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Restoration blueprint for Florida Keys expected this year

Every time you step foot into Keys waters, you’re actually entering a marine sanctuary.

Every time you step foot into Keys waters, you’re actually entering a marine sanctuary.

MARATHON, Fla. — It’s Sara Fangman’s job to make sure people have access to the marine resources in the Florida Keys’ National Marine Sanctuary and to make sure they do it in a sustainable way.

“When you step into the water here, you are in a marine sanctuary,” said Fangman, addressing around 25 members of the recreational marine media invited by Garmin and Navionics to go fishing and learn about several marine companies and conservation efforts.

In response to public concerns about threats facing the Florida Keys and identified in 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is conducting the first comprehensive review since 1997 of the management plan, zoning plan, and regulations for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Those ecological threats include coastal development, water quality, invasive species, marine debris, coral bleaching and disease, climate change, overfishing and vessel traffic and groundings.

Sara Fangman presents at a press event held by Garmin and Navionics.

Sara Fangman presents at a press event held by Garmin and Navionics.

As superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Fangman helped put together a Sanctuary Advisory Council of people and groups representing various interests to provide input to NOAA as it develops is Restoration Blueprint, which should be released in August. That will lay out guidelines of how to protect recreation and wildlife in the 2,900 square nautical miles, said Fangman.

The public will have three months to comment on the plan, she said.

Approximately 60 percent of jobs in the Florida Keys are connected to the marine ecosystem. Coral reef ecosystem supports almost $3.4 billion in sales and income, as well as $2.1 billion in spending.

A new voluntary, online Keys boater education course that has recently made its debut seeks to educate boaters and anglers on how to be better environmental stewards, said Fangman.

“As manager, it is my job to make sure we can enjoy these resources and do it in a sustainable way,” said Fangman.

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