On July 24, 2008, the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans held a legislative hearing on H.R. 6537, a bill supporting the reauthorization and strengthening of the NMSA. The “Sanctuary Enhancement Act of 2008,” if passed, would not only reauthorize the NMSA, but repeal the limitation on new sanctuary designations, expand certain prohibitions, and increase law enforcement authority for marine sanctuaries. To see all the changes discussed, read the full bill. Please visit the subcommittee’s website for more information and all testimony for the hearing.
Congress last reauthorized the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA)
in November 2000 (Public Law
106-513), authorizing appropriations for
the law through the end of fiscal year 2005.
On November 3, 2007, the Subcommittee on
Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans of the House Committee on Natural
Resources held a field hearing on NMSA reauthorization in Santa
Barbara, CA. William Douros, West Coast Regional Director for
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, testified on
behalf of NOAA . Visit the subcommittee’s website for links
to all of the testimony for this hearing.
On June 18, 2008, the Subcommittee on Fisheries,
Wildlife, and Oceans of the House Committee on Natural Resources held
another hearing on NMSA reauthorization in Washington, DC. Jack
Dunnigan, Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean
Service, testified on behalf of NOAA . Visit the
subcommittee’s website for links to all of the
In addition to providing authority to designate and manage national
marine sanctuaries, the NMSA also “authorizes”
certain annual funding levels for NOAA to implement the Act. Since the
authorization of funding is given in 5-year increments, the NMSA must
be “reauthorized” every five years, or so. The NMSA
was first enacted in 1972 (P.L.
92-532) and has been amended and
reauthorized six times: in 1980 (P.L. 96-332), 1984 (P.L. 98-498) ,
1988 (Title II of P.L. 100-627),
1992 (P.L. 102-587),
104-283), and 2000 (P.L.
The last time the NMSA was reauthorized was in
November 2000, when Congress authorized funds through fiscal year 2005
(ended on September 30, 2005). It is important to understand, however,
that expiration of this authorization does not mean the authority to
designate and manage national marine sanctuaries goes away. Nor does it
mean funding for implementation of the NMSA ends. In fact, the NMSP
received Congressional funding for implementation of the NMSA for
fiscal years 2006 and 2007, despite the expired authorization. Since
the NMSA was last authorized, the NMSP now manages one new sanctuary
and a Marine National Monument, the largest area of marine conservation
on earth and added more than 150,000 square miles of protected waters
into the system.
Still, Congress must reauthorize the NMSA as soon
as possible to ensure
it remains relevant and adapts to the ever-changing circumstances of
marine resource management.
For more information about
reauthorization and useful materials
Link to current version of the NMSA - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/about/legislation/welcome.html
House Committee on Natural Resources
Wildlife, and Oceans
Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on
Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard