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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octopus canging color to match its surounding

How can an octopus be so colorful? Many cephalopods have special cells in their skin tissue called chromatophores, which enable them to change color rapidly. A part of their neuromuscular system, these cells receive signals from the environment than an octopus can use to inform color change. Chromatophores can help octopodes like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary blend in with their surroundings or flash a warning to predators! (Photo: NURC/UNCW/NOAA)

The National Marine Sanctuary System honors America's past, serves the needs of today, and provides and defends for the future. It's a future that depends on these protected places -- learn more in our video!

two spotted black oystercatchers on the beach
Jun. 26, 2017: Have you spotted black oystercatchers when visiting your West Coast national marine sanctuaries? Oystercatchers often are heard before they are seen. Their loud whistling wheep-wheep is shrill and carries above the sound of the surf. At low tide, these large shorebirds can be spotted foraging for mussels and other shellfish. These two were photographed in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Beach Watch/NOAA)
dolphin swimming in the water
Jun. 25, 2017: Visiting NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary? The Dolphin SMART program helps protect wild dolphins by encouraging responsible viewing of marine mammals. By giving dolphins plenty of space, you can help dolphins in the Keys thrive! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
octopus displaying its camouflage skills by blending into the coral reef
Jun. 24, 2017: We close out Cephalopod Week with this lovely day octopus (he‘e mauli) in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! While many species of octopus hunt at night, day octopuses are active during daylight hours. Their incredible camouflage skills help them blend in with the coral reef so that prey never spot them coming! (Photo: James Watt/NOAA)
benthic octopus
Jun. 23, 2017: Did you know some octopuses are denizens of the deep sea? This benthic octopus (Benthoctopus sp.) was spotted at a depth of 1461 meters (4793 feet!) at Davidson Seamount in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI))
octopus canging color to match its surounding
Jun. 22, 2017: How can an octopus be so colorful? Many cephalopods have special cells in their skin tissue called chromatophores, which enable them to change color rapidly. A part of their neuromuscular system, these cells receive signals from the environment than an octopus can use to inform color change. Chromatophores can help octopodes like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary blend in with their surroundings or flash a warning to predators! (Photo: NURC/UNCW/NOAA)
stubby squid on the seafloor
Jun. 21, 2017: What better way to celebrate Cephalopod Week than with a stubby squid? Last year, we teamed up with Nautilus Live to explore the deep ocean in and around NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and spotted this little googly-eyed cephalopod! Though they look like a cross between an octopus and a squid, stubby squid are actually closely related to cuttlefish. They spend their lives on the seafloor, coating themselves in a mucus jacket and burrowing into the sediment. Leaving just those big eyes peeking above the surface, they remain buried until prey items like shrimp or small fish -- or a curious ROV -- pass by. (Photo: OET/NOAA)
strawberry anemones
Jun. 20, 2017: Summer is a great time to enjoy all things strawberry — including strawberry anemones! At Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, these inch-wide anemones carpet the sea floor. They use their tentacles to capture food and to defend themselves. As plentiful as they are, we doubt they'd taste great in a strawberry shortcake. (Photo: NOAA)
Joe Hoyt examines the wreck of the German U-boat U-576 from inside a two-person submersible
Jun. 19, 2017: Submersibles and other technology help scientists get up close to historical and biological artifacts! Here, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary maritime archaeologist Joe Hoyt examines the wreck of the German U-boat U-576 from inside a two-person submersible. Last summer, Joe and other archaeologists explored the remains of this World War II convoy battlefield. (Photo: Robert Carmichael/Project Baseline, Battle of the Atlantic Expedition)
seaweed blennies watching over eggs
Jun. 18, 2017: Happy Father's Day from your National Marine Sanctuary System! The animal kingdom is filled with exemplary father figures — the seaweed blennies at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary are no exception! Female blennies deposit their eggs in the nooks and crannies of the reef. Then, males keep an eye on the eggs until they hatch! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
whale head breaching
Jun. 17, 2017: Heads up! Krill is thick in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the humpback whales are there to take advantage. These acrobatic whales travel thousands of miles each year to feed on krill and fish in sanctuary waters. The sanctuary is a perfect spot for whale watching, but make sure to always give whales plenty of space! (Photo: Douglas Croft)
two california spiny lobsters next to each other
Jun. 16, 2017: The California spiny lobsters at NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are ready for the weekend! You can find these creatures from central California down to Baja California. Unlike other lobster species, these spiny lobsters lack claws. Instead, they have two long, sensitive antennae! (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
a masked booby squaking while on top of a green sea turtle on the beach
Jun. 15, 2017: This masked booby wants you to know: it's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument's 11th anniversary! The monument protects over 580,000 square miles within and around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Within its waters, you'll find more than 7,000 marine species, including the threatened green turtle, pictured here. Plus, 14 million seabirds representing 22 species visit each year to breed and nest. (Photo: Koa Matsuoka)
leatherback turtle swimming at the surface
Jun. 14, 2017: The endangered leatherback is the largest turtle -- and one of the largest living reptiles -- in the world. Adult leatherbacks can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and be 6.5 feet in length! Unlike all other species of sea turtle, leatherbacks lack a hard bony shell. Instead, their shell is about 1.5 inches thick and consists of leathery connective tissue overlaying loosely interlocking bones. This one was spotted in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Mark Cotter)
researcher holding a green sea turtle hatchling in hand
Jun. 13, 2017: What's Sea Turtle Week without a wee one? Here, a researcher holds a green sea turtle hatchling at French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Over 90 percent of the Hawaiian population of threatened green turtles travel to French Frigate Shoals for safe nesting. (Photo: James Watt/NOAA)
loggerhead sea turtle resting on a sandy bottom
Jun. 12, 2017: It's Sea Turtle Week! This loggerhead sea turtle was spotted in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Loggerheads get their names for their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws and enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
two California sea lions swimming together
Jun. 11, 2017: California sea lions relax and breed on land at NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, but what do they do underwater? They eat! Beneath the waves, sea lions chow down on fish, squid, and octopus. If you're lucky enough to observe sea lions while diving or paddling, remember to give them plenty of space! (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
a juvenile long-tailed jaeger in flight
Jun. 10, 2017: Take flight into the weekend like this juvenile long-tailed jaeger in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! These graceful seabirds are spotted rarely in the sanctuary, which they pass through during their spring and fall migrations. (Photo: Peter Flood)
people aboard a zodiac attempting to remove marine debris from a humpback whale
