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.

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photo of a wdiver and a shipwreck

Oct. 20, 2016: Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects a variety of historic shipwrecks in the waters of Lake Huron, giving divers in the area an opportunity to dive back through several hundreds of years in the shipping industry. Here the wreck of W.P. Thew, a steamer built to carry wood products like logs, timber, railroad ties and shingles, rests 84 feet below the sanctuary's surface. Amidst a dense fog, Thew was lost during a hit-and-run style accident in the summer of 1909. Not a diver? You can still enjoy the history of Thunder Bay's shipwrecks by visiting the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena, Michigan. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)

Through his "Shipwreck Alley" class, high school teacher John Caplis has been connecting Alpena High School students directly to the nearby Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and through it, to Great Lakes history, ecology, geology, meteorology and more. "The idea that we're exposing two-thirds of every kid who graduates from Alpena High School to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and its mission and the positive effect it has on the community -- I think that's a powerful thing," he says. Watch our video to experience John's Story from the Blue and to learn about the amazing educational collaboration his class has fostered.

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