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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOAA 04 - R412
Feb 19, 2004

CONTACT:

Gail Krueger,
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
(912) 598-2397

GRAY’S REEF NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY TO HOST SANCTUARY ADVISORY CHAIRS MEETING

The National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP), managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is holding a meeting of the chairs of its 11 site-specific Sanctuary Advisory Councils on Feb. 26, 2004, in Savannah, Ga. The meeting is hosted by Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) and is open for public comment.

The meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. at the Marshall House, 123 East Broughton Street, Savannah. The purpose of the meeting is to hold discussion and obtain input from the individual Chairs on NMSP policy issues, reauthorization of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA), and activities of cruise ships in sanctuaries. This year, for the second time, the chairs are being asked to provide their input to the national program leadership on policy topics important on a programmatic rather than a site-specific level.

Opportunities for public comment will be provided at 8:45 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis. Members of the public that would like to provide comments will be asked to sign up upon arrival and the comment period will be limited to 20 minutes at each opportunity.

The NMSA authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to establish one or more Advisory Councils to provide advice to the secretary regarding the designation and management of National Marine Sanctuaries. Councils exist at Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Florida Keys, Gray’s Reef, Gulf of the Farallones, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale, Monterey Bay, Olympic Coast, Stellwagen Bank, Thunder Bay national marine sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve. Councils represent a wide variety of community interests and are active in various projects and issues affecting the management of their local sanctuaries. Each year, NOAA’s NMSP hosts a meeting for all the council chairs and coordinators to discuss projects and topics of mutual interest.

Gray’s Reef NMS is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 17 square nautical miles. The area earned sanctuary designation in 1981. Gray’s Reef NMS consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to ten feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live bottom and ledge habitat support an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community. Loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, also use Gray’s Reef year-round for foraging and resting, and the reef is within the known winter calving ground for the highly endangered Northern Right Whale.

NOAA’s NMSP seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, 13 national marine sanctuaries encompass more than 18,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service manages the NMSP and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. The National Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
National Ocean Service - http://oceanservice.noaa.gov
National Marine Sanctuary Program - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
http://graysreef.noaa.gov

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