Happy St. Patrick’s Day from this green moray eel in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!
Green moray eels are actually brownish, but they don green in celebration of holidays – or, rather, to protect themselves from parasites and disease. That is, these eels secrete a yellowish mucus that covers their skin, giving them a greenish tinge.
Conservation in action: here, the buoy team checks in on a mooring buoy in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Mooring buoys have been used in the Florida Keys since 1981 as an alternative to anchoring, which can break and damage the coral reef. There are more than 490 mooring buoys in the sanctuary, so the buoy team stays hard at work maintaining them.
It’s Safe Boating Week! If you’re boating, fishing, or diving in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary or other sanctuaries, mooring buoys provide an alternative to anchoring that won’t damage the reef.
In the photo above, a member of the Florida Keys Buoy Team maintains one of the sanctuary’s more than 490 mooring buoys. Learn more about the Buoy Team’s work:
We can’t conc-eel our excitement about this moray eel in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!
This green moray rev-eeled its hiding place on the wreck of USNS Gen. Hoyt S Vandenberg, an artificial reef within the sanctuary. Green morays are masters of the surr-eel: their skin is actually a dull shade of brown, but they secrete a yellowish layer of mucus that makes them look green. This mucus layer helps ward off predators!
One of the simple joys we can all enjoy in national marine sanctuaries is birdwatching!
No matter your age, skill, or location on land or sea, we can all enjoy some pretty incredible birding experiences in sanctuaries. In Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, mangrove-fringed islands provide nesting grounds for a number of bird species. Plus, juvenile fish among the mangrove roots give these birds plenty of food to snack on.
Here, a scruffy young green heron sits perched on a limb within the sanctuary. What do you think this young bird is pondering?
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary visitor Daryl Duda spotted this balloonfish at Pickles Reef. At night, balloonfish hunt the reef for mollusks and crustaceans. When threatened, a balloonfish can inflate its body by taking in water, making its spikes stand out defensively!
Located near Dry Tortugas National Park, Tortugas Ecological Reserve in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects diverse habitats including seagrass beds and coral reefs. Some parts of the reserve, including Riley’s Hump in the southern portion of the reserve, are protected in part because they are a known spawning site for many species of fish – many of which, like groupers, use sound during this important life stage.
Happy birthday to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!
Designated as a national marine sanctuary 26 years ago today, this ocean gem is home to the world’s third-largest barrier reef, mangrove islands, and extensive seagrass beds that support manatees and more. Join us in wishing Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary a very happy birthday!
While we love penguins, there are actually no penguins in your national marine sanctuaries. With the exception of the Galápagos penguin (which lives in the Galápagos Islands), penguins only live in the Southern Hemisphere. And all U.S. national marine sanctuaries except National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (which is not a penguin habitat) are located in the Northern Hemisphere. So sadly, no penguins here.
We do have lots of seabirds! Like…
Tufted puffin, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, California (Photo: Sophie Webb/NOAA)
Shearwater, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Massachusetts (Photo: Peter Flood)
Laysan albatross, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, California (Photo: Laura Morse/NOAA)
Brown pelican, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
Seabirds like these are key for tracking ecosystem health. It can be hard for scientists to track species like small baitfish, but birds follow those fish, and since birds are above the waves, it’s a lot easier to spot them.
Learn more about birds in your National Marine Sanctuary System:
Because we don’t want to deprive you, here’s a photo of some emperor penguins in Antarctica. Not a U.S. national marine sanctuary, but it’s still a pretty cool place. (Photo: Michael Van Woert/NOAA)
The ocean is vast, so how do researchers at national marine sanctuaries study what lives there? They listen!
The sounds fish and other marine organisms make are species-specific, so listening to them is a great way to determine what’s in the sanctuary. Researchers at Stellwagen Bank, Gray’s Reef, Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks national marine sanctuaries deploy shallow water hydrophones to record ambient sound, like that of fishes and boats. Researchers have also deployed deep-water hydrophones in Cordell Bank, Channel Islands, and Olympic Coast national marine sanctuaries to record sounds like whales and ships. These listening stations will help us learn how noisy our sanctuaries are.
(Photo: NOAA, taken in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary)
Corals like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are gorgeous, diverse marine species found throughout our world’s ocean. But did you know that corals actually provide humans several critical services?
In addition to sustaining biodiversity and providing us food, medicine, and recreational opportunities, coral reefs can serve as a critical, natural defense for coastal communities. Healthy coral reefs like those in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary can diffuse much of the energy of hard-hitting ocean waves before waves ever reach the shore, helping to protect coastlines from damage, especially in the event of a large storm.