National Marine Sanctuary System

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.

map highlighting sanctuary locations Thunder Bay Flower Garden Banks Stellwagen Bank Monitor Gray's Reef Florida Keys Channel Islands Monterey Bay Cordell Bank Gulf of the Farallones Olympic Coast Papahanaumokuakea Hawaii Humpback Whales American Samoa mallows-bay lake-michigan
earth is blue logo

When you look at our planet from space, one thing is abundantly clear: Earth Is Blue. Our planet is an ocean planet, and whether you live near the coast or a thousand miles from it, the ocean is part of your life. From providing the food we eat to determining our weather, the ocean matters to each of us -- and the National Marine Sanctuary System protects this vital resource.

With that in mind, the photos and videos of Earth Is Blue bring these ocean treasures directly to smartphones and computers all over the world, where they can serve as a tangible reminder that no matter where you are, the ocean and Great Lakes are in your hands. We hope these images inspire you to help care for our ocean and to spread the word that Earth isn't green -- it's blue.

Join us on instagram logo twitter logo facebook logo youtube logo youtube logo and submit your own photos.

photo of bird flying with black wing tips

Jan. 6, 2016: Big news! NOAA is proposing to designate two new national marine sanctuaries to protect historically-important shipwrecks -- and we need YOU to weigh in! These two sites would be the first national marine sanctuaries designated since 2000. In Maryland (top image), NOAA is proposing a national marine sanctuary in Mallows Bay in the Potomac River, which contains more than 100 shipwrecks dating from the Revolutionary War to the present. In Wisconsin (bottom image), NOAA is proposing to designate a 1,075-square-mile area of Lake Michigan that holds 37 known shipwrecks, including Wisconsin’s two oldest known shipwrecks. Learn about the new proposals and how you can tell us what you think by clicking on the links above. (Top photo: Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing, Duke University; bottom photo: Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society)

How did you spend your holidays? Each year,Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary teams up with the National Audubon Society for the Stellwagen Bank Christmas Bird Count. Christmas Bird Count volunteers join sanctuary staff onboard the R/V Auk to survey a 15-mile-diameter area of the sanctuary. The data they collect can help assess the health of bird populations and of the sanctuary ecosystem. This year, citizen scientists counted triple the number of razorbills as last year's cruise, but spotted no northern fulmars or shearwaters, which are normally encountered in the sanctuary this time of year. They even spotted four tiny Atlantic puffins! Check out our video of a past Christmas Bird Count to learn more about this ongoing citizen science project.

Stories from the Blue

Stories from the Blue celebrate the people at the center of national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.

What does the National Marine Sanctuary System mean to you?

Sanctuary Nomination Process

For the first time in two decades, NOAA invites communities across the nation to nominate their most treasured places in our marine and Great Lakes waters for consideration as national marine sanctuaries.

In response to ongoing widespread interest from the public, NOAA has launched a new, locally driven sanctuary nomination process developed with input from more than 18,000 public comments. Throughout the nomination process, NOAA will be available to answer questions and provide guidance to nominating communities and other interested parties. NOAA will also update nominators on the progress of the agency's review of their nomination.

Actor and activist Edward James Olmos lends his voice to the new sanctuary nomination process and offers a challenge to the American people. Watch in HD

Earth Is Blue Magazine

In partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries publishes a yearly magazine in print and electronic formats. Through vivid images and engaging articles, Earth Is Blue: The Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries brings sanctuaries directly to the American public, so you can experience the wonder of our ocean and Great Lakes even if you don't live nearby.

earth is blue magazine volume 1 cover - women on the beach taking a picture of the ocean

Earth Is Blue Magazine - June 2016

  • An Impact for Special Places
  • Take only Memories
  • Stories from the Blue
  • ¿Qué Bolá Cuba?
  • Learning from the Past to Protect the Future
  • Freeing a Giant
  • In Hot Water
  • From Compassion to Action

Sanctuary Spotlight

Visit a Sanctuary

National marine sanctuaries are ideal destinations for travelers who enjoy a diversity of recreational activities.

Plan your visit

Get Involved

Volunteers help to ensure marine sanctuaries remain America's underwater treasures for future generations.

How you can help