earth is blue

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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close up view of a dolphin skimming the surface of the water

Ever feel like the world is passing you by? It's okay to take a break, like this northern elephant seal in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Each winter, thousands of northern elephant seals migrate to California beaches to breed. These seals need plenty of rest and plenty of space -- when watching them, always stay back at least 100 feet and use binoculars if you want a closer look! Learn more about how you can safely observe these seals. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)

Happy Whale Week! National marine sanctuaries are safe havens for humpback whales. Each winter, thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to mate, calve, and raise their young, while each summer, others travel to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to feed. These whales can also be spotted in many sanctuaries in between! These protected areas are spectacular places to whale watch -- but always be sure to give the whales plenty of space. Learn more: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/oceanetiquette.html

a Laysan albatross taking care of her chick
Feb. 22, 2017: A little Wednesday Wisdom: Wisdom, the oldest known bird in the wild, is a mother again! Approximately 66 years old, Wisdom returns each year to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Her chick hatched approximately two months after she was first spotted incubating an egg at the same nesting site she and her mate, Akeakamai, use each year. Congratulations, Wisdom! (Photo: Naomi Blinick/USFWS)
an elephant seal lies on the beach while a bird walk in front of it
Feb. 21, 2017: Ever feel like the world is passing you by? It's okay to take a break, like this northern elephant seal in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Each winter, thousands of northern elephant seals migrate to California beaches to breed. These seals need plenty of rest and plenty of space -- when watching them, always stay back at least 100 feet and use binoculars if you want a closer look! Learn more about how you can safely observe these seals. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
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Feb. 20, 2017: Happy Presidents Day from your national marine sanctuaries! Our first national marine sanctuary, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, protects the wreck of the USS Monitor, pictured here. During the Civil War, the idea of the USS Monitor was born amidst a nation in turmoil. After discovering the Confederate Navy was constructing an impenetrable ironclad in Hampton Roads, Va., President Lincoln called for a naval board to propose construction of an ironclad vessel to lead the Union Navy. The president visited the ironclad -- which has been called "Lincoln's secret weapon" -- after it was constructed, on July 9, 1862. (Photo: NOAA)
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Feb. 19, 2017: This is Big Momma, one of the largest corals in the world! Located in the Valley of the Giants in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, this giant Porites coral has a circumference of 134 feet, stands 21 feet tall, and is more than 500 years old. Learn more about the amazing marine life within this sanctuary. (Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA)
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Feb. 18, 2017: Happy World Whale Day from the humpback whales of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: NOAA, under NOAA permit #14097)
overhead view of a gray whale breaching
Feb. 17, 2017: The gorgeous gray and white mottling you see here belong to none other than the gray whale! Gray whales like this individual pass through a number of national marine sanctuaries, including Channel Islands, Olympic Coast and Monterey Bay as they make their way to summer feeding grounds in the Arctic. Seasoned travelers, gray whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal, traveling about 10,000 miles every year! Traveling through heavily populated regions along the West Coast, gray whales are at risk of boat collisions or entangelement in fishing gear. If you see an entangled whale, you can help out by reporting the entanglement and by giving these graceful animals plenty of space. (Photo: NOAA)
close up view of a dolphin skimming the surface of the water
Feb. 16, 2017: Did you know dolphins are actually toothed whales? All whales are generally divided into two groups, baleen whales and toothed whales, with the latter category including dolphins and porpoises. Common dolphins like this one can be spotted in several national marine sanctuaries, including Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where this one was photographed. What's your favorite kind of dolphin? Tell us in the comments! (Photo: Laura Howes)
an orca fin breaching the surface of the water
Feb. 15, 2017: Fins up! Southern resident orcas like this one can often be spotted in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The world population of orcas consists of specialized subpopulations, each adapted to live off the resources in the area they call home. "Resident" orcas, for example, are fish-eaters, while "transient" populations eat marine mammals. Southern residents like this one prefer to eat salmon. Learn more about orcas. (Photo: NOAA)
a Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle cuddle up on the beach
Feb. 14, 2017: Happy Valentine's Day from your National Marine Sanctuary System! Here, a Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle cuddle up in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. (Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA)
whales swimming together underwater
Feb. 14, 2017: Whale you be my valentine? Each winter, some 10,000 humpback whales travel to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to find mates, calve, and nurse their young. Mothers can be seen breaching alongside their calves and males can be seen competing with one another for females in fierce head-to-head battles. Learn more about humpback whales in the sanctuary. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA permit #774-1714)