Jun. 9, 2017: Getting around as a humpback whale can be tiring — especially when entangled in marine debris. At Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network has freed more than 23 whales from 10,000 feet of debris and fishing gear. This March the network worked for two days to free a whale from nearly 800 feet of cable. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA MMHSRP permit #18786)
white-sided dolphin jumping out of the water
Jun. 8, 2017: Jump for joy -- it's World Oceans Day! The ocean provides the air we breathe and much of the food we eat, regulates our climate, and is a hub for transportation and recreation. Plus, it provides habitat to many amazing animals and other organisms, like this Pacific white-sided dolphin in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Why are you thankful for the ocean? Tell us in the comments! (Photo: Douglas Croft)
diver swimming over the wreck of the montana
Jun. 7, 2017: What's the only freshwater national marine sanctuary? Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Located in Lake Huron, this sanctuary protects a historic -- and incredibly well-preserved -- collection of shipwrecks. Here, a diver explores the wreck of Montana, a wooden steam barge that caught fire and burned to the water's edge in 1914. Now, more than a century later, Montana's engine, boiler, shaft, and propeller remain in place and the wreck is a popular dive site. (Photo: NOAA)
two puffins standing next to each other
Jun. 6, 2017: Say hello to the tufted puffin of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! These comical and lovable birds are skilled divers, "flying" underwater with their wings. A tufted puffin can hold up to a dozen fish in its bill to carry back to its chicks! (Photo: Mary Sue Brancato/NOAA)
loggerhead sea turtle swimming
Jun. 5, 2017: On World Environment Day, don't forget the world beneath the waves! Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of the largest live-bottom reefs of the southeastern United States. What's a live-bottom reef? It's one where the rocky seafloor is blanketed with marine invertebrates. This reef provides foraging and resting grounds for loggerhead sea turtles, like this one here. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
mollusk swimming
Jun. 4, 2017: What's a seamount? Seamounts are mountains on the ocean floor that don't reach sea level, generally formed from extinct volcanoes. Davidson Seamount at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is 7,480 feet tall — yet its summit is still 4,101 feet below the sea surface! This "oasis in the deep" is home to several unidentified deep-sea organisms, like this mollusk. Learn more about Davidson Seamount. (Photo: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI))
whale breaching
Jun. 3, 2017: Have a whale of a weekend! This is Salt, the "grand dame" of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. She was first spotted in Massachusetts Bay in the 1970s, and has been seen in the sanctuary just about every year since then. She has had 14 calves and many grandchildren, and at least one great-grandcalf! Salt was one of the first northern humpback whales to be recognized at Silver Bank off the coast of the Dominican Republic, providing proof of the humpback whale migratory route in the North Atlantic -- which in turn has helped us better protect humpback whale populations through "sister sanctuary" relationships.
students use magnifying glasses to examine salt crystals left on the grass
Jun. 2, 2017: NOAA's B-WET program funds experiential learning for K-12 students in their local watersheds. In California, B-WET projects connect students to the watershed, the ocean, and West Coast national marine sanctuaries. Here, two third-graders participating in the B-WET project Green By Nature "students use magnifying glasses to examine salt crystals left on the grass "by brackish waters at the Martinez shoreline. Green By Nature reaches out to underserved and under-resourced communities to encourage participation in scientific and environmental stewardship activities and to help foster environmental leadership. (Photo: Phyllis White-Ayanruoh/ Girl Scouts of Northern California)
a mola mola or sunfish near the surface of the water
Jun. 1, 2017: What's the biggest bony fish in the sea? The mola mola, or ocean sunfish! This one was spotted in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Mola molas spend time basking on their sides near the surface, with their pectoral fins flapping in the air. Have you spotted one while visiting your sanctuaries? (Photo: Maps for Good/NOAA/Point Blue/ACCESS)
jellyfish swimming
May 31, 2017: Dive in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and sometimes you'll be treated to the beautiful view of an Atlantic sea nettle. (Just don't get too close -- those tentacles sting!) Sea jellies like these are classified as cnidarians, a group of animals that also include corals and sea anemones. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
ship crew preparing a net to put in the water
May 30, 2017: How do researchers track ecosystem health in our West Coast national marine sanctuaries? With regular surveys! The ACCESS Partnership supports marine wildlife conservation and healthy marine ecosystems by conducting regular ocean research. This May, ACCESS cruises were conducted throughout Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to collect data on whale and seabird distribution and crab pot densities. Here, researchers pull in a hoop net that contains samples of krill and other organisms. Learn more about the expedition. (Photo: Karen Grimmer/NOAA/ACCESS/Point Blue)
diver examines a shipwreck
May 29, 2017: Happy Memorial Day! Today we celebrate those men and women who have bravely given their lives for our nation. A recent research expedition to Midway Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway and honored the legacy of the brave men who helped turn the tide in the Pacific during the battle. Scientists explored sunken aircraft associated with the battle, adding an important maritime heritage component to our understanding of the broader history of World War II in the Pacific. They also investigated the role shipwrecks and debris may play in harboring invasive species in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Here, diver Brian Hauk sets an invasive species quadrat on the stern of the USS Macaw. (Image courtesy of Brett Seymour, Exploring the Sunken Heritage of Midway Atoll expedition)
hermit crab
May 28, 2017: Feeling starry-eyed? So is this hermit crab in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary! The star-eyed hermit crab has pupils that look like starbursts upon close inspection. This hermit is well-camouflaged beneath various forms of algae. (Photo: NOAA)
a rowing crew practicing in a longboat
May 27, 2017: This month, we celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month! In National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, fa'a Samoa -- or the Samoan way of life -- is the cultural context for all sanctuary activities and functions. Fa'a Samoa places great importance on the dignity and achievements of the group rather than individuals. Here, a group from the island of Ta'u practices for the annual Flag Day fautasi (longboat) regatta. (Photo: Apulu Veronika Molio'o Mata'utia Mortenson/NOAA)
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May 26, 2017: Caption
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A diver documents a structure
May 26, 2017: We teamed up with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research to explore sunken aircraft in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway! Frozen in time, these aircraft allow researchers to unfold the story of World War II in the Pacific. Not only do these underwater wrecks unlock the past, but they serve as marine habitat for present-day organisms -- and potentially for invasive species that can alter local ecosystems. Working with maritime archaeologists, biologists with the team investigated whether human-made objects were providing a habitat in which invasive organisms have a competitive edge over native species. Here, a diver documents a structure for any alien invasive species. (Photo: Brett Seymour, Exploring the Sunken Heritage of Midway Atoll expedition)
snorkeler attaching a line to a mooring buoy
May 25, 2017: It's Safe Boating Week! If you're boating, fishing, or diving in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary or other sanctuaries, mooring buoys provide an alternative to anchoring that won't damage the reef. Here, a member of the Florida Keys Buoy Team maintains one of the sanctuary's more than 490 mooring buoys. Learn more about mooring buoys in the sanctuary -- including how to use them. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
