FLORIDA KEYS — The free, easy-to-use Marine Sanctuary Explorer mobile app enables divers and other recreational explorers to plan safe and responsible outings in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary features 3,800 square miles of waters surrounding the island chain.
Divers can browse a library of resources on animals and habitats in the sanctuary, as well as pinpoint locations of interest such as the Christ of the Deep statue and the shipwreck trail. They can even tag favored destinations for their activities like diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing or boating.
The new app describes the more than 50 marine zones in the sanctuary with easy-to-read guidelines about activities permitted in each area.
The Plan Your Visit section provides a list of dive operators, as well as points of interest on land like the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park visitor center.
GPS-enabled technology alerts users when they approach no-wake and other managed zones inside the sanctuary and delivers real-time information about rules and regulations. Interpretive stories build a learning connection to protecting the sanctuary's valuable resources.
Those headed out to dive from their own boat can pull up GPS coordinates for preferred locations and learn what activities are permitted at each.
Marine Sanctuary Explorer was developed in partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The app is free to download for iOS (Apple) and Android devices.
Marine Sanctuary Explorer app information: marinesanctuary.org/explorer/
Snorkeler Katherine Wieland examines the "Christ of the Deep" statue in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo, Fla. Photo: Stephen Frink