a whale breaching the surface with its mouth open
Feb. 13, 2017: Welcome to Whale Week! This week we'll be bringing you photos and information about the whales that call national marine sanctuaries home. This is Salt, one of the most famous humpback whales in the world today. She was first spotted in Massachusetts Bay in the 1970s, and has been seen in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary just about every year since then. She was one of the first northern humpback whales to be recognized at breeding grounds at Silver Bank off the coast of the Dominican Republic, providing proof of the humpback whale migratory route in the North Atlantic. She has had 14 calves and many grandchildren -- and in 2014, she became a great-grandmother! Salt appears to be a leader among her peers, often diving and resurfacing before others when in a group of feeding whales. (Photo: Laura Howes)
seabird on land staring directly into the camera lens
Feb. 12, 2017: Seabird selfie! Each year, Laysan albatrosses return to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to breed and lay their eggs. This one tried to get acquainted with the camera! You can help Laysan albatrosses by reducing the amount of plastic you use and always properly disposing of trash. Discarded plastic often ends up in the ocean, where to an albatross, it looks rather like food. (Photo: Wayne Sentman)
Emily Aiken collecting samples
Feb. 11, 2017: Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science! Here, Nancy Foster scholar Emily Aiken conducts research in Hui o Kuapā's Keawanui Fishpond in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship recognizes outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate-level research -- particularly by female and minority students -- in the ocean sciences. Learn more about the scholarship at fosterscholars.noaa.gov. (Photo courtesy of Emily Aiken)
green sea slus spotted on eel grass
Feb. 10, 2017: This little invertebrate is a Taylor's sea hare! These bright green sea slugs can be spotted on eel grass in West Coast sanctuaries like Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Jennifer Stock/NOAA)
a juvenile goldentail moray pokes its head out of a small crevice in the reef
Feb. 9, 2017: When some gold catches your eye on a reef during your dive - that's a moray!! Here, a juvenile goldentail moray pokes its head out of a small crevice in the reef at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Emerging from their hideouts at night, goldentail morays are one of a few eel species in Flower Garden Banks that love to chow down on invertebrates for a midnight snack. (Photo: Steve Miller)
brown pelican taking flight from the surface of the water
Feb. 8, 2017: Aaaand lift off! This brown pelican takes flight in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Did you know these coastal birds can dive from upwards of 60 feet in the air when feeding? The force from this steep dive stuns small fish so the pelican can scoop them up in its throat pouch. Watch out for these talented birds on your next trip to the sanctuary! (Photo: Ken Tatro)
hawaiian monk seal on the beach looking at the camera
Feb. 7, 2017: Don't look so disgruntled! The Hawaiian monk seal may be one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, but their numbers have been increasing for the past three years! The population is now estimated to be around 1,400 seals -- about 1,100 seals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and 300 seals in the main Hawaiian Islands, including Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Learn more about this amazing recovery effort and NOAA's role in it. (Photo: Megan Nagel/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) NOAA Fisheries Service
closeup view of a bright pink sea slug in a tidepool
Feb. 6, 2017: Valentine's Day is coming up, but this is no ordinary rose -- it's a Hopkins' rose! This bright pink sea slug can be spotted in the tidepools of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. When tidepooling in search of these little invertebrates, tread lightly! Tidepools are fragile habitats and it's all too easy to crush their tiny inhabitants. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
orange seastar on top of a piece of coral
Feb. 5, 2017: It's sea star Sunday! This little echinoderm was spotted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Sea stars move using tiny "tube feet" located on the underside of their bodies. These tube feet also help them hold on to their prey! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
a white ibis with a crab in its beak
Feb. 4, 2017: Gotcha! The white ibis is one of many types of birds that can be spotted in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. These wading birds move slowly through shallow water, probing for small crustaceans. With a little bit of luck and skill, they get a crabby snack! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
windswept view of the shoreline of olympic coast
Feb. 3, 2017: Take in the windswept view of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! Located on the outer shores of Washington state and adjacent to Olympic National Park, this national marine sanctuary protects one of the last relatively undeveloped coastlines in the United States. The sanctuary's intertidal zone is home to over 300 species of aquatic plants, invertebrates, and fish. (Photo: Kate Thompson/NOAA)
sea otter and cub swimming
Feb. 2, 2017: It's World Wetlands Day! Located in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Elkhorn Slough is one of California's last great coastal wetlands. Flushed by ocean tides in the heart of Monterey Bay, its waterways, mudflats, and marsh support a huge diversity of wildlife -- including sea otters! Estuaries like Elkhorn Slough are extremely productive ecosystems, and provide food, shelter, migration stopovers, and places to breed for many animals. However, they're also quite delicate and need our help to ensure they remain thriving ecosystems. (Photo © Monterey Bay Aquarium)
diver collecting samples near a coral reef
