The National Marine Sanctuary Small Boat Program

Every national marine sanctuary relies on small boats to conduct its on-water operations. and implement its management plan, each of which addresses unique local challenges and opportunities. ONMS currently maintains and operates more than 40 vessels ranging from small tenders or utility boats to larger regional class boats up to 85 feet in length. These vessels are specially designed to meet the needs of each site through a wide range of activities, including:

  • Marine archaeology
  • Ecosystem assessment
  • Site characterizations
  • Oceanographic sampling
  • Seafloor mapping
  • Buoy maintenance
  • Damage assessment and restoration
  • Resource Protection
  • Education and outreach
  • Whale disentanglement
  • Testing of emerging technologies

Our program is widely recognized by partners for a strong emphasis on safety, reliability, and capability. Small boats are also one of the most powerful tools available for leveraging interest and investments in National Marine Sanctuaries.

About Our Boats

Safe & Secure Platforms:

Our program places an emphasis on safety. Each site, coordinating with the marine engineers on staff, implements a structured small boat maintenance and life-cycle management program in accordance with NOAA and maritime industry standards. This adherence to standards and best practices ensures that sanctuaries small boats are safe, reliable, and secure platforms.

Experienced Crew:

Sanctuary boats feature qualified and experienced crew. Many of the captains and crewmembers have previously served in the military or are NOAA Corps officers billeted at sanctuaries, workboat industry, public outreach, and science fields. Positions ranging from Vessel Operations Coordinators (VOCs) to captains, crewmembers, and engineering personnel provide professional support for the full range of vessel operations.

Our Current Fleet:

The sanctuaries fleet consists of boats ranging from small tender or utility boats to larger regional class boats up to 85 feet in length. Currently, the fleet includes an  SRV class boat (>65'), NOAA class III (40' to 65') boats, and class II vessels (26' to 40'). The fleet also includes many boats less than 26 feet in length. SRV class and class III boats include:

  • Manta (82') operating at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
  • Auk (50') operating at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
  • Storm (50') operating at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Joe Ferguson (41') operating at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
  • Shearwater (62') operating at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Fulmar (67') and 4107 (41') operating along the West Coast (Monterey Bay, Greater Farallones, and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries

Partner with Us

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries collaborates frequently with more than 100 partners across our system to carry out the sanctuaries' mission. These partnerships are beneficial for both parties and serve to further the understanding and protection of sanctuaries. Learn more about our vessels, capabilities and how to  partner with us.

If you would like to learn more about the Small Boat Program or have an interest in a potential partnership activity, please contact:

Dana Wilkes, Manager, Small Boat Program Manager