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protection and management
Protecting Your National Marine Sanctuaries
hrough the development and periodic review of sanctuary management plans and regulations, the sanctuary system works with partners, sanctuary advisory councils and the public to implement effective coastal and marine spatial planning. During the 2009 fiscal year, management plans were completed for Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay, Channel Islands and Thunder Bay national marine sanctuaries, and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Significant regulations passed dur ing the year include the following:

  Final rules to implement the revised management plans for Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries, which included regulations to:

  • enhance protection for white sharks.
  • reduce the potential for introduction of non-native species.
  • update vessel discharge regulations.

 Finalized revisions to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary regulations in 2009 to update the definition of coral to include additional species and enhance diving safety.

 Finalized, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the rule establishing a ship reporting system for the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Sanctuaries are supported by a network of dedicated and diverse 
individuals and organizations working to protect our ocean. 
Throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System, thousands 
of volunteers make wide-ranging science and education programs possible, community-based advisory groups provide expertise and input on critical issues, and non-profit partners help 
build support for effective ocean management. Together, these 
pieces form a strong foundation for the protection of our nation's most treasured underwater places.

Monterey Bay Sanctuary Extends Protection to Underwater Mountain

volunteersMonterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary boundaries expanded in 2009 to include the Davidson Seamount, a pristine undersea mountain habitat off the coast of Central California, following seven years of extensive public input and inter-agency collaboration. At 26 miles long and eight miles wide, it is one of the largest known seamounts in U.S. waters. From base to crest, it is nearly 7,500 feet tall, yet its summit still lies more than 4,000 feet below the sea surface. The seamount, which has been called an "oasis in the deep," is populated by diverse deep-sea corals, fish, crabs and sponges, including numerous rare and unidentified species. Davidson Seamount has special national significance for its ecological, scientific, educational and historical qualities, and its inclusion in the Monterey Bay sanctuary is a triumph for ocean conservation.

Papahānaumokuākea Nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In January 2009, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was nominated by the United States for inscription as a World Heritage Site for its outstanding natural and cultural attributes. The monument is one of only two sites nominated by the nation in more than 15 years. World Heritage listings are a designation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and include sites such as the Egyptian pyramids and the Grand Canyon. Papahānaumokuākea is currently being evaluated by UNESCO and will come before the World Heritage Committee for decision in July 2010. Papahānaumokuākea is the first site ever nominated with indigenous cultural connections to the sea. If inscribed to the World Heritage List it would become one of the few marine conservation sites to receive this level of recognition, and one of a handful of sites representing the heritage of Oceania.

Florida Keys Sanctuary Combats Illegal Poaching

Two of Florida's biggest lobster poaching busts on record came in 2009, both taking place in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In two separate cases built by sanctuary and state of Florida enforcement officers, poachers were caught harvesting more than 10,000 pounds of lobster while diving on illegal structures known as casitas, or "lobster condos." Casitas are artificial barriers on the seafloor that disrupt the natural migration of lobsters and cause them to gather in places where they are subject to increased poaching and predation. The structures also smother the seafloor underneath and have the potential to damage the environment if displaced by storms. Over the last three years, the NOAA Restoration Center, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, the Florida Keys sanctuary, and other state and federal agencies, oversaw a project that identified and removed 89 tons of casitas and gear from sanctuary waters.

Global Connections Aid Marine Mammal Protection

The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary co-hosted the First International Conference on Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Maui in spring 2009, bringing together marine protected area (MPA) managers and marine mammal experts from around the world. Although over 500 existing or proposed MPAs for marine mammals like whales and dolphins span nearly 90 countries, there had never been a dedicated venue for collaboration and knowledge sharing among them. In an effort to bridge this gap, more than 200 MPA managers, scientists and educators representing 40 countries gathered to discuss issues, establish valuable relationships and explore effective approaches to marine management and conservation. Conference topics included whale sanctuaries, the role of culture in managing MPAs, and the importance of education. Plans are already underway for the next gathering, which will be hosted by France in 2011.

Sanctuaries, Partners Respond to Lionfish Threat

The first sighting of an Indo-Pacific lionfish in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary waters was confirmed in January 2009. Around that time, ocean users at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary in Georgia also alerted sanctuary management to lionfish sightings in that area. This invasive, poisonous fish is a voracious predator with no natural predators in the Atlantic and has potential to disrupt the fragile balance of sanctuary ecosystems. Both sanctuaries worked with partners including agencies like NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, non-profit organizations and the public to implement a rapid response plan to help control the spread of this unwelcomed visitor. The plan included public outreach campaigns and training for members of the dive and research communities in lionfish ecology and safe capture techniques. In the Florida Keys, nearly 100 divers received permits to capture and remove these fish from sanctuary preservation areas, which are otherwise no-fishing zones. At Gray's Reef, two days were dedicated to collecting lionfish at sites outside the sanctuary, and at one site 17 lionfish were captured in 14 minutes.

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