Some 400 divers and snorkelers explored part of the world’s third-largest living coral barrier reef Saturday, while rocking to a unique sub-sea concert that promoted reef protection.
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The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival took place at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary about 6 miles south of Big Pine Key.
Staged by Keys radio station US1 104.1 FM, it provided a “submerged soundtrack” for divers discovering the Keys’ diverse realm of tropical fish, coral formations and other marine life.
“The Underwater Music Festival is a way to celebrate the coral reef, and we celebrate it by looking for a balance between protection of the reef and public enjoyment,” said festival co-founder Bill Becker. “The more people realize what’s down there and enjoy it, the more they’re likely to protect it.”
Music broadcast by the radio station was piped underwater through speakers suspended beneath boats above the reef. Participants swayed to a sea-focused playlist that included the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and the themes from “The Little Mermaid” and “Jaws.”
Some divers wore costumes, portraying everything from mermaids to the animated character “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and pretended to play underwater musical instruments such as a “baratuba” sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.
The primary purpose of the annual festival is to encourage preservation of the Keys’ rich coral reef ecosystem. The broadcast incorporated diver awareness announcements emphasizing ways to enjoy the reef while minimizing environmental impacts.
The event was produced under a permit from Sanctuary officials.