Feb. 1, 2017: You might think it's all dark colors in the deep environments of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, but here bright creatures line the reef! In this photo, a diver explores orange hydroids and strawberry anemones on a reef crest at Craine's Point during a technical expedition in 2010. The mission was historic, the first technical dive expedition in Cordell Bank's waters since the sanctuary's designation in 1989. Though other expeditions have since been conducted, samples taken during this expedition were archived and identified by the California Academy of Sciences, and have contributed greatly to our knowledge of ocean communities living at the upper reaches of Cordell Bank. What other species can you spot in this photo? (Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA)
spinner dolphin flipping through the air
Jan. 31, 2017: Dolphins are some of the most beloved marine mammals on the planet, but Hawaiian spinner dolphins like this acrobatic individual in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary need our help! Hawaiian spinner dolphins feed offshore at night and return to Hawai'i's nearshore waters to rest and recuperate during the day. Research has shown that frequent interaction with swimmers and boaters in their habitat can negatively affect the dolphins' heath. Although a single disturbance may seem harmless, these dolphins face these stressors multiple times a day. And each disturbance takes time away from the dolphin that it may have used for resting, nurturing its young, or socializing with other dolphins. When visiting dolphin habitats, help keep these dolphins safe by giving them plenty of space to rest and recuperate. Even those of us living far from dolphin habitats can help -- spread the word to your traveling friends and help promote responsible recreation habits! (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #14097)
diver swimming near the wreck of the monitor
Jan. 30, 2017: Happy anniversary to our nation's first national marine sanctuary, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! This marine protected area was established on this day in 1975 to protect the wreck of the USS Monitor. Monitor was the prototype for a class of U.S. Civil War ironclad, and significantly changed the course of naval technology in the 19th century. Today, the wreck rests 240 feet beneath the surface off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and is accessible by technical divers with a permit. Learn more about this historic wreck and national marine sanctuary: monitor.noaa.gov. (Photo: NOAA)
sea lion resting on a buoy
Jan. 29, 2017: Sneak a last few moments of relaxation into your weekend! This sea lion, hauled out on a buoy in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, knows how it's done. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
diver examining a coral reef
Jan. 28, 2017: How do scientists keep track of marine health in your national marine sanctuaries? They conduct surveys! Here, a diver at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary conducts a fish survey, taking in the beautiful corals and sponges as he works. Monitoring dives like this one help the sanctuary assess the condition of sanctuary resources (like fish!) and how they may be changing over time. Learn more about monitoring efforts in the sanctuary. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
albross chick surrounded by marine debris
Jan. 27, 2017: Protect this floof! Marine debris remains one of the foremost problems our ocean faces. Here in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a Laysan albatross chick (or mōlī in Hawaiian) rests on a small derelict fishing net. Too often, seabirds like this fluffy nugget, as well as other marine species like sea turtles, end up ingesting or getting tangled up in the plastics we put in our sea, sometimes with fatal consequences. But whether you live near or far from the ocean, we can all do our part to reduce this problem. By opting to buy reusable products and minimize the amount of single-use plastics we purchase, we can cut down on the amount of trash we produce. Recycling can go a long way in keeping plastics out of the ocean, too. How will you help protect seabirds like this albatross chick? (Photo: NOAA)
sea slug eating a nudibranch
Jan. 26, 2017: The circle of life: pursued by a predatory sea slug, this tiny nudibranch sadly isn't long for this world. Fairly common in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, this sea slug, Navanax inermis, is a colorful predator of nudibranchs like Hermissenda opalescenc here. In this photo, you can see Navanax's mouth preparing for the hunt -- and the nudibranch will be gone in the blink of an eye. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
shearwater shearing the surface of the water
Jan. 25, 2017: Lift-off! More than 40 species of seabirds visit NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary every year, including the great shearwater, seen here. Shearwaters are among the most commonly spotted seabirds in the sanctuary, where they can be spotted flying low over sanctuary waters in search of small fish, squid, or crustaceans to eat. Have you spotted one of these while visiting the sanctuary? (Photo: Peter Flood)
shore view of the Port Washington Breakwater Lighthouse
Jan. 24, 2017: This view may be serene, but weather and harsh conditions have claimed hundreds of vessels throughout the Great Lakes. Now, we're working with local communities who have nominated a new national marine sanctuary to protect some of the historic shipwrecks and other maritime resources resting along the Wisconsin coast. In addition to protecting 37 historic shipwrecks, a Wisconsin - Lake Michigan national marine sanctuary would also enhance heritage tourism along the Wisconsin coast, boosting local economies and appreciation for U.S. maritime heritage on the Great Lakes. But we want to know what you think! Over the past year, NOAA has worked to prepare a draft management plan and environmental impact statement for the proposed sanctuary, and these documents are now open for public review. Take a visit to sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin to read the proposal and learn how to submit your comments. (Photo: Linda Chaloupka)