coral reef with a school of fish swimming over it
May 24, 2017: Happy anniversary to Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! Located six miles off the coast of Northern California, this offshore sanctuary protects extremely productive -- and colorful! -- ecosystems. The annual upwelling of nutrient-rich deep ocean water supports the sanctuary's rich biological community, like the orange hydroids and strawberry anemones pictured here. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
sea turtle resting on the ocean bottom
May 23, 2017: It's World Turtle Day! Five species of sea turtle can be found in the waters of NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Can you name this one? Learn more about turtles in the sanctuary. (Photo: Daryl Duda)
marine invertebrates covering a shipwreck
May 22, 2017: What happens to a shipwreck when it rests on the ocean floor? It gets overrun by marine invertebrates, like this wreck in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! Sponges and anemones start out as small, free-floating larvae. These larvae float around until they sense a good habitat — including old shipwrecks! Once they settle, they grow into bottom-dwelling creatures that form the backbone of amazing biodiverse communities. (Photo: Deborah Marx/NOAA)
two orcas breaching together
May 21, 2017: In recent weeks, orcas have gathered in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to hunt gray whale calves that are migrating north with their mothers. Orcas form tight-knit families, called pods, that are matriarchal. Here Emma, the matriarch of one transient orca pod, porpoises toward a meal with one of her daughters. Monterey Bay is a great place to see whales in action -- just always be sure to give them plenty of space! (Photo: Douglas Croft)
bald eagle soaring towards the camera
May 20, 2017: We close Bird Week with the most patriotic of all the sanctuary birds: the bald eagle! This one was spotted in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. What’s your favorite bird fact? (Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA)
a green heron sits perched on a limb of a mangrove
May 19, 2017: One of the simple joys we can all enjoy in national marine sanctuaries is birdwatching! No matter your age, skill, or location on land or sea, we can all enjoy some pretty incredible birding experiences in sanctuaries. In Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, mangrove-fringed islands provide nesting grounds for a number of bird species. Plus, juvenile fish among the mangrove roots give these birds plenty of food to snack on. Here, a scruffy young green heron sits perched on a limb within the sanctuary. What do you think this young bird is pondering? (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
a pair of black-footed albatrosses looking at each othter on the beach, more can be seen resting on the beach in the background
May 18, 2017: Every year, albatrosses like this pair of black-footed albatrosses in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument travel miles and miles -- some ending up in West Coast sanctuaries like Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! As they make their journey from breeding to feeding grounds, they forage for fish at the ocean's surface. But with plastics littering our sea, many albatrosses wind up ingesting bits of plastic rather than fish -- and may even regurgitate some of that plastic to feed their young. The Winged Ambassadors curriculum helps teach students how to track albatross migration and how we can all help reduce marine debris. (Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA)
two california brown pelicans among the rocks, one has its mouth wide open
May 17, 2017: California brown pelicans are permanent residents of the Pacific Coast, with their full range extending all the way from Canada to Mexico! These seafood fans follow fish species that migrate along the California current. Our West Coast national marine sanctuaries help provide healthy habitats for brown pelicans as they move throughout their range. (Photo: Peter Pearsall/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
western gull tending to her hatching chicks
May 16, 2017: This spring, Channel Islands Naturalist Corps volunteer Tara Brown spotted this western gull tending to her hatching chicks. Tara says, watching “the birth and trials of new life is an incredible experience. The Channel Islands are like no place else on Earth. Where else can seabirds lay nests on the ground without predators? Where else can seals and sea lions have a few months of peace to raise their vulnerable young?” Sanctuaries like NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary provide crucial refuge to seabirds and other animals, and we're grateful to our volunteers who help protect them. (Photo: Tara Brown)
a fork-tailed storm petrels in flight over the water
May 15, 2017: Ruffle them feathers, it's Bird Week! And what better place to go to birdwatch than your national marine sanctuaries? As offshore dwellers, fork-tailed storm petrels like this one are not typically seen in the near-shore areas of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. But recent high winds blew them into the bay, where bird lovers were excited to see them! (Photo: Douglas Croft)
a laysan duck with her brood
May 14, 2017: Happy Mother's Day! Here, a Laysan duck waddles with her brood in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Laysan ducks are one of four endangered endemic bird species at Papahānaumokuākea, and practice female-only parental care! (Photo: Naomi Worcester/Hawaii DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources))
researcher david wiley holding a seabird aboard a ship
May 13, 2017: Happy International Migratory Bird Day! When you think of national marine sanctuaries, perhaps you think of whales, fish, or other underwater species -- but these special places also protect birds! National marine sanctuaries provide critical habitat and refuge for many different bird species. In turn, birds help scientists track the health of sanctuary ecosystems. In NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, researchers are tracking the activity of seabirds like this great shearwater held by Dr. David Wiley, research coordinator for the sanctuary. By tracking seabirds, researchers can indirectly assess forage fish stocks in sanctuary waters. Seabirds are much easier to spot than small forage fish, allowing the team to more easily assess fish populations that feed all kinds of animals within the sanctuary. (Photo: Anne-Marie Runfola/NOAA)
person standing on a rock on the beach taking a photo of the sunset with cannonball island in the back ground
May 12, 2017: Looking for a place to take the perfect photo? National marine sanctuaries are a photographer's dream! Here, a photographer takes in the sunset at NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Thank you all for celebrating the natural beauty and wonder of your national marine sanctuaries with us this National Travel & Tourism Week. We can't wait to see where your next visit to sanctuaries takes you! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
northern elephant seal resting
May 11, 2017: Are you a nature nerd? National marine sanctuaries offer extraordinary opportunities to observe marine animals like this northern elephant seal resting in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! You can help care for these species by keeping your distance, refraining from feeding them, and helping remove trash from their environment. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
wreck of the uss monitor resting on the ocean floor
May 10, 2017: What better way to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week than by exploring your national marine sanctuaries? Our nation's first national marine sanctuary, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, protects the wreck of the USS Monitor, which curious technical divers can explore with a free research permit. The sanctuary is also considering an expansion to protect many of the wrecks in the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It’s an ideal destination for history buffs and enthusiastic divers! Learn more at: http://monitor.noaa.gov/shipwrecks/ (Photo: NOAA)
women standing in the water flyfishing
