National Marine Sanctuary System

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.

map highlighting sanctuary locations Thunder Bay Flower Garden Banks Stellwagen Bank Monitor Gray's Reef Florida Keys Channel Islands Monterey Bay Cordell Bank Gulf of the Farallones Olympic Coast Papahanaumokuakea Hawaii Humpback Whales American Samoa mallows-bay lake-michigan
earth is blue logo

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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photo of a whale and calf swimming

Oct. 28, 2016: Each summer and fall, whales visit Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to feed on krill. Busy shipping lanes that coincide with whale feeding areas present a ship strike threat to whales, so sanctuary staff conduct monthly aerial surveys to better understand whale distribution and inform management decisions. During an October aerial survey of marine mammals, sanctuary staff recorded 11 endangered blue whales and two humpback whales in the Santa Barbara Channel shipping lanes. While most of the whales were away from high-traffic areas, this is the highest number of individuals so far recorded during 2016 surveys. By using the Whale Alert app, mariners and members of the public can help sanctuary staff track where the whales are so they can be better protected! (Photo: Jess Morten/NOAA)

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.

Stories from the Blue

Stories from the Blue celebrate the people at the center of national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.

What does the National Marine Sanctuary System mean to you?

Sanctuary Nomination Process

For the first time in two decades, NOAA invites communities across the nation to nominate their most treasured places in our marine and Great Lakes waters for consideration as national marine sanctuaries.

In response to ongoing widespread interest from the public, NOAA has launched a new, locally driven sanctuary nomination process developed with input from more than 18,000 public comments. Throughout the nomination process, NOAA will be available to answer questions and provide guidance to nominating communities and other interested parties. NOAA will also update nominators on the progress of the agency's review of their nomination.

Actor and activist Edward James Olmos lends his voice to the new sanctuary nomination process and offers a challenge to the American people. Watch in HD

Earth Is Blue Magazine

In partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries publishes a yearly magazine in print and electronic formats. Through vivid images and engaging articles, Earth Is Blue: The Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries brings sanctuaries directly to the American public, so you can experience the wonder of our ocean and Great Lakes even if you don't live nearby.

earth is blue magazine volume 1 cover - women on the beach taking a picture of the ocean

Earth Is Blue Magazine - June 2016

  • An Impact for Special Places
  • Take only Memories
  • Stories from the Blue
  • ¿Qué Bolá Cuba?
  • Learning from the Past to Protect the Future
  • Freeing a Giant
  • In Hot Water
  • From Compassion to Action

Sanctuary Spotlight

Visit a Sanctuary

National marine sanctuaries are ideal destinations for travelers who enjoy a diversity of recreational activities.

Plan your visit

Get Involved

Volunteers help to ensure marine sanctuaries remain America's underwater treasures for future generations.

How you can help