kayakers paddling through mallows bay's waters
Jan. 23, 2017: Community involvement is a critical part of maintaining and establishing new national marine sanctuaries. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed two new national marine sanctuaries, including one at Mallows Bay along the tidal Potomac River, pictured here -- and we'd like to know what you think! The proposed sanctuary would protect more than 200 shipwrecks dating from the Revolutionary War to present day. Learn more about the proposal and how you can comment. (Photo: Kimberly Hernandez/Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
Two small orange-spike nudibranchs
Jan. 22, 2017: Two small orange-spike polycera (Polycera atra) inch gracefully though their home in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. These nudibranchs have bright orange tips on their gills, from which they get their common name. (Photo: Evan Barba)
balloonfish
Jan. 21, 2017: Excuse me, I'm swimming here! Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary visitor Daryl Duda spotted this balloonfish at Pickles Reef. At night, balloonfish hunt the reef for mollusks and crustaceans. When threatened, a balloonfish can inflate its body by taking in water, making its spikes stand out defensively! (Photo: Daryl Duda)
elephant seal sleeping on the beach
Jan. 20, 2017: What better place to snooze than on the beach? Northern elephant seals spend most of their life at sea, but come to shore in West Coast sanctuaries like Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary twice a year to molt, rest, mate, and pup. If you're visiting the sanctuary, make sure to give resting elephant seals plenty of space! They need their beauty sleep, and getting too close can be dangerous for both you and the seals. Learn more about ocean etiquette. (Photo: Patrick Smith)
school of fish swimming around rose atoll
Jan. 19, 2017: All eyes on you: Dozens of colorful fish appear to intently watch the camera in this gorgeous scene on the reef at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. The vibrant coral reefs of American Samoa are a hotspot for marine life -- hundreds of fish species can be found in the sanctuary! (Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA)
gray seal riding a wave
Jan. 18, 2017: Surf's up! This gray seal peeks out ahead of a wave crashing at Race Point Beach in Cape Cod National Seashore, just outside NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Gray seals are often spotted within the sanctuary, where they feed on fish, crustaceans, squid, and sometimes even small seabirds! Sometimes employing "social feeding" techniques in which multiple individuals work together to trap a prey item, gray seals are quite the talented hunters. What are some of your favorite ocean hunters? (Photo: Peter Flood)
close up view of coral spawning
Jan. 17, 2017: Happy 25th anniversary to NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary! Looking something like a burst of celebratory confetti, corals like this one spawn within the sanctuary each year, releasing hundreds of gametes into the water. The warm, sunlit waters of this Gulf of Mexico sanctuary make it a comfy home for hard corals like these, as well as hundreds of other marine species. Plus, the sanctuary is considering expanding. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
top: misty secape of the farallon islands; bottom: reef with fish swimming
Jan. 16, 2017: Happy 36th anniversary to Gray's Reef and Greater Farallones national marine sanctuaries! The misty seascape of California's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (top) provides breeding and feeding ground for many different species, including blue, gray, and humpback whales, and supports one of the most significant populations of white sharks in the world. Located off the coast of Georgia, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (bottom) protects a dynamic live-bottom reef home to more than 200 species of fish, as well as the only known winter calving ground for the highly-endangered North Atlantic right whale. Happy anniversary to these two sanctuaries, and many thanks to their staff for protecting our ocean's amazing places! (Top photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA; bottom photo: GregMcFall/NOAA)
wreck of the w.g. mason
Jan. 15, 2017: A living museum: some sanctuaries, like Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, protect shipwrecks and other historic artifacts. By preserving these resources -- like the wreck of W.G. Mason, pictured here -- we preserve parts of our history. The wrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary represent generations of life on the Great Lakes, and because many of them are accessible via diving and snorkeling, you can experience this history for yourself! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
group of sea lions in the water all looking one direction
Jan. 14, 2017: Hey guys, what's over there? These sea lions are congregating in the waters of Santa Barbara Island in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary overlaps with Channel Islands National Park, and together, the part and sanctuary protect the ecosystems and organisms of California's Channel Islands! (Photo: Patrick Smith)
sea otter
Jan. 13, 2017: Success for the #SeaOtter! Sea otters were once locally extinct from the #Washington coast, but in 1969 and 1970, 59 sea otters were relocated there from Alaska. These otters have thrived: today more than 1,800 individuals call the Washington coast home! Most of them live in the waters of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Each year, researchers survey the population -- the 2016 census was organized by @usfws and @thewdfw, with assistance from volunteers and staff from the sanctuary, @seattleaquarium, and @ptdefiancezoo. One large raft of over 600 sea otters was observed off the mouth of the Hoh River! (Photo: NOAA)
Lake Michigan