May 9, 2017: Fancy fishing? Sanctuaries like NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are perfect places to go to enjoy recreational fishing and other activities. Reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove-hugged islands support important fish habitat, and provide visitors with unmatched experiences. The sanctuary works with anglers to ensure fishing activities don't harm sanctuary resources, and anglers help sanctuary managers keep an eye on changes to the marine environment. Learn more about fishing in your national marine sanctuaries. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
man paddleboarding in the ocean
May 8, 2017: Looking for that perfect getaway location? Look no farther than Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! Whether you love water sports, wildlife watching, beach bumming, or simply taking in some incredible views, the sanctuary has something for you. Here, a paddle boarder enjoys a sunset ride through the surf. What's your favorite activity in the blue? Share with us in the comments! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
view of cannonball island from the beach
May 7, 2017: Itching to get out this weekend, but don't want to get wet? You don't have to be a diver to enjoy a national marine sanctuary! Landlubbers visiting NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary can hike along beachside cliffs, enjoy marine life from the shore, and spot nearshore islands like Cannonball Island. Do you have any favorite lookout points in your marine sanctuaries? Let us know in the comments! (Photo: Robert Steelquist/NOAA)
pom pom anemone and a black gill rockfish
May 6, 2017: Pretty in pink: this pom pom anemone and blackgill rockfish were spotted in the depths of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Fascinating, colorful species like these live throughout the sanctuary's waters. In fact, Greater Farallones protects one of the most diverse and bountiful marine environments in the world! (Photo: NOAA)
a humpback whale fully breaching the water with its body
May 5, 2017: Woohoo! It's Friday, and we're jumping for joy like this humpback whale in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Despite weighing up to 40 tons, humpback whales are rather acrobatic creatures. Every April through October, visitors flock to Massachusetts Bay and Stellwagen Bank to watch these incredible marine mammals in action. What's your favorite whale watching destination? (Photo: Peter Flood)
group of people surround a boat covered in marine debris they collect from the water
May 3, 2017: Over the past six years, NOAA staff and partners have removed 100,000 pounds of marine debris from Midway and Kure atolls in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. These intrepid clean-up crews have devoted their time to taking on debris like this 1,200-pound derelict net conglomerate, and we're incredibly grateful for their work. Tons of trash makes its way to these uninhabited islands each year, carried by ocean currents. Want to help? Join a cleanup near you! (Photo: NOAA)
green moray eel peaking its head out of its hiding place, an artificial reef
May 2, 2017: We can't conc-eel our excitement about this moray eel in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! This green moray rev-eeled its hiding place on the wreck of USNS Gen. Hoyt S Vandenberg, an artificial reef within the sanctuary. Green morays are masters of the surr-eel: their skin is actually a dull shade of brown, but they secrete a yellowish layer of mucus that makes them look green. This mucus layer helps ward off predators! (Photo: Patrick Vandenabeele/NOAA)
northern elephant seal on the beach scraching its chin
May 1, 2017: "Hm....should I bother going for a swim today?" Each winter and spring, Northern elephant seals visit beaches throughout Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to breed and molt. Though they can seem docile while snoozing on the beach, if you get too close, you put the animals -- and yourself-- at risk! By keeping your distance, you help keep animals like elephant seals healthy. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
a green sea turtle rests on the beach
Apr. 30, 2017: It’s the weekend! Take it easy like this green sea turtle, or honu, in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Though green sea turtles spend much of their life offshore, they can often be spotted sunning themselves on sanctuary beaches. If you see a sea turtle on the beach, make sure to give it plenty of space! Learn how you can help care for wildlife when you visit sanctuaries. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
coral reef
Apr. 29, 2017: Happy anniversary to the breathtaking National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Established in 1986, American Samoa was once the smallest sanctuary in the sanctuaries system. But since its establishment, the sanctuary has expanded to protect some 13,581 square miles of nearshore coral reef and offshore ocean habitats reaching across the Samoan Archipelago. American Samoa is thought to harbor the greatest diversity of marine life in the santuary system, protecting many fish, invertebrates, and marine mammals. Here, early morning light scatters down from the surface at Fagatele Bay, highlighting just a few of the curious and tropical creatures the sanctuary at American Samoa holds. (Photo: NOAA/NMSF)
volunteers removing trash from the beach
Apr. 28, 2017: Throughout the year, volunteers play a huge role in keeping your national marine sanctuaries healthy and vibrant. In 2016 alone, our volunteers contributed over 137,000 hours across the National Marine Sanctuary System, which is equivalent to 68 full-time federal employees! This National Volunteer Week, we thank the many passionate volunteers that help keep our ocean and Great Lakes healthy. Learn more about how YOU can volunteer with sanctuaries. (Photo: Janis Burger, taken in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary)
pyramid butterflyfish swimming on a deep reef
Apr. 27, 2017: Located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument protects astounding biodiversity. The coral reefs within the monument are home to over 7,000 species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago! Here, pyramid butterflyfish swim on a deep reef at French Frigate Shoals. What other organisms can you spot? (Greg McFall/NOAA)
a student examines a water sample
Apr. 26, 2017: It's National Environmental Education Week! Your national marine sanctuaries are a living classroom, a perfect opportunity to explore the marine environment. Here, a student examines a water sample after a plankton tow in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Learn more about educational opportunities and resources in sanctuaries. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
whale tail breaching the water's surface
Apr. 25, 2017: Whale hello there! It's National Volunteer Week, and we're celebrating the many volunteers who dedicate themselves to helping national marine sanctuaries flourish. In Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, volunteers gather on weekends throughout the winter to track of the many humpback whales that visit Hawai‘i each year. With their help, sanctuary managers can better understand how the whales use nearshore areas, and can help promote safe whale watching practices. Learn more about the Sanctuary Ocean Count. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA permit #15240)
Laysan albatross with chick
Apr. 24, 2017: What do Hawai‘i's Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and California's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary have in common? Albatrosses! 14 million seabirds representing 22 species -- including Laysan albatross, pictured here -- breed and nest in Papahānaumokuākea. Then, these birds take flight and head to the West Coast to forage for food, visiting sanctuaries like Cordell Bank. This week, we're celebrating National Environmental Education Week, and through the Winged Ambassadors educational program, students can learn about these amazing birds' connection to the ocean. Learn more here: (Photo: Dan Clark/USFWS)
coral reef in the florida keys
Apr. 23, 2017: Here's some trivia: where is the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world? If you guessed NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, you're right! Coral reefs like this one buffer shorelines from wave action, storms, and erosion, and protect wetlands and harbors. They support tourist economies and provide fish for us to eat and potential new medicines to heal us. It's up to us to protect them for the future! Find out how you and your community can help protect these amazing places. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
seascape view of american samoa from one of the islands
