SCUBA DIVE LOOE KEY
Average Depth: 15 ft.
Max Depth: 30 ft.
Looe Key: Best Scuba Diving In The Keys
Looe Key is a spur-and-groove reef with coral fingers that extend out to sea.
Located 6 miles offshore of Big Pine Key and Ramrod Key, separated by white-sand channels, and Ramrod Key, Looe Key is entirely submerged; the depth ranges from 7 feet to 30 feet. Think of it as a dive spot rather than a Key. You can only get there by boat.
Created in 1990, Looe Key is named after the HSM Looe, a British ship that wrecked in 1744. Located just five miles from shore, it takes just over half an hour to get there by boat. Looe Key became a National Marine Sanctuary in 1981, following in the footsteps of the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary that was established in 1975. Both areas were incorporated into the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which was designated in 1990.
The Looe Key Existing Management Area covers 5.3 square nautical miles and includes the Looe Key Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) and the Looe Key Special-Use Research-Only Area. The sanctuary designation restricts spearfishing, lobster harvest and tropical fish collection and provides other protections for the reef. The research-only area is off limits to the public, no scuba diving allowed, giving scientists a controlled setting for studying the impacts of environmental change compared to those of human use.
In August 1994, the R/V Columbus Iselin, a research vessel owned by the University of Miami, ran aground on Looe Key and damaged approximately 164 m2 of living coral and a larger area of reef framework. In 1997, the University paid $3.76 million in natural resource damage claims to NOAA. In 1999, a restoration project involving placement of limestone boulders, pouring of concrete, and reintroduction of benthic species was undertaken by NOAA and its subcontractors.
Looe reef is shallow, but that doesn’t preclude visits from large marine life such as reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, goliath groupers and big barracuda. Don’t miss the chance to scuba dive Looe Key while you’re in the Florida Keys!
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