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.
In August 1994, RV Columbus Iselin, a research vessel owned by the University of Miami, ran aground on Looe Key and damaged approximately 164 m2 (1,770 sq ft) of living coral and a larger area of reef framework. In 1997, the University paid $3.76 million in natural resource damage claims to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (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.
Endangered Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) alive at Looe Key in July 2010.
- Columbus Iselin Coral Reef Restoration Project (NOAA), accessed 10 January 2011
- NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Maps, Florida Keys East
- NOAA Website on Looe Key
- NOAA Navigational Chart 11445
- Barbara H. Lidz, Christopher D. Reich, and Eugene A. Shinn, Systematic Mapping of Bedrock and Habitats along the Florida Reef Tract—Central Key Largo to Halfmoon Shoal (Gulf of Mexico). USGS Professional Paper 1751. Tile 6, Looe Key
- Franko's Florida Keys Dive & Guide Map
- Benthic Habitat Map