Jan. 12, 2017: We all work better together: we've proposed the designation of two new sanctuaries, and we want to know what you think! One of the proposed sites is the waters of Lake Michigan adjacent to Wisconsin. The site contains 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We invite you to comment on the draft management plan that @NOAA teams have carefully constructed for the new site. Learn more about the proposal, including how to submit comments online, by mail, or at public meetings. The comment period will be open through March 31st -- we can't wait to hear from you! (Photo: Tish Hase)
humpback whale breaching
Jan. 11, 2017: Happy hump(back) day! Humpback #whales, like this one in #HawaiianIslandsHumpbackWhale National Marine Sanctuary, have the longest flippers of any cetacean. (They're roughly one-third the whale's body length!) The leading edge of these lengthy flippers aren't smooth; instead, they have bumps called tubercules on them. These tubercules make the humpback whale flippers more hydrodynamic, increasing humpback whale agility and helping the whales maneuver when catching fish. Researchers are studying this flipper shape to understand how to make more efficient wind turbines! (Photo: R. Finn/NOAA, under NOAA permit #15240)
aerial view of mallow bay shipwreck
Jan. 10, 2017: We've proposed the designation of two new national marine sanctuaries, and we want to know what you think! One of those, seen here, is at #MallowsBay, Maryland, on the tidal #PotomacRiver. The proposed site contains an extraordinary collection of more than 100 known and potential shipwrecks dating from the Revolutionary War through the present. The shipwrecks include the remains of the largest “Ghost Fleet” of #WorldWarI wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to its maritime heritage resources, Mallows Bay is a largely undeveloped landscape and waterscape identified as one of the most ecologically valuable in Maryland. While NOAA’s proposed sanctuary regulations would focus only on the protection of the shipwrecks and associated maritime heritage resources, the structures provided by shipwrecks and related infrastructure serve as habitat for populations of recreational fisheries, bald eagles, and other marine species. (Photo: Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing, Duke University)
diver with a shark swimming near by
Jan. 9, 2017: Just another day at the office! A curious Galapagos #shark (manō in Hawaiian) approaches @NOAA scientist Dr. Randy Kosaki. Here, Dr. Kosaki and his team are slowly decompressing on their way to a surface from a 300-foot dive at Pioneer Bank in #Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Deep technical dives like this one help the monument's scientists understand deep reef environments, which are often less-studied due to their depth. (Photo: NOAA and Richard Pyle/Bishop Museum)
close up of a giant clam
Jan. 8, 2017: Mottled in green, brown, and pink, this giant #clam was spotted in the Fagalua/Fogama'a area of National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Once nestled into a location on the reef, giant clams remain stationary throughout life, and play a major role in reef community structure. Like corals, giant clams have developed symbiotic relationships with algae called zooxanthellae. In return for shelter, zooxanthellae provide giant clams with nutrients they've photosynthesized! (Photo: NOAA)
diver looking at a shipwreck
Jan. 7, 2017: Need a holiday after your holiday? Travel to one of your national marine sanctuaries to enjoy a variety of recreational activities amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States! Here, a diver explores the wreck of the City of Washington in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Whether you love boating, fishing, diving, snorkeling, or simply enjoying some time on the beach, your national marine sanctuaries are the perfect place to get to know our nation's marine environments while having some major adventures! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
top: aerial view of mallows bay; bottom: diver examining shipwreck
Jan. 6, 2017: 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)
photo of a bird flying
Jan. 5, 2017: Happy National Bird Day! Located off the coast of California, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary's food-rich waters make it a major feeding destination for thousands of local and highly migratory seabirds. Nearly 70 bird species have been observed in the sanctuary. Laysan albatross, like this one, breed thousands of miles from the Cordell Bank region in Hawai'i's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, yet still travel to places like Cordell Bank for food. (Photo: Laura Morse/NOAA)
photo of a spidery crab
Jan. 4, 2017: Perched carefully on the spines of an urchin, this yellowline arrow crab is one of many crustaceans that make their home in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Found in the Atlantic from North Carolina to Brazil, these little, spidery crabs inhabit coral and rocky reefs, where they scavenge on small invertebrates. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
photo of a brown spotted nudibranch
Jan. 3, 2017: What's a nudibranch? These soft-bodied mollusks are also sometimes referred to as sea slugs. The word "nudibranch" means "naked gills," describing the feathery gills they wear on their backs. This nudibranch was spotted at Elvers Bank in the Gulf of Mexico, which is one location that could be protected by an expanded Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Learn about the proposed expansion here.
photo of a monk seal napping on the beach
Jan. 2, 2017: Still snoozing after a raucous New Year's party? You're not alone! This Hawaiian monk seal is taking a nap on Midway Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Find out how you can help protect these highly endangered seals here. (Photo: Andy Collins/NOAA)
photo of orca whales and a calf swimming
Jan. 1, 2017: Happy New Year from your National Marine Sanctuary System! With the new year we celebrate new life, like this orca calf in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. What are you celebrating today? (Photo: Douglas Croft, under NOAA Fisheries Permit #15621)
overhead view of humpback whales swimming underwater