Apr. 22, 2017: Happy Earth Day! Your National Marine Sanctuary System protects beautiful views and vibrant ecosystems like this one in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. What are you doing today to celebrate and protect our Earth? Tell us in the comments! (Photo: Kate Thompson/NOAA)
trunkfish
Apr. 21, 2017: Kiss the weekend hello like this smooth trunkfish! These spotted beauties can be seen on the reef at NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
sunfish
Apr. 20, 2017: All eyes on you! The mola mola, or ocean sunfish, is the biggest bony fish in the ocean. They can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh nearly 5,000 pounds! These ocean giants eat jellyfish, and can often be spotted basking on the ocean surface. This one was spotted in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Stuart Halewood)
sea otter playing with a discarded plastic basket in monterey bay
Apr. 19, 2017: Cute or concerning? Here, an adorable sea otter plays with a discarded plastic basket in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Sanctuary visitor Douglas Croft, who took this photo, says that "It was quite humorous to watch her play with it and carry it around, but if this 'toy' had had a hole in it and her head got stuck, it could have been a death sentence." Plastic debris finds its way into the ocean far too often, and can harm the health of ecosystems and beloved sea creatures. We can all do our part to protect animals like sea otters by picking up trash on the beach and near our homes farther inland! Opting to use reusable products also goes a long way toward keeping our ocean and waterways clean. What will you do to help clean up marine debris? Tell us in the comments! (Photo: Douglas Croft)
two humpback whales breaching
Apr. 18, 2017: Each summer, humpback whales flock to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Cape Cod to feed on a small fish called sand lance. Here's a photo of Freckles and her calf that sanctuary visitor Laura Howes snapped in 2014! Learn about whale watching in the sanctuary. (Photo: Laura Howes)
bat star on the sea floor
Apr. 17, 2017: Bananananananana BAT STAR! In honor of Bat Appreciation Day today, we bring you the colorful bat of the sea -- the bat star! Found in several of your national marine sanctuaries, bat stars may not be quite like the famed superhero Batman, but they do play an important ecological role. Bat stars help clean dead organisms and algae from the seafloor. What other "bats" of the sea can you think of? Tell us in the comments! (Photo: Dwayne Meadows/NOAA, taken in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary)
yellow zoanthid
Apr. 16, 2017: Check out these yellow zoanthids! Zoanthids are invertebrates related to reef-building corals and sea anemones. These were spotted colonizing the base of a dead golden octocoral in the deep waters of National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! (Photo courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa)
northern elephant seal poping its head out of the water
Apr. 15, 2017: Fancy meeting you here! This northern elephant seal pops its head up from the water to say hello in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Located off the coast of California, the sanctuary is home to five species of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), including northern elephant seals, northern fur seals, harbor seals, and California and Steller sea lions! (Photo: Peter Pyle/NOAA)
people removing fishing line from the water
Apr. 14, 2017: 100,000 pounds -- that's how much garbage has been removed from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument over the past six years! Every year, NOAA staff, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawai'i and other partners, travel to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to remove tons of marine debris that accumulates there. Though the islands are remote and uninhabited, ocean currents and weather bring debris like fishing gear and plastic trash to their shores. There, it poses a threat to animals like Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles, and seabirds, which can become entangled or consume pieces of plastic. The 100,000-pound mountain of debris that has been collected over the past six years was recently shipped from Midway Atoll to Honolulu, where it will be processed through the Nets to Energy Program to produce electricity! Many thanks to all of our partners who have contributed to making Papahānaumokuākea a safer, healthier place for its inhabitants. (Photo: NOAA
kelpfish hiding in a coral reef
Apr. 13, 2017: Can you spy the sneaky crevice kelpfish here in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary? (Hint: it's more obvious than it might seem!) (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
harp seal resting on the beach
Apr. 12, 2017: Ready to sprawl out on the beach this season? You're in good company! This harp seal is hauled out on the beach at Race Point, near NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. If you see any seals or sea lions on your beach trips this spring and summer, be sure to give them plenty of space. While it may seem harmless to snap a quick seal selfie while you're on the beach with our animal friends, approaching wild animals can cause significant harm to both you and them. Keep your eye out and help keep animals healthy by giving them plenty of room. They deserve relaxing days on the beach too! (Photo: Peter Flood)
greeneye fish resting on the ocean bottom
Apr. 11, 2017: This greeneye fish flashed its puppydog eyes at the camera during a recent research expedition in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. You can check out the rest of what the researchers found. (Photo courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa)
wreck of the german u-boat u-701
Apr. 10, 2017: Monitor National Marine Sanctuary currently protects the wreck of the Civil-War-era ironclad USS Monitor, and last year the sanctuary proposed an expansion. An expanded sanctuary would protect a nationally-significant collection of shipwrecks that currently has little or no legal protection, including one of America's only World War II battlefields. This wreck, U-701, is one that could be protected. A German U-boat, U-701 has a special place in United States history as it was the first U-boat sunk by the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. Today, it sits partially buried on a sandy bottom in 110 feet of water. Learn more about U-701. (Photo: Steve Sellers/NOAA)
closeup view of soft coral atop a yellow sponge
Apr. 9, 2017: Tiny and bright, soft corals sit atop a yellow sponge in this reef scene at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Invertebrates like these blanket Gray's Reef, covering many of the rocky ledges that can be found within the sanctuary. This abundance of invertebrates identifies Gray's Reef as a "live-bottom" reef: the hard, rocky seafloor supports a wide variety of invertebrate life -- including sponges, sea squirts, barnacles, worms, and more! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
common dolphin jumping into the air
Apr. 8, 2017: Known for their incredible energy and acrobatic skills, common dolphins are one of many marine mammal species that call Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary home. Spending much of their time in large social groups, common dolphins can be spotted in groups of more than 100 individuals within the sanctuary. Learn more about marine mammals in Monterey Bay. (Photo: Douglas Croft/MarineLifeStudies.org, under NOAA permit #20519)
large sandstone orbs along the shore of bowling ball beach
Apr. 7, 2017: Craving those scenic coastal views? Plan a summer visit to a sanctuary near you! Bowling Ball Beach at Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, seen here, offers visitors captivating scenery. Exposed during low tide, large sandstone orbs called concretions have earned Bowling Ball Beach its name. Learn more about visiting your national marine sanctuaries at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
snorkeler swimming over the remains of the schooner american union
Apr. 6, 2017: Located off the coast of Michigan in Lake Huron, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects nearly 100 historic shipwrecks. With some wrecks dating back to the 1800s, the sanctuary plays a unique role in preserving the maritime heritage resources of the United States. Here, a snorkeler explores the wreck of the schooner American Union. Larger than other schooners at the time, American Union ran up on the rocks at Thompson's Harbor on May 6th, 1894, and quickly broke apart. Scattered segments of the ship are now easily visible to snorkelers and kayakers visiting the sanctuary. (Photo: Tane Casserly/NOAA)
