Office of National Marine Sanctuary 50th Anniversary Launch

Director John Armor

Welcome to the 50th Anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuary System! Starting from modest beginnings, this "good idea" has grown into a vibrant network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments that protect some of our nation's most treasured seascapes, wildlife, and maritime heritage resources. Sanctuaries and monuments work with and connect to other networks of marine protected areas throughout the U.S. and around the world.

The sanctuary system was born at a turbulent time in our nation's history, as grassroots environmentalists created a movement for stronger stewardship of the nation's natural resources both on land and in our waters, even as activists demanded equal rights for everyone in the country regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. Their efforts gave birth to the suite of environmental laws that form the foundation for our conservation efforts today, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, National Environmental Policy Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and, of course, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. The clean air and water we enjoy today, the species that have recovered from historically low population levels, the preserved public access to beaches and coastal waters, the processes that inform and solicit input from the public on projects having an impact on their communities: these are only some of the benefits we can trace back to those historic laws.

Now, nearly a half century later, we find ourselves in turbulent times again, during a global pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 725,000 fellow Americans while struggling to recover from the economic crises it caused. The impacts of climate change have never been more apparent and a sixth mass extinction event is well upon us. We are still struggling to build a just and fair society where everyone is welcome and supported to reach their full potential. These are not easy times, and we do not have an easy road ahead of us, as Americans or as those entrusted with the stewardship of the special ocean places in our network.

But out of great adversity come opportunities for great transformation. We have made a positive impact in our half-century of stewardship and we'll take some time to share and celebrate our achievements. We are committed to working to make our sanctuaries more welcoming and accessible to all. More importantly, we will look to the future and put ourselves on the right path to meet the challenges we face now and those we know are coming, and to be as ready as we can be for those we can't yet see. We believe this will be a transformative year for the nation's marine protected areas, and we hope you will be a part of it!

In partnership with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, we invite you to help us "Save Spectacular" as we celebrate, discover, explore, and enjoy the unique wonders of the National Marine Sanctuary System. Together we can ensure these special places are sustained as destinations for adventure, solace, and reflection for the next 50 years and beyond.

I also encourage you to view our 50th anniversary webpage throughout the year and follow our national marine sanctuary social media channels to find out the latest.

Thanks for helping us "Save Spectacular" for future generations to enjoy!


John Armor's signature

John Armor

Director, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries