The Florida Keys, along with Biscayne Bay and Ten Thousand Islands, have been selected as a Hope Spot by Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue, becoming the 163rd such location lauded for its critical role in ocean health. 

Earle, a world-renowned conservationist, made the official announcement on June 3 at the Explorers Club in New York City during activities for Oceans Week.  

“Hope Spots are special places scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean,” states Earle’s Mission Blue website. “Our Hope Spots are championed by local conservationists whom we support with communications, expeditions and scientific advisory. I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films, expeditions, the web, new submarines, campaigns – to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet,” Earle said.

Florida International University scientists who work in the South Florida region championed the Hope Spot nomination. FIU manages the Aquarius Reef Base undersea lab located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. 

a group of fish swimming over a coral reef
Smallmouth grunts in Key Largo. STEPHEN FRINK/Courtesy of NOAA

“We are grateful for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s inclusion in Mission Blue’s global network of Hope Spots,” said John Armor, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “The waters and diversity of life within the sanctuary are globally-significant and help conserve biodiversity and valuable habitats, factors critical to maintaining a healthy ocean. The sanctuary also embodies the hopes and dreams of generations of Florida Keys residents and of those who travel from afar and leave with a sense of wonder and stewardship for this special place.”  

This Hope Spot recognizes the area’s ecological and economic importance, spanning mangroves, sea grasses and coral reefs. Balancing the natural wonders of this region with significant human impacts, the Florida Keys and Ten Thousand Islands Hope Spot sits just one meter (3.2 feet) above sea level – on the front line of climate change.

“Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has experienced significant declines to key resources and habitats caused by a variety of threats, leaving us at a critical juncture,” said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the sanctuary. “Establishing these waters as a Mission Blue Hope Spot strengthens our effort to build resilience, while inspiring hope for this national treasure.”