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Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary

In the lower keys, but not as far south as Key West, the protection area is called Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. This is a wonderful Y-shaped five square miles of bank reef that was being ruined by spearfishing before the 1982 creation of the sanctuary. Grouper and jacks had disappeared from the reef and the lobster was almost gone. The sanctuary rules forbid fishing, lobstering, and artifact collecting. The sanctuary is seven square miles, making it the smallest marine sanctuary in the Florida Keys. It's a very active marine sanctuary, with public service programs such as those at the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary. They offer novice, intermediate, and advanced dive trips. The waters are five to thirty-five feet deep and there are some remains of the H.M.S. Looe, which sunk there in 1744, a 124-foot British frigate.

This reef area has excellent examples of spur-and-groove coral formations, the best in the Florida Keys. It's also a good place to see a complete coral reef ecosystem in action.

Scuba divers will see an amazing array of life here at Looe Key Marine Sanctuary...take one of the fish ID guides with you. Some creatures to look for:

  • red lizardfish
  • blue-spotted peacock
  • yellow-head jaw fish
  • cottonwick

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