Happy Whale Week! National marine sanctuaries are safe havens for humpback whales. Each winter, thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to mate, calve, and raise their young, while each summer, others travel to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to feed. These whales can also be spotted in many sanctuaries in between! These protected areas are spectacular places to whale watch -- but always be sure to give the whales plenty of space. Learn more: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/protect/oceanetiquette.html

three sanctuaries employees on the deck of a boat taking photos

Take a trip to the mangroves of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! Our outreach team recently spent a day photographing wildlife in the sanctuary's mangrove forests. Mangroves like these stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides, while also providing food and shelter to many species.

view of an underwater creature

How much do you know about biodiversity in your national marine sanctuaries?

man on a boat about to reach out with a device to tag a breaching whale

How do scientists in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary tag humpback whales? Very carefully! Attached temporarily with suction cups, these tags help researchers understand where whales are going and what sounds they're making.

whale swimming

Each year, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary brings the world of cinema to the shores of Lake Huron! Check out the Thunder Bay International Film Festival trailer here, then check out the festival details. The festival January 20-29!

sea lions swimming underwater

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is home to 29 species of marine mammal -- including the sea lion!

seabird soaring through the air

How did you spend your holidays? Each year, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary teams up with the 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.

photo of 2 surfers and the word love written on the sand

As the year comes to a close, join us in celebrating the amazing sites of your National Marine Sanctuary System! What's your favorite ocean or Great Lakes memory from this year?

photo of a person digging up clams

Indigenous tribes like the Quinault Indian Nation have depended on the ocean for millennia. Today, species like the razor clam provide Quinault members with sustenance and income. Watch our video to hear this Quinault Story from the Blue and to learn how Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary helps support culturally-important ecosystems!

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Already thinking ahead to warmer summer days? Take a virtual diving trip to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary!

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How do you record the ocean soundtrack? With a hydrophone! Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Jenni Stanley has been deploying hydrophones at several national marine sanctuaries in order to characterize their soundscapes. Learn more in our video!

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Do sharks always rule the seas? Think again! In places like Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, it's not always predators that come out on top.

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Nancy Foster Scholar Emily Aiken explains that through the scholarship and working with national marine sanctuaries, "I have the opportunity now to fully engage and reach my full potential -- and that has been incredible to experience." Check out our video to learn about Emily's Story from the Blue. Are you a graduate student in ocean sciences? Learn about the Nancy Foster Scholarship at fosterscholars.noaa.gov -- the application period is currently open!

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Earlier this fall, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary joined students from Alcona Elementary School for the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup. Check out our video to learn how the sanctuary is working with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative to teach students the importance of keeping the Great Lakes clean!

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Start your weekend off right with a tour of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!

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Recently, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Reverb teamed up to show Guster what makes Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary so amazing. Check out our video to learn about the incredible whale watching opportunities the sanctuary's rich ecosystem supports, and how you can visit the sanctuary without even getting wet at the New England Aquarium!

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The ocean covers approximately 70% of Earth's surface, and we all depend on it for everything from our climate and weather to the air we breathe. With that in mind, two years ago we launched Earth Is Blue, a celebration of the special ocean and Great Lakes places protected by the National Marine Sanctuary System. Check out some of the coolest clips from this year's videos! We can't wait to see what comes next.

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This summer, Nancy Foster Scholarship alumna Dr. Nyssa Silbiger and her colleague Piper Wallingford researched the impacts of climate change on tidal ecosystems in several West Coast national marine sanctuaries. Key to their research was their mobile lab, the Bio Bus! Check out our video to learn about their adventures and research in national marine sanctuaries, and learn more about how you can become a Nancy Foster Scholar here!

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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.

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Since 2002, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary has received more than 100 confirmed reports of entangled humpback whales, representing at least 70 animals. So how do experts at the sanctuary disentangle these enormous animals? Very carefully, and without getting in the water. Learn more here.

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Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary superintendent Carol Bernthal first visited the Washington coast as a teenager. "I just remember walking out onto this point and looking out at the ocean and being overwhelmed by the power and the history of this place," she says. That moment inspired her, and today, Carol dedicates herself to protecting this amazing national marine sanctuary. Watch our video to experience her Story from the Blue. What special ocean places have inspired you?

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Dive into Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and experience the underwater treasures of this amazing marine protected area!

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How can archaeologists chart a World War II battlefield resting 700 feet down on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean? Maritime archaeologists from Monitor National Marine Sanctuary recently teamed up with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Project Baseline, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the UNC Coastal Studies Institute and SRI International to use manned submersibles to survey shipwrecks from a World War II battlefield off the coast of North Carolina. Check out what they found in our video!

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Prognathodes basabei is a newly-described species of butterflyfish found in the deep reefs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Check out our video to catch a glimpse of this new fish! Learn more here.

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What's a sea nettle? Learn about these Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary dwellers in our video!

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In February and March of 2016, NOAA and partners conducted an expedition to explore deep waters in and around Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Using the high-definition camera's on NOAA's Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle, scientists captured imagery of deep-sea biology and geology at depths ranging from 2,130 feet to 2.7 miles (650 - 4,300 meters) that had never been seen before. 

On August 26, 2016, President Obama expanded the monument by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area to 582,578 square miles and making it the world's largest marine protected area.  Portions of the video originally filmed outside of Monument boundaries are now protected.

