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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marine invertebrates covering a shipwreck

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)

Peter Taliva'a is the boat captain for National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. To him, the sanctuary community is strong because "we work together. Not individually, but as a family." Watch our video to hear Peter's Story from the Blue.

birds

Not all animals in national marine sanctuaries live in the water. Birds are among the most visible elements of biodiversity in the marine environment. By tracking bird populations, scientists can better understand the state and health of the marine ecosystems that our communities and economies depend on.

birds

In sanctuaries like Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, you'll find extraordinary opportunities to observe wildlife -- like elephant seals!

bruce popham

"Why do I care? Because we want clean water here and we want vibrant life." Bruce Popham runs the Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center and is a member of the Sanctuary Advisory Council for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Check out his Story from the Blue to learn what the sanctuary means to him and how he is working to preserve the amazing ecosystems of the Florida Keys.

coral reef covered with sea urchins and a sea star

What lies in the deep waters of National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa? This February, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to find out. Check out some of what they found in our video!

venus flytrap anemone

What lies in the deep waters of National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa? This February, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to find out. Check out some of what they found in our video!

octopus

Celebrate Octopus Friday with this common octopus in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary!

manta ray swimming overhead

Manta rays are frequent visitors to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary!

kimokeo kapahulehua on a canoe with paddle in hand

"Call nā po‘e ka lani, nā po‘e moana, nā po‘e ka hōnua -- the people of the heavens, the people of the ocean, and the people of the land, we're all just one big family in how we work together in preserving everything," says Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary volunteer Kimokeo Kapahulehua. Watch our video to hear Kimokeo's Kimokeo's story from the blue

woman canoning by a mangrove forest

Did you know mangroves line more than 1,800 miles of shoreline within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary? Learn what makes mangrove forests so special and important in our video.

divers examining and photographing an invasive kelp

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Lindsay Marks is fighting invasive species in and around Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary -- and you can help! Learn how in her video.

overhead view of humpback whales swimming underwater

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

three sanctuaries employees on the deck of a boat taking photos

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

view of an underwater creature

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

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

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

whale swimming

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

sea lions swimming underwater

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

seabird soaring through the air

How did you spend your holidays? Each year, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary teams up with the Audubon Society for the Stellwagen Bank Christmas Bird Count. Christmas Bird Count volunteers join sanctuary staff onboard the R/V Auk to survey a 15-mile-diameter area of the sanctuary. The data they collect can help assess the health of bird populations and of the sanctuary ecosystem. This year, citizen scientists counted triple the number of razorbills as last year's cruise, but spotted no northern fulmars or shearwaters, which are normally encountered in the sanctuary this time of year. They even spotted four tiny Atlantic puffins! Check out our video of a past Christmas Bird Count to learn more about this ongoing citizen science project.

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

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

photo of a person digging up clams

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

photo of a propeller from a shipwreck under water

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

photo of a whale tail out of water

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

photo of a pier

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

photo of a pier

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

photo of a pier

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

photo of a school of colorful fish

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

photo of whale feeding and lots of seagulls surrounding it

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

2 turtle being cleaned by yellow fish

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

2 women standing in front of a white van

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

whale

Through his "Shipwreck Alley" class, high school teacher John Caplis has been connecting Alpena High School students directly to the nearby Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and through it, to Great Lakes history, ecology, geology, meteorology and more. "The idea that we're exposing two-thirds of every kid who graduates from Alpena High School to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and its mission and the positive effect it has on the community -- I think that's a powerful thing," he says. Watch our video to experience John's Story from the Blue and to learn about the amazing educational collaboration his class has fostered.

whale

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

photo of a beach with people looking at the sunset with the words love written in sand

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

photo of cliffs and beach of olympic coast national marine sanctuary

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

photo of 2 butterfly fish swimming in deep reefs

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

photo of 2 butterfly fish swimming in deep reefs

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

photo of a diver and a buoy

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

photo of a diver and a buoy

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

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

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

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

photo of a diver and a buoy

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

photo of a propeller from a shipwreck

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

photo of a moray eel

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

photo of diver holding up a sign

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

photo of diver holding up a sign

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

photo of man playing guitar

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

photo of man playing guitar

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

photo of man playing guitar

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

photo of woman fishing

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

photo of coral and fish

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

photo of a moray eel

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

View the Earth is Blue photo and video archive