earth is blue

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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A Pacific white-sided dolphin upside down in the air above the ocean, mid-backflip.

This Pacific white-sided dolphin is nofin if not acrobatic! These agile dolphins undertake incredible maneuvers like this on porpoise. This gymnast of a dolphin was spotted in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)

Do you know the difference between manta rays and mobulas? Learn how to tell them apart in our video!

Three common dolphins swimming at the ocean surface in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Three common dolphins swimming at the ocean surface in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A close up of sea turtle underwater with light beaming through the water’s surface
We’re turtley excited because today, Earth Is Blue celebrates four years of providing the wonders of the ocean and Great Lakes directly to you! Whether it’s through photos of silly marine critters or a video of the deep seas, through our Earth Is Blue social media campaign, we want aim to make learning about our marine sanctuaries and monuments accessible for all. Where land separates us, the ocean brings us together. We hope our posts can inspire you to care for our big, blue Earth, and to share your enthusiasm for our ocean with others. You can view all the photos we have shared thus far at sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, taken in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary)
A manta ray swims above the camera, backlit by sunlight. This photo was taken in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
Our love for the ocean is manta be! Today marks the 46th birthday of the National Marine Sanctuary System. Today, we serve as the trustee for a network of underwater parks encompassing more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes. It's been a pleasure to serve as stewards for our special marine and Great Lakes places, and we're looking forward to everything to come. Please help us celebrate by sharing your favorite sanctuary memories in the comments! (Photo: Beata Lerman)
A humpback whale diving beneath the ocean surface.
The whales are soon to return to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! Each winter, thousands of humpback whales journey down to the warm, shallow waters around the Hawaiian Islands. Here between November and May, they breed, give birth, and raise their young. Whale watching during this time is spectacular, and tons of fun. Just make sure to give whales plenty of space – stay back at least 100 yards. Get tips for responsible whale watching. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #14682)
Invertebrates grow out of a brick wall at Dry Tortugas National Park.
"At our house our recycling bin is always twice as full as our garbage bin and we are participating in local movements to reduce single-use plastic straws and bags. And whenever we are outdoors, whether it's at the beach or just walking around town, we try to pick up litter as we go." – Craig Wanous, Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center manager What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A humpback whale pokes its head above the water. A seabird flies in the background
Meet Hopper, a young humpback whale who roams the seas of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! This curious calf gets her name from her habit of spy hopping above the waterline, to check out her surroundings. All clear! (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A manta ray swims near a diver.
Ah, just another day at the office! Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary researcher Dr. Michelle Johnston got to take a break from coral surveys to commune with this manta ray. Not a bad way to spend the work day! (Photo: NOAA)
Close-up of a pink coral that is part of a larger reef ecosystem
There’s nothing like seeing a bright and healthy coral to uplift your Thursday! Bereef it or not, cauliflower corals like this one in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument aren't actually plants, but animals. Each coral structure is actually a colony of tiny, tiny animals called polyps. These polyps build hefty skeletons, which build up to create a strong coral reef. (Photo: Mark Sullivan/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
White dolphin's head sticking out of the water.
Like many of us, this albino Risso's dolphin is a big dolfan of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! This juvenile was first spotted with its mother in the sanctuary in 2014, and has been seen occasionally ever since, including earlier this year. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A research diver holding a metal rod while hovering over a shipwreck.
Despite sometimes tragic stories, shipwrecks can serve as habitat for diverse marine life – and can be an amazing place to dive. In NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, an estimated 1,000 wrecks lie scattered on the ocean floor. One of those is the wreck of Benwood, which sank in 1942, pictured here. Have you explored one of the shipwrecks within the sanctuary? We highly wreckommend it! (Photo: Brenda Altmeier/NOAA)
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It appears this sailor got a bit too carried away (literally)! Velella velella, or by-the-wind-sailors, drift across the open seas using their chitinous “sails,” which poke above the water’s surface. Despite their free-floating existence, it is not uncommon to find large numbers of Velella velella washed ashore, especially during a bloom. This by-the-wind-sailor jelly was found off the shores of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park. (Photo: National Park Service)
A golden eagle in flight
A few summers ago our camp of 26 youth and four staff settled down by Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to enjoy lunch. It was a beautiful, calm day. Just as we were about to break into our sandwiches, a golden eagle came speeding only a couple of feet off the beach, and took out a duck in a poof of feathers. Amidst the squawking and flurry of the other birds escaping, thirty of us sat with sandwiches in hand, mouths hanging open. We watched as the golden, after a moment, laboriously took back to the air weighted down by it's limp prey. It flew to a cliff within full sight and began plucking it's lunch as the rest of us excitedly recovered and eventually enjoyed our own lunches with this unexpected guest. You just never know when a spectacular experience like this is going to occur, but the more we protect our resources the better we can ensure that these moments are not too far and few between. " – Alena Porte, Ventana Wildlife Society education manager What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Tom Koerner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The back half of a dolphin sticks straight up above the ocean surface, while its front half is below the water.
