After years of planning, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has officially implemented rules designed to protect the diverse marine life and lush coral reefs of the Dry Tortugas. All taking of marine life is now prohibited in 73 miles of federal waters in the newly created Tortugas Ecological Reserve. No diving will be permitted in the 60-mile portion of the reserve known as Tortugas South. Vessels passing through this area must be in continuous transit with all fishing gear stored. In the area known as Tortugas North, the regulations will allow diving and snorkeling, but visitors are required to obtain a simple no-cost, phone-in permit. This policy will ensure that all vessels have access to mooring buoys, ease enforcement activities and assist in monitoring visitor impacts. The Tortugas Ecological Reserve will become part of the Keys sanctuary's network of 23 no-take areas established in 1997. For more information, call 305-743-2437 or go online and visit www.fknms.nos.noaa. gov/tortugas.
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