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Big Pine Key (CBSMiami/FKNB) — Divers and snorkelers are to explore part of the world’s third-largest living coral barrier reef while rocking to a unique sub-sea concert during Saturday’s Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival that promotes reef protection.

The one-of-a-kind event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary about 6 miles south of Big Pine Key. The sanctuary protects the waters surrounding the entire Florida Keys island chain.

Now in its 33rd year, the concert draws several hundred divers and snorkelers annually to immerse themselves in the region’s colorful underwater panorama. Staged by Keys radio station US1 104.1 FM, it provides a “submerged soundtrack” as they discover a diverse realm of tropical fish, coral formations, and other marine life.

Music broadcast by the radio station is piped underwater via Lubell Laboratory speakers suspended beneath boats above the reef. Participants can experience the underwater world while swaying to a sea-focused playlist that usually includes humpback whale songs and tunes like the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and Jimmy Buffett’s “Fins.”

They might even catch “mermaids” and other costumed characters attempting to perform their own marine melodies — pretending to play underwater musical instruments such as a trom-bonefish and clam-bourine sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.

The festival’s primary purpose is to encourage preservation of the Keys’ rich coral reef ecosystem. The broadcast incorporates diver awareness announcements emphasizing ways to enjoy the reef while minimizing environmental impacts.

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