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Team OCEAN gears up for summer reef watch

New volunteers with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary can help boaters avoid damaging the reef this summer, say sanctuary staffers.

Team OCEAN (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network), the sanctuary’s marine volunteer group, holds two training sessions this month for new members who will “help us promote safe and enjoyable public use of the marine environment.”

Team members join sanctuary staff on boats that visit some of the Keys most heavily visited reefs during weekends, holidays and other peak times.

“Volunteers inform the public about the sanctuary and its special zones, encourage proper use of sanctuary resources, and provide tips on how to practice basic safety,” a spokeswoman said.

“Team OCEAN volunteers directly prevent groundings by being present, watching for errant boaters [and] waving them off when they attempt to cross the shallow reef crest” instead of navigating around the protected coral, a sanctuary description says. Volunteers can answer questions and provide boaters with informational material “to help familiarize new or visiting boaters with the sanctuary.”

Once registered, volunteers can act as on-the-water interpreters while working with sanctuary staff. Team members with their boats can undergo additional training to conduct their own outreach trips.

Background checks will be required. Training sessions are planned:

▪ April 22 in the Upper Keys. A classroom session at the Key Largo sanctuary office (mile marker 95.2 bayside) will be held from 8 a.m. to noon. An afternoon on-the-water program will follow, weather permitting.

▪ April 29 in the Lower Keys. A classroom session at the Key West sanctuary office at the Truman Waterfront at the end of Southard Street will be held from 8 a.m. to noon. An afternoon on-the-water program will follow, weather permitting.

For more information on volunteering or other Team OCEAN activities, email: Eric.Raslich@noaa.gov.

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