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The Looe Key
National Marine Sanctuary is a
5.3 square nautical mile area lying in Federal waters off the southern
Florida Keys, and was designated a National Marine Sanctuary in 1981.
The Looe Key Reef is nearly a mile long with a U-shaped pattern.
Coral reefs such as Looe Key are among
the most biologically productive ecosystems. They provide the foundation for
a rich population of plant and animal life that depends on the reefs for
shelter, food, and a place to attach and grow. The excellent water clarity
and moderate sea conditions at Looe Key permit its features and inhabitants
to be easily observed from the surface. The wide range in depth also makes
the reefs accessible to the beginning swimmer and the inexperienced diver.
Brightly colored fish can be seen swimming among the branching elkhorn and
staghorn corals, huge brain corals, the less common pillar coral as well as
the delicate sea fans and sea whips. Marine life here truly is
fantastic... add barracuda, brain coral, goliath grouper, grunts,
parrotfish, rays, sea fans, sea turtles, spiny lobster, sponges, reef
sharks, yellowtail, etc. to what you'll see... and you'll know why the
sanctuary is a highly popular attraction for skin-diving. snorkeling,
fishing (strictly only outside the big yellow ball boundaries of the
sanctuary) and boating. The remains of the H.M.S. Looe, which sank in 1744,
and for which the sanctuary is named, still lie within its boundaries.
Several different types of reefs and
associated habitats are found at Looe Key. Each area has a distinctive
identity imparted by its form and features.
(Excerpts from National Marine