This expedition is part of a three-year effort to gain basic knowledge about the largely unknown marine protected areas in the Pacific. The combined information gained during this effort will help managers to better understand, and therefore protect, these special places.

Video courtesy of NOAA; produced by the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration.

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Mooring buoys help protect fragile ecosystems in places like Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary by reducing the need for boats to drop anchor. But who maintains the sanctuary's vast collection of buoys? Meet the Florida Keys buoy team!

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How do national marine sanctuaries protect maritime heritage resources like historic shipwrecks? Find out in this week's Earth Is Blue video. Thanks to NOAA Ocean Today for sharing it with us!

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Recently, scientists from Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary dove into the sanctuary to conduct a variety of research activities. Check out some of what they saw in our video and on their site.

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"Science is our measuring stick to figure out if our legends are true," explains Hanohano Na'ehu of Hui o Kuapā - Keawanui Fishpond in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. And by collaborating with scientists, Hanohano is confirming the stories that native Hawaiians have used for generations to guide how they care for nature and interact with the environment. Watch our video to hear Hanohano's Stories from the Blue!

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Have you gotten into your sanctuary this summer? In June, in honor of our national Get Into Your Sanctuary celebration, nine Blue Star certified dive charter operators led underwater clean-ups throughout Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Together, the shops collected hundreds of pounds of marine debris! Many thanks to Rainbow Reef Dive Center for sharing their video of their cleanup efforts with us -- and for their dedication to keeping the Florida Keys healthy! (Videography & editing: Logan Campbell)

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The wreck of the historic USS Monitor rests 240 feet beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in Monitor National Marine Sanctuary -- so visiting it isn't exactly easy. Fortunately, there are many places that offer the opportunity to discover the wonders of this great ship without getting your feet wet! Check out the USS Monitor Center, located at The Mariners' Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia, in our video.

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Nudibranchs may look something out of a science fiction movie, but they're actually closely related to snails! Find out more about these colorful creatures in our video.

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Safe haven for marine animals, or perfect place to catch a wave? Both! National marine sanctuaries like Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary protect hundreds of marine species -- and they're also perfect spots for responsible recreation. For Joe Green, ukulele craftsman and owner of Surf n Sea in O'ahu, the sanctuary protects important surf spots. Check out our video to learn more!

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National marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments are the heart of many human communities, from native communities that have depended on the ocean for centuries and continue to do so, to vacationers who dive into sanctuary waters and surf their waves, to scientists and researchers who explore the ocean's depths. Join us each month as we tell stories from the blue celebrating the people at the center of national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments: sanctuaries.noaa.gov/stories. This month, we tell the story of Nathaniel Linville, owner of The Angling Company in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!

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Many national marine sanctuaries are far offshore, but onshore exhibits around the country make it possible to get to know these special places without getting wet! Check out our video to learn about the partnership between Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Oakland Museum of California. Will you be visiting one of these exhibits soon?

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Big news: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has proposed an expansion of its boundaries! Learn more about the proposed expansion in our video and find out how to comment on the proposal at flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansi­ondeis.htm

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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? Find out by watching this video.

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What is coral bleaching and what can you do to help? Find out in our video! ‪‬ Seaview Survey Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa

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The National Marine Sanctuary System is home to a magnificent array of birds. Learn about them in our video! ‪‬

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How do scientists measure sound in national marine sanctuaries? Check out our video about a new hydrophone in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary to find out! And learn more about noise in sanctuaries here. ‪.

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Thirty years ago, Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary was designated to protect the fringing coral reef ecosystem off the island of Tutuila in American Samoa. In 2012, the sanctuary expanded to protect five additional areas in American Samoa and became National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Learn more about this extraordinary marine sanctuary in our video and at americansamoa.noaa.gov.‬

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Earth Day is a perfect opportunity to think about how you can protect ocean inhabitants! Trash travels -- about 50 tons of marine debris makes its way to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands each year, and those islands are remote and mostly uninhabited by humans. But by reducing the amount of waste you produce and participating in marine debris cleanups near you, you can help keep these special places clean and protect the animals that call them home! Learn more at marinedebris.noaa.gov.‬

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From bottlenose dolphins in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to spinner dolphins in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, many species of dolphin frequent your national marine sanctuaries.

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What are the best places in the nation to see marine life? According to the USA TODAY 10Best Reader's Choice Contest, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Check out our video to find out what makes these places so phenomenal. ‪‬

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What's a turtle cleaning station? Check it out in our video and learn more here.

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Ninety-five years ago the 56 brave crew members of the USS Conestoga gave their lives in service for their country when this U.S. Navy tug sank in what is now Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Check out our video to learn about the mission to identify the lost wreck of the Conestoga and the importance of this historic ship's final resting place -- and stay tuned for a longer video coming this Memorial Day celebrating this valiant crew. ‪‬ Naval History & Heritage Command

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What lives in the deep seas of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument? Over the past few weeks, researchers aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer have been finding out! They've been using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to dive thousands of meters beneath the surface of the ocean. Check out our video to see what they found, and click here to learn more about the expedition. (Footage courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2016 Hohonu Moana.)

