The National Marine Sanctuary Small Boat Program

Every national marine sanctuary relies on small boats to access protected areas. This access is necessary for sanctuaries to implement our management plans, each of which addresses unique local challenges and opportunities. ONMS currently maintains and operates more than 45 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
  • Law enforcement
  • 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 the most powerful tool 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:

Sanctuaries boats feature qualified and experienced crew. Many of the captains and crewmembers have previously served in the military, 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.

Staff Expertise:

Sanctuaries has world class experts in a wide variety of marine scientific fields with extensive field experience including marine biologists, ecologists, archaeologists, engineers, educators, and outreach specialists.

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, sanctuaries has two SRV class boats (>65'), eight NOAA class III (40' to 65') boats, and 17 class II vessels (26' to 40'). The sanctuaries fleet also includes 23 boats less than 26 feet in length.
The Sand Tiger and Manta are the SRV class regional boats. The Sand Tiger typically operates along the East Coast and the Manta in the western Gulf of Mexico in and around Flower Gardens Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The class III boats include:

  • Auk (50') operating at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
  • Storm (50') operating at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • Joe Ferguson (41') operating at Grays Reef National Marine Sanctuary
  • Peter Gladding (57') operating at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
  • Shearwater (62') operating at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Fulmar (67') and 4107 (41') operating along the West Coast (Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries).

Partner with Us

Sanctuaries collaborates frequently with more than 100 partners across our system to carryout multidisciplinary activities. 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.

Please contact one of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries staff listed below if you would like to learn more about the Small Boat Program or have an interest in a potential partnership activity.


Auk - Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Storm - Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary/Great Lakes
SRVx - Northeast/Southeast


Joe Ferguson/Sam Gray - Grays Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Manta - Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

West Coast

Shearwater - Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Fulmar & R4107 - West Coast
Tatoosh - Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Pacific Islands

Kohola - Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
Hīhīmanu - Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Manuma - National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa