Ship Shape: No more dumping in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Few marine environments in our country compare to the Florida Keys’ natural beauty and marine resources. The 3,801 square-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary supports one of the most diverse assemblages of underwater plants and animals in North America – but it has been threatened by ship sewage. Early last year, the National Marine Sanctuary proposed an outright ban on ships dumping sewage. Thanks to Friends of the Earth activists, who wrote in support a proposal to ban any ship sewage in the sanctuary, the ban has been put into place!
The Sanctuary waters surround the entire archipelago of the Florida Keys, incorporating the productive waters of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The Sanctuary provides a safe home for brain and star coral, numerous tropical reef fish, spiny lobsters, bottlenose dolphins, and grouper. Best known for the most extensive living coral reef in the U.S., the shallow near-shore waters are dotted with fringing mangroves and seagrass meadows.
Sewage dumped from ships traveling through the Florida Keys threatened human health and the Keys’ unique and diverse marine resources with harmful pollutants. While the Florida Keys Sanctuary banned the dumping of sewage from vessels in state waters of the Sanctuary in 2002, ships were still allowed to dump barely treated sewage without limitation in 35 percent of Sanctuary waters that were federally controlled.
Thanks to a 2010 proposal by Florida Keys Sanctuary managers to ban vessel sewage discharges in the entire Sanctuary, and the thousands of Friends of the Earth members that wrote in to support the ban, the Sanctuary finalized the ship sewage dumping ban in late December.
Now the all of the amazing resources of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are protected from harmful ship sewage!