
Florida has one of the most active artificial reef programs in the U.S. with 34 of 35 coastal counties (spread along 8,426 miles of tidal coastline) involved in artificial reef development. Dating back to 1920, more than 2,400 documented public artificial reefs have been placed in state and federal waters off these counties, with most taking place in the past 20 years. Florida leads the nation in the number of vessels functioning as artificial reefs, with 380 decommissioned Navy ships already acting as marine habitat.
The Vandenberg opened for diving on May 30. Let's hope that's as exciting for marine species as it is for divers. Watch the sinking and other videos here.

Our Amazing Ocean

Keys' John Halas Wins "Ocean Hero" Award!

FKNMS Upper Region Manager John Halas received the most votes in Oceana's inaugural online "Ocean Heroes Award" contest launched in May. Halas was chosen one of eight finalists from nearly 500 nominations; then thousands of people, like you, voted him top ocean advocate.

John & Judy Halas"I cannot think of a more deserving individual for this award," said Billy Causey, National Marine Sanctuary Regional Director. "John truly is an Ocean Hero who has dedicated his life and career to protecting coral reefs from one end of the globe to the other."

Halas is a marine biologist who has been working since 1981 to protect coral systems in Florida by developing an environmentally-friendly anchor and mooring buoy system that prevents damage to coral reefs and other sensitive marine habitats.

After observing coral damage caused by careless anchoring, John developed the first experimental embedment anchor mooring system in the Florida Keys. With the help of the U.S. Geological Survey, different embedment anchors were developed for different substrates such sandy or muddy bottoms.

Over the ensuing years, with some modifications, several non-profit foundations established buoys off Key West, Marathon and Islamorada. At present there are 779 buoys in the FKNMS using the environmentally friendly embedment anchor system maintained by the FKNMS Upper and Lower Region buoy teams. More about mooring buoy maintenance.

complete buoy systemJohn, with the support of NOAA'S National Marine Sanctuary Program, has worked to implement this anchorage system in 38 countries, and usage continues to increase in both number of installations and regions. He is often assisted with these mooring projects by his wife, Judy, or other members of the Sanctuary staff.

"My work is something I have felt strongly about and it is really a great honor to receive this acknowledgement," Halas said.

"Our winners are true ocean heroes," said Andrew Sharpless, Oceana's Chief Executive Officer. "Their work results in positive change for our seas, and I hope they inspire others to get involved."

Short bios for all Ocean Hero finalists can be found at:

  Programs & Projects

Report from the Hill: Capitol Hill Ocean Week
by Sean Morton, FKNMS Superintendent

Capitol Hill Ocean WeekOn June 8, we all celebrated World Oceans Day, and that kicked off the beginning of Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) in Washington D.C. Since 2001, CHOW has been organized by our NMSF to provide a forum for the diverse spectrum of ocean science and management experts, stakeholders and policy makers to come together to discuss issues affecting the health of our oceans and marine resources. The goal of this year's program was to highlight the link between oceans and the economy and to suggest tangible ways ocean policies might impact improvements in our economy.

I had the pleasure of escorting Dolly Garlo - Sanctuary Friends' Board Chair, Sanctuary Advisory Council Member and FKNMS Volunteer of the Year nominee - to the CHOW events and Congressional visits. Dolly and I started the week at the home of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) Director Dan Basta, where he hosted volunteers from the 14 other Sanctuaries as well as the Superintendents and ONMS staff.

Other highlights of the week included: Caucus briefing in the new U.S. Capitol Visitor Center; meetings with Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and his staff; meeting with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen where we had a very lively discussion about the Sanctuary and some of our challenges; NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco's Keynote Address to a very packed and hot crowd; the black tie dinner honoring all the Sanctuaries' volunteers; and the NOAA Fish Fry where chefs from around the country prepared dinner at the Commerce Building.

We got to see the week capped off by a proclamation from President Obama declaring June as National Oceans Month and the formation of a White House Task Force to set national ocean policy for his administration.

We had an exciting week with opportunities to learn, connect and make progress. But I think Dolly will agree it's great to be back in our home -- the fabulous Florida Keys.

White House Spotlights Oceans

The oceans are receiving some long-overdue attention this month from the White House. On June 12, President Obama formed an Ocean Policy Task Force - an interagency group led by the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) - to craft the first US national policy for sustainably managing the country's oceans.

