Just east of Key West, Looe Key snorkeling is considered by many locals as the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys. During a snorkel at Looe Key, you may encounter black-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, parrotfish, anglefish, filefish, butterflyfish and stingrays. There are healthy formations of elkhorn coral and firecoral along with magenta sea fans swaying back and forth.
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Looe Key is a coral reef located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It lies to the south of Big Pine Key. This reef is within a Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA).
Part of Looe Key is designated as “Research Only,” an area which protects some of the patch reefs landward of the main reef.
The reef is named after the HMS Looe, which ran into the reef and sank in 1744.
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.
Approximate coordinates: 24°32′51″N 081°24′24″W