National Marine Sanctuary System

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 170,000 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

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 logo

When astronauts first launched toward the moon and looked back at our planet for the first time, they made an unexpected discovery: Earth is Blue.  Earth is Blue is a social media awareness campaign to highlight NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System and its fourteen special marine protected areas across the country. The campaign began on October 23, 2014, the 42nd anniversary of the system, and shares one photo each day and one video each week highlighting the wonder and beauty of these special places and the work NOAA does to protect them.

photo of moray eel

May 31, 2016: Ahoy there! A juveline stout moray eel pops its head out from shelter provided by the coral Porites evermanni in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. A moray eel's open mouth isn't necessarily a sign of aggression; they must constantly open and close their mouths so that they can pump water over their gills! (Photo: NOAA) #EarthIsBlue

When you think of the might and power of the U.S. Navy, the first thing that comes to mind is not likely to be a tugboat. More likely, you picture a formidable aircraft carrier or a well-armed battleship, operated by hundreds and often thousands of sailors. A tug is an afterthought, if it's a thought at all. So why is the USS Conestoga -- a Navy fleet tug -- so important?

The USS Conestoga vanished after leaving the San Francisco Bay in March of 1921 and was never seen again. The ship was carrying 56 sailors, many of whom were making their way to the ship's final duty station in American Samoa. But Conestoga failed to appear in Pearl Harbor, its first stop. The Navy launched an exhaustive effort that included every available vessel and aircraft in the vicinity. Not until Amelia Earhart disappeared would a larger and more expansive search take place.

On a recent expedition to Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of San Francisco, to help characterize sonar targets and connect them to known shipwrecks within the sanctuary, an unexpected blip appeared on the sonar some 27 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge and 2000 miles from Pearl Harbor, Oahu.

As the team of scientists watched and waited for a remotely operated vehicle to descend to the site of the unknown wreck, they had little sense that they would be cracking open one of the coldest case files in the history of the U.S. Navy. For almost a century this missing tug baffled historians, left holes in the hearts of families, and inspired the public to wonder: What ever happened to the USS Conestoga?

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Sanctuary Spotlight

Visit a Sanctuary

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

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

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