Sanctuary Nomination Process

papahanaumokuakea Stellwagen Bank Olympic Coast Hawaii Humpback Whales Montereybay Monitor Cordell Bank Gray Reef Flower Garden Florida Keys Fagatele Bay Gulf of Farallones Channel Islands Thunder Bay

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of 14 marine protected areas 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 the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

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people watching seals on the beach

Our national marine sanctuaries are places of inspiration. Within their waters and along their shores, you can find vibrant tapestries of marine life, ancient mysteries of our past, and thriving communities of men and women who have relied on the sea for generations. Sanctuaries are places where anyone can go to experience the power and beauty of the ocean and form lasting memories in spectacular natural settings, from the vibrant coral reefs of American Samoa to the towering kelp forests of Monterey Bay. These underwater treasures are sources of national pride, and when we take care of them, we are protecting part of what makes America great.

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restaurants and shops on a pier

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is committed to building a stronger, more resilient future for America's communities, ecosystems and economy. A healthy ocean is the basis for thriving recreation, tourism and commercial activities that drive coastal economies, and the sanctuaries work with diverse partners and stakeholders to promote responsible, sustainable ocean uses that ensure the health of our most valued ocean places. Through visitor centers and collaborations with aquariums and museums, sanctuaries also serve as focal points for local engagement and economic development in communities across America.

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Diver saving a turtle from a net

For the past 40 years, our national marine sanctuaries have worked to protect special places in America's ocean and Great Lakes waters, from the site of a single Civil War shipwreck to a vast expanse of ocean surrounding remote coral reefs and tiny atolls. Backed by one of the nation's strongest pieces of ocean conservation legislation, the sanctuaries seek to preserve the extraordinary scenic beauty, biodiversity, historical connections and economic productivity of 14 of our most precious underwater treasures. By acting as responsible stewards of these special places, we strengthen our nation now and for future generations.

Serving Our Communities

Sanctuaries are supported by a network of dedicated and diverse people working to protect our ocean treasures. Across the nation, thousands of volunteers make sanctuary science and education programs possible, community advisory groups provide input, and non-profit partners build support for effective ocean management.

serving our communities - picture of people holding kelp in front of a visitor center

Exploring Our World

Sanctuary scientists and their partners work to understand and predict natural and human-caused changes throughout the sanctuary system. From environmental monitoring to habitat mapping to socioeconomic research, science and exploration are essential to the effective management of our special underwater places.

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Teaching Our Youth

Challenges facing the ocean today cross national and ethnic boundaries, and marine sanctuaries serve as places where people can find common ground and discuss solutions. Sanctuary education and outreach efforts link communities through innovative programs and help spread awareness of the ocean's connection to all life.

picture volunteers doing cleanup at a beach


Preserving Our Heritage

Understanding our country's maritime landscape helps Americans become stewards of our shared history and culture, including exploration, immigration, and harvesting the ocean's bounty. Prehistoric sites, shipwrecks, naval battlefields and other resources protected by sanctuaries are there for us to explore, discover and appreciate.

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Revised July 13, 2015 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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