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Florida Keys Dive Center receives BLUE STAR Rating

(DiverWire) NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary welcomes Abyss Dive Center of Marathon, Fla. as the newest participant in the Sanctuary’s Blue Star education and conservation program. Abyss Dive Center is the 15th charter recognized by the program and the second business participating from the middle Florida Keys.

BlueStarlogoLaunched in 2009, Blue Star salutes charter companies that help protect the Florida Keys coral reef ecosystem by promoting responsible snorkeling and diving practices, and educating their patrons on the role humans play in reef health. Unlike some of the more global causes of reef decline — such as climate change — damage to reefs from snorkeling and diving is considered easily preventable through education and experience.

“Blue Star recognized charters play an important role educating the hundreds of thousands of divers who visit our reefs each year,” said Sean Morton, sanctuary superintendent. “Abyss Dive Center is committed to increasing stewardship for the sanctuary and promoting marine conservation across a broad range of visitors to the Florida Keys.”

Home to the third-largest living barrier coral reef in the world, the sanctuary’s protected waters contribute an estimated $2 billion in annual tourist revenue. The reef’s close proximity to land and an abundance of boat operators in the Keys make it easily accessible to both novice snorkelers and seasoned divers.

Blue Star operators are required to attend training annually on issues affecting coral reefs, sanctuary regulations and coral reef etiquette. In turn, Blue Star operators educate their customers by incorporating the information into certification classes and dive briefings. They also must offer conservation-related dive courses and participate in activities such as fish counts and reef clean-ups. Operators are re-evaluated every year.

Blue Star is funded in part by a grant from Mote Marine Laboratory’s “Protect Our Reef” Grants Program. Visit www.sanctuarybluestar.org for more information on the program and a list of recognized operators.