Daryl Duda of Key Largo often dives with Rainbow Reef Dive Center in search of marine wonders to photograph. CONTRIBUTED

A certain stand of elkhorn coral and a “smiley” pufferfish from the Florida Keys will make their way across the country – part of a new collection of sea life stamps.

On Friday, August 5, the U.S. Postal Service will release a collection of Forever stamps that commemorate this 50th anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The images showcase the various marine sanctuaries and celebrate the rich diversity of life they protect.

The National Marine Sanctuary System turns 50 on October 23, 2022. According to NOAA, there are currently 15 National Marine Sanctuary and two National Marine Monuments. This includes the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), which preserves the Florida Reef Tract and numerous shipwrecks.

“For 50 years, America’s National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Monuments have been protected areas of special ecological, cultural, and historical significance,” said USPS spokesperson Kim Frum. “The U.S. Postal Service Celebrates the Nation’s Underwater Treasures with the Release of the National Marine Sanctuary Stamps.”

The images include photographs taken by members of the public and NOAA employees. An illustrated map of the National Marine Sanctuary System is printed on the back of the glass. With puffer fish and endangered coral, both caught in the island chain, the Florida Keys are well represented in the set of 16 stamps. Other stamps feature California sea lions, a sand tiger shark, and the Farallon Islands.

Sarah Fangman, FKNMS Shrine Superintendent, said, “I’m so excited about this partnership with the USPS showcasing the shrines and you can be sure every mail I send will have one of these stamps on it.”

Elkhorn coral is a branching coral that once dominated tropical reefs. It is fundamental, providing key habitat and protection for many species of fish and invertebrates. According to NOAA, changes in ocean temperatures and carbon levels, water quality, fishing activity and coral disease have decimated local populations. This stamp immortalizes what the Keys looked like and what coral practitioners strive to bring back.

Local scuba diver and underwater photographer Daryl Duda photographed the pufferfish while diving Molasses Reef with Rainbow Reef Dive Center in Key Largo. He said: “These are probably my favorite fish to photograph as they always seem to have a smile on their face. The hardest part is shooting them directly because they always seem to want to slowly rotate away from your camera.

A retired audio/video/film technician for film and television, Duda now searches for images in the sea. He has been perfecting his art of underwater photography for about 15 years and always finds interesting marine life to photograph while diving. with Rainbow Reef, he said.

Fangman thanked Duda for sharing the beauty of the Keys waters with the world. There are more than 6,000 species that inhabit the sanctuary and make it a captivating place to explore, she said. “I like the image of it because the puffer fish seems to be smiling and its eyes are wide open: much like anyone lucky enough to visit these waters,” she added.

An advisory committee evaluates and selects stamps for printing, considering up to 30,000 possible subjects each year, Frum told the Weekly. The Marine Sanctuary Stamp Series is a first for NOAA.

“I am honored to have one of my photos in this National Marine Sanctuary which protects areas of the marine environment with special conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, cultural, archaeological, scientific, educational and aesthetic qualities,” said said Duda. “National Marine Sanctuaries give us hope to help save our oceans and natural American water bodies.”

“The image of the fish taken by Daryl Dyda in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a miniature masterpiece, featured on millions of stamps,” Frum said.

Each stamp currently costs 60 cents and the 16-part costs $9.60. Their value will always be equal to the current prices of First-Class Mail 1 oz. The stamps will go on sale at post offices nationwide on August 5. Orders can be placed online at or by calling 844-737-7826. USPS prints enough stamps to last about a year, Frum confirmed.

John Armour, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, praised the “colorful recognition” of the administration’s milestone anniversary. “As these stamps appear in mailboxes across America,” he said, “we hope they inspire everyone to celebrate, discover, explore and enjoy the unique wonders of the National Marine Sanctuary. System.”