a humpback whale fully breaching the water's surface
Apr. 5, 2017: Talk about acrobatics! Here, a humpback whale breaches in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Humpback whales can weigh 40 tons, so clearing the water like this is an impressive feat! (Photo: A. Debich/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240)
loggerhead turtle swimming
Apr. 4, 2017: It's turtle Tuesday! This loggerhead sea turtle was spotted in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Loggerheads' powerful jaws enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. Adults can reach up to 250 pounds! (Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA)
diver face to face with a sea lion
Apr. 3, 2017: Why hello there! A diver comes face-to-face with a curious sea lion in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. While it's important to always give sea lions and other marine mammals plenty of space, these gregarious pinnipeds will often approach divers. Help us out with a caption for this photo! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
diver swimming over a colony of strawberry anemones
Apr. 2, 2017: Deep beneath the waves off the coast of Central California lies the technicolor marvel of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! Surrounded by soft sediments of the continental shelf seafloor, Cordell Bank emerges with a rocky habitat, providing home to colorful and abundant invertebrates, algae, and fishes. Here, a research diver pauses behind a colony of strawberry anemones and other invertebrates. (Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA)
laughing gull soaring in the air
Apr. 1, 2017: It's April Fools' Day! And your national marine sanctuaries are rife with laughter...er, seabird calls. This beautiful laughing gull soars above the water near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Laughing gulls are aptly named, as they have a call that sounds much like loud and boisterous laughter. What other birds have you heard calling in sanctuaries? (Photo: Peter Flood)
Ophidiid fish
Mar. 31, 2017: The deep sea holds strange and wonderful creatures. While diving with a remotely operated vehicle off Salmon Bank in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research came across this Ophidiid fish, or cusk eel! (Photo: NOAA)
photomosaic of a shipwreck in lake michigan
Mar. 30, 2017: The deadline is fast approaching! We've proposed a new national marine sanctuary in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan and we want to hear your thoughts. The proposed sanctuary would protect 37 historic shipwrecks -- like the schooner Home, shown in photomosaic here -- and related underwater cultural resources. The sanctuary would also enhance heritage tourism within the many coastal communities that have embraced their centuries-long maritime relationship with the Great Lakes. The deadline for public comment on this proposed sanctuary is tomorrow, March 31, so don't delay! Learn more about the proposal and how to weigh. (Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society)
overhead view of shipwreacks at mallows bay
Mar. 29, 2017: From our nation's very start, the Potomac River has been intimately tied to our history. We've proposed a national marine sanctuary in Mallows Bay on the Potomac River -- and there are just a few days left to comment on the proposal! The sanctuary would protect the area's diverse collection of nearly 200 known shipwrecks, including the World War I "Ghost Fleet." Learn about the proposed sanctuary and how you can submit your comments through March 31, 2017. (Photo: Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing, Duke University)
giant green anemones among the rocks of a tidepoll
Mar. 28, 2017: There's a whole world to discover in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary tidepools! These are giant green anemones, which can often be spotted in the rocky tidepools lining the sanctuary. Their brilliant green color comes from symbiotic algae that live within their tissues! (Photo: Shawn Sheltren/NPS)
two northern elephant seal pups play-fight on the beach in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Mar. 27, 2017: She said what?? Here, two northern elephant seal pups play-fight on the beach in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Though they can be fun to watch, it's crucial that you give these animals plenty of space -- it's safer for both you and them. To safely view elephant seals, watch quietly from a distance of at least 100 feet, and use binoculars if you want a closer look. If a seal becomes alert or agitated and begins to move away, you are too close! (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
two divers checking a mooring buoy in the florida keys national marine sanctuary
Mar. 26, 2017: Conservation in action: here, the buoy team checks in on a mooring buoy in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Mooring buoys have been used in the Florida Keys since 1981 as an alternative to anchoring, which can break and damage the coral reef. There are more than 490 mooring buoys in the sanctuary, so the buoy team stays hard at work maintaining them. Learn more: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/wk96-fknms-buoys.html. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
seal lion swimming through a kelp forest
Mar. 25, 2017: Well excuse me, I'm swimming here! Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary visitor Patrick Smith spotted this sea lion swimming through the kelp forest off Santa Barbara Island with an attitude. These playful, acrobatic swimmers are often spotted in the Channel Islands and in other West Coast national marine sanctuaries. (Photo: Patrick Smith)
blacktip reef shark swims through the reef at Rose Atoll
Mar. 24, 2017: A blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) swims through the reef at Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. These small sharks can often be spotted in shallow reefs like this one, where they hunt reef fish. Photo: Kevin Lino/NOAA
sea otters raft together in Elkhorn Slough
Mar. 23, 2017: The grass is always greener! March marks Seagrass Awareness Month, a time to recognize the importance of healthy seagrass beds in maintaining our ocean's health. In places like Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, eelgrass -- a type of seagrass -- provides a primary food source for a variety of marine animals, and protection for others. In addition, seagrasses can help filter pollutants out of the water and prevent erosion, keeping the water column healthy and clear. Here, otters raft together in Elkhorn Slough, a tidal salt marsh in Monterey Bay, where they provide a critical service to eelgrass beds. Otters help protect these precious grasses by munching on predators like crabs that would otherwise threaten eelgrass beds. What will you do to make like an otter and protect seagrasses? (Photo: Becky Stamksi/NOAA)
diver swimming over a shipwreck
Mar. 22, 2017: Just a few days left to tell us what you think about the sanctuary we've proposed in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan! The proposed 1,075-square-mile Wisconsin – Lake Michigan national marine sanctuary would protect 37 shipwrecks and related underwater cultural resources that possess exceptional historic, archaeological, and recreational value. We're asking the public to comment on the proposal through March 31, 2017. Learn more -- including how you can comment online and by mail -- at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/wisconsin. (Photo: Tamara Thomsen/Wisconsin Historical Society)
a garibaldi swimming near rocks covered in urchins
Mar. 21, 2017: Today is the International Day of Forests, and did you know there are forests within the ocean? Kelp forests, like those in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, provide habitat and food for many marine species, like this garibaldi. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
view of a sunset over the potomac river from a kayak
Mar. 20, 2017: We've proposed a new national marine sanctuary and we want to hear from you! Mallows Bay is located on the Potomac River and a sanctuary there would protect a diverse collection of historic shipwrecks, as well as archaeological artifacts dating back 12,000 years. We're asking the public to comment on this proposal through March 31, 2017. Learn more about the proposal -- including how you can comment online and by mail -- at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/mallows-bay. (Photo: Kim Hernandez/Maryland Department of Natural Resources)