Share your best caption for this dolphin in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA permit #14097)
A pale yellow and pink sea anemone attached to rock, with a snail shell sitting at its base.
Keep your friends close and your anemones closer! This sea snail and sea anemone were spotted hanging out in the deep waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument by the crew of the E/V Nautilus. Nautilus Live's adventures will continue in just a few weeks as the ship journeys on to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: OET/NOAA)
 A dark red squid hovering above the seafloor.
A kraken of the depths? Though this Pholidoteuthis adami squid may look devilish, it's actually just trying to blend in with its surroundings. Red light is the first color of light to be filtered out by water, and by the time you get down to the deep sea, the only light available is blue. That blue light doesn't reflect off red animals, so they're much more difficult to see by predators and prey alike! That is, unless you're exploring the ocean with a remotely operated vehicle equipped with bright white lights. (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research)
Small, dark red squid in ocean surrounded by white floating particles.
Beware! The vampire squid is here to devour your...marine detritus? We squid you not! Despite its sinister name, the vampire squid is only a scavenger, feeding on the “marine snow” that floats throughout the water column. Instead of ejecting ink, this deep-sea dracula will squirt a bioluminescent mucus towards would-be predators if threatened. Talk about a sticky squiduation! This juvenile was spotted in the deep waters of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI))
Nautilus with red and white hard shell floating through water, with some corals beneath it.
Before rocket engines used jet propulsion, there was the nautilus! Nautili maneuver through the ocean by expelling water from chambers in their hard external shells. In addition to this unique hard shell, the nautilus can have up 90 tentacles, beating its distant cousins, the octopus and the squid, by far. Check out this nautilus swimming through NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. (Photo: Michelle Johnston/NOAA)
Orange octopus with eyelids closed hunkered down between sediment formations.
Happy Octopus Day! This sleepy cephalopod appears to have a case of the Mondays. But don’t be fooled, as octopuses like this one in the Gulf of Mexico are highly agile and attentive creatures. Octopuses have the largest brain of any invertebrate – and more than half of their 500 million neurons are located throughout their eight arms. These cephalopods are equipped for quick action, whether they are stealthily hunting prey or defending themselves from likely predators. (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017)
A breaching humpback whale.
"The ocean itself inspires me, as well as the staff and dedicated volunteers who are committed to protecting it. I am most inspired by my time spent with school groups of kids who visit the sanctuary and are enthusiastic and excited to learn about their island home and the amazing creatures who live in our ocean." – Jeep Dunning, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary volunteer What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: R. Finn/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240)
A kayaker only a few feet away from a spyhopping humpback whale. The whale appears to be looking at the kayaker.
DON'T BE THAT GUY! Humpback whales need your help. Right now, whales are feeding close to shore in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. While it can be tempting to get close to these amazing animals, when you approach them you encroach on the space they need to catch anchovies and other prey. Plus, you put yourself in danger – a humpback whale can weigh more than 50 tons, and you don't want that weight accidentally slamming in to you as a whale breaches or lunges to the surface to catch its prey. If you're as close as this kayaker is to a whale, you are WAY TOO CLOSE. As a rule of thumb, stay 100 yards away from whales; do not cross in front of them, pursue them from behind, or surround them. If you're approached by a whale, drift until the whale moves away. And if you see someone approaching a whale, speak up! Tell others to give the whales plenty of space, and you can report whale harassment or injury to the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Two humpback whales lunge feeding. Birds fly overhead, and houses and other buildings are visible in the background.
Lunge into the weekend with these lunge feeding humpback whales! This photograph by Douglas Croft, taken in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, is the first-place winner of the Sanctuary Life category. Congratulations, Douglas! Missed the other winners? Never fear – you can see all the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest winners and submissions at https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A brown pelican with a yellow head soars over a beach. Rocks and crashing waves are blurry in the background.
We pelican't believe how beautiful this photo is! Sam Bailey's photo of a brown pelican in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary flew into second place of the Sanctuary Life photo contest category. Congratulations, Sam! To see all the photo contest winners, visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. (Photo: Sam Bailey)
A yellow-spotted brown eel looks out from behind a coral.
