Tortugas 2000

Haskell, Ben bhaskell at
Tue Sep 22 10:22:10 EDT 1998

Dear Coral list, CMPAN and other interested parties-
The following is an introduction to the process to create a coral reef
marine reserve in the Tortugas region of the Florida Keys.

"The Tortugas, Florida, probably surpasses any other situation in the trop=
ical Atlantic, in the richness of its marine fauna and in natural =
advantages for the study of tropical life..." (Mayer 1903).  Alfred =
Goldsborough Mayer's observation about the Tortugas written 95 years ago =
still holds true, and is even more relevant today with the degradation of =
coral reef ecosystems in the Florida Keys and around the world. However, =
one thing that hasn't changed much since the days of Mayer's Tortugas =
Marine Lab (1904-1939) and Louis and Alexander Agassiz's Tortugas =
explorations in the mid- to late 1800's is the relatively pristine =
quality of the water and marine resources of the region.  This is among =
the various reasons that the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary =
(FKNMS) plans to designate an area in the Tortugas region as an ecological=
 reserve in the year 2000.

The FKNMS has the most extensive network of marine reserves in the US, =
implemented in July 1997 after 6 years of controversy and debate.  The 23 =
marine zones cover less than 1% of the 2800 square nautical mile (951,547 =
ha) Sanctuary but encompass 65% of the bank reef habitat along the coral =
reef tract.  The Tortugas Ecological Reserve will be the second reserve, =
the purpose of which is to protect a representative segment of the =
ecosystem allowing it to return to as natural a state as possible.  The =
existing Western Sambo Ecological Reserve is 3000 ha, extends from land =
to the offshore bank reef and prohibits all consumptive activities but =
allows diving and snorkeling.  For a description of the zones visit our =
website at

The Tortugas are a remote area located 112 km west of Key West and over =
224 km from mainland Florida.  Its coral reef, hardbottom, and seagrass =
communities are bathed by the clearest and cleanest waters in the Florida =
Keys archipelago.  The oceanography of the area is dominated by gyres =
fueled by the Gulf Stream -one of the world's strongest currents- =
creating a  vortex of marine biodiversity.  Based on recent research by =
Roberts (1997) the Tortugas has a high potential for receiving larvae =
emanating from a wide area in the Caribbean as well as exporting larvae =
to a large area including the entire Keys archipelago  and the east coast =
of Florida.

Tortugas 2000 is a community-based, collaborative project to create the =
reserve.  A working group composed of user and government stakeholders is =
tasked with developing criteria for the reserve and then drafting =
boundary alternatives for public comment.  The process to create the =
reserve is being chronicled on the Tortugas 2000 website at http://fpac.fs=  At this site you will find such things as a description =
of the unique resources, a one-page, downloadable update on the process, =
deliberations of the working group, a conference center where discussions =
take place on different aspects of designing the reserve, and background =
information on marine reserves.

We need your help in designing the best possible marine reserve.  Here's =
how you can assist us:
1) If you have specific knowledge of the Tortugas area through research =
or observations please share them with us.
2) If you have suggestions on what criteria to use for designing the =
reserve please send them to Ben Haskell at bhaskell at
3) Please offer your comments on creating the reserve either online =
through the website when that becomes available, via email, via regular =
mail, or by attending one of our 5 scoping meetings during Oct./Nov. (see =
website for dates and locations).
4) If you have an interest in seeing a world-class research facility =
developed in the Dry Tortugas to study the effects of the reserve and the =
deepwater coral communities then let us know.
5) If you're interested in working as a marine reserve intern and have =
web development skills on Mac and/or UNIX then please send resume to =
bhaskell at

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of twelve National =
Marine Sanctuaries in the United States designated to protect significant =
natural and cultural resources.

Thank you for your interest,
Benjamin Haskell, Project Manager


Mayer, A.G. 1903. The Tortugas, Florida as a station for research in =
biology. Science 17: 190-192.

Roberts, C. 1997. Connectivity and management of Caribbean coral reefs. =
Science 278: 1454-1457.

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