two shirmp on a coral reef
Mar. 19, 2017: Who're you calling a shrimp? More than 50 species of shrimp can be found in the coral cap region of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Can you name this species? (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
sea star attached to a piece of kelp rising up from the bottom of the sea
Mar. 18, 2017: Beyond the surf crashing on the shores of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, where the ebb and flow of ocean currents bathe shallow reefs, you'll find dense kelp forests. These beautiful and biologically productive habitats provide shelter and sustenance to creatures of all sizes and types, from sea stars like this one to sea otters and sea lions. (Photo: NOAA)
green moray eel swimming popping out of a coral reef
Mar. 17, 2017: Happy St. Patrick's Day from this green moray eel in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! Green moray eels are actually brownish, but they don green in celebration of holidays -- or, rather, to protect themselves from parasites and disease. That is, these eels secrete a yellowish mucus that covers their skin, giving them a greenish tinge. (Photo: Steve Miller)
a diver looking at the bow of the wreck of the lucinda van valkenburg
Mar. 16, 2017: It's Thunder Bay Thursday! Here, a diver explores the wreck the wooden three-masted schooner Lucinda Van Valkenburg. Bound for Chicago with a load of coal on May 31, 1887, Van Valkenburg was struck by the iron propeller Lehigh about 2 miles northeast of Thunder Bay Island in Lake Huron. The crew was rescued by Lehigh, but the vessel was lost. Today, it rests 60 feet down within Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where it can be explored by curious divers. (Photo: NOAA)
an octopus resting on the seafloor near rose atoll
Mar. 15, 2017: Check out this amazing octopus the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research spotted while exploring the deep waters of Rose Atoll in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Octopuses have special pigment-containing cells called chromatophores that enable them to change color and blend in with their environment. Luckily, the crew of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer have keen eyes and were able to catch sight of this one when they were exploring using a remotely operated vehicle! (Photo courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa)
a small and large sea urchin next to each other on a rock
Mar. 14, 2017: Happy pi day! Unlike us, echinoderms like sea urchins have what is known as radial symmetry -- meaning they're symmetrical around a center point, like a pie. These purple and red sea urchins were observed in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of California. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
a jellyfish with many small fish and a shrimp swimming around it
Mar. 13, 2017: The tiniest of traveling companions: Here, a small school of fish (and even a tiny shrimp!) hitch a ride through the blue with a jellyfish in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Some juvenile fish can live amidst a jelly's tentacles without being harmed. In doing so, they gain protection from predators and the opportunity to feed on the jelly's leftovers. Plus, they gain a new buddy to swim with! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
a manta ray swimming above while small fish clean the ray
Mar. 12, 2017: Spa day for the manta ray! Here, small cleaner wrasse clean parasites and dead tissue from a manta ray in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Talk about a powerful exfoliator! By chowing down on parasites, cleaner wrasse provide rays and other fish an important service, protecting them from disease and keeping them healthy for years to come. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA)
a whigte-sided dolphin breaching the water's surface
Mar. 11, 2017: Splash into the weekend like this Pacific white-sided dolphin in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! Pacific white-sided dolphins are incredible swimmers, and are often spotted within the waters of California sanctuaries. (Photo: Sophie Webb/NOAA)
a balck and yellow rockfish coming out from a hiding spot in a rocky area in channel islands national marine sanctuary
Mar. 10, 2017: Whatchu lookin' at? This black and yellow rockfish (or Sebastes chrysomelas) glances skeptically at the camera in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Found in rocky areas along the Pacific Coast, black and yellow rockfish are one of many fish species that can be spotted in the sanctuary. Share some of your favorite sanctuary fish with us in the comments on this fine Fish Friday! (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
painting of the battle of the uss monitor and the css virginia
Mar. 9, 2017: On this day in 1862, the USS Monitor -- the Union's first ironclad warship -- steamed out to battle the confederate ironclad CSS Virginia. In what is now known as the Battle of Hampton Roads, the ships fought for hours, many cannonballs bouncing off the ships' enforced iron sides even when the two were touching. Ending in a draw, this battle marked the first engagement of two iron ships in American history and would forever change American warfare. Following the Battle of Hampton Roads, wooden war ships were gradually phased out and iron ships began to dominate fleets. Today, the USS Monitor lays at rest in Monitor National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Interested in learning more? Read about the battle at monitor.noaa.gov/150th/hampton.html or take a visit to The Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia! (Image: Currier and Ives, courtesy of The Library of Congress)
diver holding a clipboard swimming among fish in the flower garden banks national marine sanctuary
Mar. 8, 2017: Today is International Women's Day, and we're celebrating some of the amazing women working in national marine sanctuaries. Here, Dr. Michelle Johnston, research ecologist at NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, dives through sanctuary waters amongst hundreds of fish and other sea critters! Michelle manages the sanctuary's long-term coral monitoring project and helps fight the spread of invasive lionfish in the sanctuary. Interested in pursuing marine science yourself? Check out the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program, which supports independent graduate-level research -- particularly by female and minority students -- in ocean-related sciences. (Photo: John Embesi/NOAA)
laysan albatrosse resting on the beach next to a hawaiian monk seal
Mar. 7, 2017: Hawaiian monk seal: master of the photobomb! The low-lying atolls and islands within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument serve as critical habitat for many marine species. More than 14 million seabirds representing 22 species -- including Laysan albatrosses like the one pictured here -- breed and nest within the monument. Most of the 1,400 remaining Hawaiian monk seals live within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as well. Learn more about the monument's incredible ecosystems and species: www.papahanaumokuakea.gov (Photo: Dan Clark/USFWS)
three hawaiian spinner dolhins in close proximity skimming the surface of the water
Mar. 6, 2017: It's Dolphin Awareness Month! Hawaiian spinner dolphins like these are often spotted in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. These gregarious dolphins feed offshore at night and return to Hawai'i's nearshore waters to rest and recuperate during the day. Though it may be tempting to get close to and interact with spinner dolphins, this can actually be quite stressful for them! Research has shown that frequent interaction with swimmers and boaters in their habitat can negatively affect spinner dolphins' health. If you're whale watching, snorkeling, or diving in Hawai'i, programs like Dolphin SMART can help you choose a tour operator that is helping to minimize disturbance of these amazing animals so they can continue to thrive: sanctuaries.noaa.gov/dolphinsmart (Photo: NOAA, taken under NOAA permit #14097)
wreck of the american union resting in 10 feet of water
