Ocean Community News

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Partners with 10 Florida Keys Dive Operators for Marine Debris Removal in 2021

Goal: Clean Seas project removed 13,002 lbs of debris from Florida Keys and Channel Islands in 2020 with Foundation support 

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced that it will grant funds for underwater marine debris removal to 10 Blue Star Dive Operators in the Florida Keys in 2021 through the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative. 

The Foundation is granting a total of $51,621 for scoping and removal dives in the Keys in 2021 through a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

Established in May 2018, the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative aims to remove underwater marine debris from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys is a partnership between Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and sanctuary-recognized Blue Star Diving Operators who are educated dive professionals and recreational divers trained in best practices for removal of marine debris; perform scoping dives to identify debris hotspots; remove, dispose, and recycle underwater debris; conduct post-removal data reporting and analysis; and engage the public in marine debris awareness and prevention through education and outreach.

Sara Rankin, Florida Keys chapter director for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “The purpose of Goal: Clean Seas is to empower the community to act as stewards of the environment. The coral reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are still suffering from the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma, but our results over the past year show that we are making progress. I am proud that our eight Blue Star Dive Operator partners removed 4,642 lbs of debris and 9,339 feet of line last year, and I know we can accomplish even more with 10 dive operators now on board. We look forward to working with all of these outstanding dive operators to protect and restore our treasured reefs.” 

There are eight dive operators that have participated and will continue as part of Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys: DiveN2Life, The Dive Shop at Ocean Reef, Key Dives, Horizon Divers, Rainbow Reef, Pirates Cove, Forever Young and Island Ventures. In 2021, they will be joined by two new operators in the Keys: Sailfish Scuba and Florida SeaBase.

Sarah Fangman, Superintendent of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, said, “Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has developed a go-to team of reef stewards by educating Blue Star dive operators on best practices for debris removal, including advance reconnaissance dives, permitting, recycling and post-dive analysis and reporting.  I am grateful for the leadership and commitment of Blue Star operators and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation who are meeting our goal of clean seas in the Florida Keys.”

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation now partners with two sanctuaries, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, to train and equip community partners—local businesses and industries that rely on the marine ecosystem—to conduct specialized removals and empower long-term conservation of these sites. Goal: Clean Seas also engages the public in marine debris awareness and prevention through education and outreach.

Foundation Releases Report on 2020 Marine Debris Removal

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation released a report on the work it supported through Goal: Clean Seas in 2020 in both Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The report details the program highlights, including the launch of Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands in the summer of 2020. Overall, the Foundation supported the removal of 13,002 lbs of debris from 12,000 square meters of underwater area and 2.5 miles of shoreline in national marine sanctuaries through the Goal: Clean Seas program. Dive shops in the Florida Keys have reported having to go to deeper reefs in order to find marine debris at sites, an indicator of the program’s success after three years of work. 

In both the Florida Keys and Channel Islands, support from the Goal: Clean Seas program served as a financial support by replacing a portion of lost tourist income for tourism industry operators that have seen their businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report also looks to the future for plans to continue growing the success of the program. Thanks to a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the Foundation will add new dive operators to the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative. In the Channel Islands, the program will institutionalize yearly cleanup efforts and address marine debris in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary by introducing new elements, including integration of smaller scoping cleanups with lobstermen; expanding the number of lobstermen who are engaged in cleanup efforts; and adding new cleanup locations on the islands.

For more information, visit Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys or Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands.

By The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

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