The President also signed a proclamation declaring June as National Oceans Month, calling upon "all Americans to learn more about the oceans and what can be done to conserve them." The Florida Keys even received a special mention in the proclamation.

Excerpt: "The oceans are critical to supporting life. From the abyssal plains of the Pacific to the shallow coral reefs and seagrass beds of the Florida Keys, oceans support an incredible diversity of marine life and ecosystems."

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)

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Team OCEAN Kayak Cleanup
Thank You
"Team OCEAN" Volunteers!
Sanctuary Friends is proud to support Team OCEAN (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network), which kicked off the summer season with a Training and Orientation on Saturday, May 30, followed by a cookout social at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park. More than 25 people attended this year's training, including 6 new volunteers.

Team O has been doing island and shoreline clean ups since the late 1990's. Cumulative total of trash collected since 2007 is more than 19,000 pounds. Kudos to Team O Coordinators Todd Hitchins and Robert Keeley for leading such a committed team! Become a volunteer.

Happy Birthday America!

This July 4, give a gift to yourself
AND your country:

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

Why not donate YOUR birthday to charity. On your next big day, ask friends and family to give to your favorite cause in lieu of buying you presents. Donate to Sanctuary Friends.

 From the Board

It was my pleasure this month to attend Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), sponsored by the NMSF. And it was my honor to represent the FKNMS as its Volunteer of the Year nominee. All 15 U.S. national marine sanctuaries, from the Keys to the Great Lakes to the Pacific Coast, Hawaii and American Samoa, were represented.

Josh Churchman, from Cordell Banks National Marine Sanctuary, was named Volunteer of the Year. His selection represents the true success of collaboration for protection of our ocean resources. A 30-year commercial fisherman, he recognized that protection of resources meant protection of his livelihood, so he helped develop a sanctuary management plan. The protected areas meant he had to change his fishing locations and the species he caught. True to the this year's CHOW theme (The Blue Economy), Josh "put his money where his mouth is."

Another astounding report from the meetings was of activities in the Coral Triangle, which is bounded by six countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands. Earlier this year, they entered the first international agreement to cooperatively create and fund the management of the third largest marine protected area on earth. As they presented this news to the standing-room only crowd at CHOW, it was exciting to hear that they incorporated the best practices of local input and involvement that we have utilized here in the FKNMS. Our successes are being replicated.

We're all in this together, and making progress. It takes significant involvement from many - locally, nationally and internationally - to restore and protect the health of our oceans, our water planet. When will you join us and get involved? We look forward to that.
Send us your ideas, subscribe to our e-newsletter or forward this message to a friend.

Dolly M. Garlo, Board Chair

 Upcoming Events
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 as the "National Geographic" of the Keys, taking 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.

photo by Stephen Frink
photo by Stephen Frink

Dive Flag Awareness Week
June 27 - July 3

Florida Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet passed a resolution this month proclaiming Dive Flag Awareness Week. Twenty-two divers have been killed or injured in Florida waters in the past five years, many due to improperly displayed or missing dive flags. Click here for dive flag regulations in Florida.

BleachWatch Volunteer Training
June 30: Key Largo Library, 6:30 p.m.
July 1: Eco-Discovery Center, Key West, 7 p.m.
July 7: Marathon Library, 6:30 p.m.

Be an extra set of "eyes on the water" this summer and help the Sanctuary and its partners with early detection of coral bleaching. More information on Mote Marine Laboratory's BleachWatch program.

Messages from the Field:
New NOAA Administrator

We spotlighted Jane Lubchenco in our February Newsletter as nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the U.S. Department of Commerce (and the Administrator of NOAA, which provides oversight of our Sanctuary).

Dr. Lubchenco is currently touring NOAA facilities around the country and sending video postcards from the field to showcase NOAA's excellent work and introduce us to the larger NOAA family. We hope for and look forward to her visit to the Florida Keys soon! Watch the video.

 Help Stop Overfishing!
Play "Go, Fish!" and help put an end to overfishing. Each time a new player completes the game, a generous supporter will donate $1 to help end overfishing! Sponsored by a fellow conservation organization, Ocean Conservancy.

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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