Mar. 5, 2017: Take a deep breath this Shipwreck Sunday and explore the wrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Thanks to the cold, fresh water of Lake Huron, the sanctuary protects one of our nation's best-preserved collections of shipwrecks. American Union, pictured here, was a three-masted schooner that sank in 1894 after running up on the rocks at Thompson's Harbor. This is one wreck you don't have to be a diver to explore: resting only 10 feet beneath the surface, American Union's remains are easily viewable by kayakers and snorkelers. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
a sea star gripping the side of a rock in a tidepool
Mar. 4, 2017: Happy sea star Saturday! Tidepools like this one dot the beaches of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. The plants and animals living within tidepools are alternately covered and abandoned by the shifting tides, so these organisms have evolved to cope with extreme physical, chemical, and biological changes. Sea stars, for example, use suction from tiny tube feet on each arm to grip onto the rocks, while sea anemones pull in their tentacles when the tide goes out to help prevent water loss. When you're exploring tidepools, make sure to step lightly and touch gently in order to protect these tidepool inhabitants! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
inavasive seaweed growing for the bottom of the sea
Mar. 3, 2017: Not just any seaweed -- this is Undaria pinnatifida, also known as Asian kelp or wakame. This invasive species has colonized many harbors along the California coastline, including in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Undaria was first observed in Monterey harbor in 2001, and has continued to spread. Sanctuary scientists are working to remove this invasive species and to understand how its encroachment could affect the local ecosystem. Learn more about invasive species at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
a close up view of an orange cup coral
Mar. 2, 2017: This orange cup coral may be beautiful, but it's an invasive species in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This Indo-Pacific hard coral has established itself throughout the tropical western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Scientists believe it may have made the journey attached to ship hulls or within ship ballast water. Orange cup coral displaces native corals and sponges, taking up space in which native species would normally establish themselves. Also, because these corals reproduce at a young age and larvae may float on the current for up to 14 days before settling, they are able to spread far and wide. In Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, sanctuary staff have worked to remove orange cup coral from the reef to keep it from getting too established. (Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA)
two nudibranches crawling over an invasive bryozoan watersipora subtorquata
Mar. 1, 2017: Watersipora Wednesday! Here two opalescent nudibranchs crawl over the invasive bryozoan Watersipora subtorquata in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Watersipora, the rust-colored, lobed mass pictured here, is an invasive genus of bryozoan -- or aquatic filter feeding invertebrates -- that has taken up residence in and around the sanctuary. Though there's still much to learn about how these organisms grow and thrive, Watersipora are thought to have been introduced to the California coast by hitching a ride on ships and boats traveling along the coastline. These bryozoans have proven difficult to control because research shows they can be resistant to antifouling paints commonly used to prevent attachment of aquatic organisms to the hulls of ships. Once settled in a new environment, Watersipora can have damaging effects on native invertebrate species, smothering them and outcompeting them for space. But researchers at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary have been working hard to understand how these organisms grow and thrive, and what ecological consequences we can anticipate from their spread. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
European green crabs
Feb. 28, 2017: The Crustacean Invasion: European green crabs are native to western Europe and northwest Africa, but have invaded ecosystems in every continent but Antarctica. Because they disperse over long distances during their larval stage and aren't exactly picky eaters (these crabs will eat clams, shrimp, and other invertebrates!), European green crabs are quite successful at invading new territories. Where they establish new populations, these crabs threaten shellfish fisheries and ecosystem health. For reasons not yet well known, European green crabs have been particularly successful in Seadrift Lagoon, a manmade lagoon near San Francisco that is tidally linked to Bolinas Lagoon. There, they've established the largest West Coast concentration in a closed marine ecosystem! But folks at Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary are hard at work removing these invasive crabs. Since 2009, teams have worked to remove tens of thousands of crabs from the lagoon, and their work continues. (Photo: Kate Bimrose/NOAA)
Caught invasive lionfish
Feb. 27, 2017: It's Invasive Species Week! This week, we'll be bringing you stories about the invasive species that are found in your national marine sanctuaries and how you can help. In recent years, Indo-Pacific lionfish have been found in coral reefs throughout the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean -- including in sanctuaries like Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Because of their voracious appetites, rapid reproduction rate, and lack of natural predators, these invasive lionfish post a serious threat to coral reefs, with potential long-term consequences for native fish communities, habitats, and entire ecosystems. You can learn more about this invasive species at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/lionfish. (Photo: Ryan Eckert/NOAA)
Jelly fish spotted while exploring the deep waters in and around National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa
Feb. 26, 2017: Check out this jelly that the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research spotted while exploring the deep waters in and around National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Throughout February, the crew of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer is exploring this area using remotely operated vehicles. And the best part? You can watch in real time while they explore! Okeanos livestreams all of its dives online and you can tune in while the ROVs are in the water. Learn more, including how to watch, at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/feb17/
exploring-the-deep-waters-american-samoa.html
. (Photo courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa)
Graceful Galapagos sharks (manō in Hawaiian) are a fairly common sight in the waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Feb. 25, 2017: Check out this fintastic Galapagos shark! Graceful Galapagos sharks (manō in Hawaiian) are a fairly common sight in the waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. This species normally occurs in deeper coastal waters, but can be found in shallow near-shore reefs in the monument where food is abundant. This one was spotted at Maro Reef in the monument. (Photo: James Watt/NOAA)
A seaweed blenny fish in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Feb. 24, 2017: Celebrate fish Friday with this seaweed blenny in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary! This small fish can be found from New York to northern South America. Although it is omnivorous, it primarily eats filamentous algae, and often perches on shallow, hard bottoms covered with algae. What's your favorite sanctuary fish? Let us know in the comments! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
National Marine Sanctuaries are spectacular places to dive and snorkel
Feb. 23, 2017: From the vibrant coral reefs of NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to the historic shipwrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, your national marine sanctuaries are spectacular places to dive and snorkel! What's your favorite sanctuary to dive in? Tell us in the comments! Learn more about the wonders that await you underwater in sanctuaries at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/diving. (Photo: Jessica Hogan)
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)
wreck of the uss monitor sitting on the seafloor
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)
the coral know as big mama and a diver swimming near by
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)
the coral know as big mama and a diver swimming near by
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)
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