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Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron protects one of America's best-preserved and nationally significant collections of shipwrecks. But you don't have to be a diver to visit many of the wrecks within the sanctuary! Many of them are shallow enough to explore with just a snorkel. ‪

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Dive in to Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! The rocky habitats of Cordell Bank emerge from the soft sediments of the continental shelf seafloor off the coast of California. This national marine sanctuary provides a home to colorful and abundant invertebrates, algae and fishes, while its productive waters attract migratory seabirds and marine mammals from all around the Pacific Ocean. What can you spot in our video?

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How's your invasive species knowledge? In addition to the well-known lionfish, several other invasive species have moved in to national marine sanctuaries in recent years. Orange cup corals heavily colonize artificial surfaces in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and have also migrated onto natural reef surfaces in Flower Garden Banks. Zebra and quagga mussels are a problem in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where they damage the ecosystem and degrade historic shipwrecks. Learn more about invasive species -- and how climate change may be affecting invasions -- in our video. ‪‬‬‬

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From Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary octopuses are found in many of our national marine sanctuaries. Check out our video to learn about these intelligent ocean creatures. ‪Thank you to NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research for some amazing footage!‬‬

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Happy World Whale Day! Each winter, thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to mate, calve, and raise their young. The sanctuary is a spectacular place to watch these whales! It's important, though, to always give humpback whales and other marine animals plenty of space: whale calves are especially vulnerable to boat strikes as they often rest just beneath the surface. You can report injured or endangered whales to NOAA by calling the 24-hour hotline at 1-888-256-9840. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA Permit 15240) ‪‬‬

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The Fisherman in the Classroom program invites commercial fishermen from Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary into the classroom to help students understand how they are connected to the ocean. Watch our video to learn more! ‬

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After a relatively short career as a freighter -- in which it carried what was then the largest load ever on the Great Lakes -- the James Davidson ran aground on October 4, 1883 in what is now Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Last summer, a team of volunteers from Alpena Community College and Grand Valley State University used an ROV to investigate the wreck of the Davidson. Check out what they found! Special thanks to Tim Parsell for sharing this video with us.

Do you have video or photos that you've taken in a national marine sanctuary? Learn how you can submit it for a chance to see it on our social media here. (Video: Tim Parsell/ACC/GVSU; Music: Kevin MacLeod [incompetech.com]) ‪‬

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The F6F Hellcat was a crucial aircraft in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Sadly, more than 300 of these aircraft found a final resting place in the Hawaiian archipelago. Today, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and its partners -- like XL Catlin Seaview Survey -- are able to survey and document these historic wrecks, many of which now act as artificial reefs. Learn more about a recent survey in our video. Naval History & Heritage Command

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What's the difference between seals and sea lions? Find out in our video! ‪‬

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In 1871, a fleet of 33 whaling ships sailing off the north coast of Alaska were warned by the local Inupiat people that it was going to be a bad weather year. They didn't listen. When the wind shifted and the ice came in, all 33 ships were trapped. While all the crew members miraculously survived, the ships went down, where they were lost until this September when researchers from our Maritime Heritage Program went to find them. Check out our video to see what they found.

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Happy new year from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument's green sea turtles!

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Did you know that moray eels -- like this one filmed in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary -- have two sets of jaws? These eels seize their prey with the first set, then use the second jaw to pull their catch back toward the esophagus.

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Zooplankton like krill may be small, but they are mighty! Because so many marine animals depend on these tiny animals for food, their size and abundance can tell researchers a lot about how healthy an ecosystem is. When there's lots of krill, there also tends to be plenty of seabirds and marine mammals around. Researchers from Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary work with ACCESS Partnership to survey the zooplankton in the sanctuary -- check out our video to learn more! ‪

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In early October, thousands of pelagic red crabs washed ashore in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. These crabs usually live offshore of Baja California, but warm waters, likely linked to El Niño, have transported them north. The last time these crabs washed ashore in the sanctuary was 1982-83, also an El Niño year. Watch our video to learn more! ‪

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Researchers from Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument recently teamed up to conduct a survey of the coral reefs throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands, which are currently being affected by a mass bleaching event. Coral bleaching occurs when corals are stressed -- in this case, by warm ocean water -- and expel the symbiotic algae that they need to survive. Together with researchers from the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, the NOAA Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative, NOAA Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Program, and the State of Hawai'i, sanctuary researchers collected data that will help them evaluate where bleaching is occurring and which species are most affected. Check out our video to learn more! #CoralsWeek

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This September, scientists surveyed the deep reefs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. What they found was amazing: a high abundance of species found only in the Hawaiian Islands and specimens and photographs of potential new species of fish, algae, and invertebrates! 

View the Earth is Blue photo and video archive