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 a bird with black wings flying

Nov. 25, 2015: Blue whales are the largest creatures found on earth: they can reach a length of about 100 feet and weigh up to 120 tons. A blue whale heart is the size of a VW Beetle; its aorta (the main blood vessel) alone is large enough for a human to crawl through! Although blue whales are found worldwide throughout the ocean, these enormous creatures are also quite endangered. These two were spotted in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, one place the whales are known to come to feed on krill during the spring and summer months. (Photo: NOAA) #EarthIsBlue #WhaleWednesday‬

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary helps regional schools participate in the MATE ROV Competition. Check out our video to learn how building submersibles helps students get a leg up on the competition for complex jobs in marine industries from science and exploration to search and recovery -- plus, it's pretty fun! ‪#‎EarthIsBlue‬

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