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NOAA Divers to Return to Scuba Diving

Photo: Hallie Heeg

Since the pandemic started, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary staffers have not been allowed to scuba dive. They can’t check on the coral reefs, fish and other habitats and animals the sanctuary is there to protect. WLRN’s Nancy Klingener reports that’s about to change.

Staffers at national marine sanctuaries are now going through medical checks and dive training updates so they can get back to working underwater.

Sarah Fangman is the superintendent at the Keys sanctuary.

“Our first priority is to get our buoy team back in the water replacing buoys that need diving to maintain them,” said Fangman.

The sanctuary has more than 800 buoys that boats tie up to, or that mark different areas that have special rules.

Sanctuary staff has been able to maintain the buoys from the surface but not make any repairs when the buoy’s anchor has a problem.

“We’ve been able to do snorkel operations so, for example, one of the other things we do on the water is when vessels run aground, we have to assess the damage. Fortunately, that typically happens in shallow water,” said Fangman.

NOAA divers will now have to make sure that they only handle their own gear on dive trips, as well as wearing masks and maintaining social distance when they’re on the boat.

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