Psst – this goldentail moray eel wants to tell you a secret. This week, we're celebrating the winners of the Sanctuary Life category of the 2018 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! Steve Miller takes third place with this photo of an eel peeking out from behind a blushing star coral in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. To see all the photo contest winners, visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. (Photo: Steve Miller)
Several sea otters rest on the ocean surface.
Nap time? We're otterly convinced. Sea otters like these in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary have a thick blanket of fur – roughly a million hairs per square inch! – to keep them cozy while they snooze. (Photo © Monterey Bay Aquarium)
A diver documents a shipwreck while fish swim around the wreck.
Dive in to history at the USS Tarpon! One of the many vessels resting in the Graveyard of the Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina, Tarpon was a submarine that fought in World War II. It was the first U.S. submarine to sink a German raider in the Pacific. This summer, archaeologists from NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary documented the wreck. Stay tuned in the coming months to learn about what they found! (Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
Three sea lions look out from a sunny patch of kelp forest.
"I got scuba certified in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and for the first time I got to see marine organisms thriving in beautiful coastal waters. This inspired me to put my efforts in environmental education and conservation. I am proud that I get to inspire and educate the next generation of marine stewards and scientists." – Gabrielle Genhart-Stiehler, NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary AmeriCorps Service Member What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A resting sea otter wrapped in kelp.
Ready to nap the weekend away? So is this sea otter in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Sea otters often wrap themselves up in a nice little blanket of kelp to keep them from drifting too far while they take a quick snooze. If you're exploring the sanctuary or other areas with sea otters, make sure to give them plenty of space. While it's tempting to get a closer view of the adorable floof that is a sleeping otter, they need their rest! Each time you approach an otter, you're interrupting the time it needs to rest, feed, or otherwise maintain its health. (Photo © Monterey Bay Aquarium)
A paddleboarder floats over a shipwreck. The lakeshore is visible in the distance.
Take a trip to NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary with the first-place winner of the Sanctuary Portraits category! Bryan Dort captured this gorgeous photo of a stand-up paddleboarder floating over the shipwreck of the steamer Albany. Albany has rested on the bottom of Lake Huron since it ran aground in 1853. Today, it is a popular destination for snorkelers and paddlers. Congratulations to Bryan! To see all the photo contest winners, visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. (Photo: Bryan Dort)
A person stands on a path among wildflowers at sunrise. The ocean is visible down below.
Is there anything more glorious than sunrise in a national marine sanctuary? This self-portrait of a hiker at sunrise above NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary placed second in the Sanctuary Portraits category of this year's Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest. Congratulations to Doug Mangum! To see all the photo contest winners, visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. (Photo: Doug Mangum)
An over-under picture of an old structure in the ocean with fish schooling around it. Two people stand on a pier behind it.
This week, we're bringing you the winning photos in the Sanctuary Portraits category of the 2018 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest. In third place is Katy Danca Galli, with this serene photo of boys fishing for tarpon in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Congratulations to Katy! To see all the photo contest winners, visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. (Photo: Katy Danca Galli)
The propeller of the shipwreck Monohansett, underwater.
Happy birthday to NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! The only national marine sanctuary in the Great Lakes, this great sanctuary protects more than 200 historic shipwrecks that tell the story of our maritime past. This is the wreck of Monohansett, a wooden steam barge that sank in 1907 after a fire. Today, the propeller and several other features remain. This propeller is an impressive 14 feet across! (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A sea otter rests on the ocean surface, wrapped in kelp.
We're pawsitively thrilled at this week is Sea Otter Awareness Week! These otterly amazing creatures have made an incredible comeback all along the West Coast, including in places like Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. After extensive hunting in the 1700s and 1800s, only about 50 otters were left in California. Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now nearly 3,000! You can help these cuties thrive by giving them plenty of space when you're exploring the California coastline. Though it may be tempting to get close, each human-otter interaction takes away valuable time sea otters would otherwise spend resting, socializing, or eating. (Photo © Monterey Bay Aquarium)
A close-up view of an orange ochre star in a tide pool.
"I grew up playing on the beach at my family's waterfront cabin on the Hood Canal in Washington, so the ocean, tide pools, and salt water was a huge part of my childhood. As I got older I knew that I wanted to help protect places like that so that future generations could find the same kind of adventure and experiential learning I did as a child. Because I work with K-12 students so much, I try and make sure that I'm an environmental role model to them." – Christine VanDeen, NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary AmeriCorps service member What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A close-up view of giant kelp.
Happy anniversary to NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and happy National Public Lands Day to everyone! While you're exploring your public lands and waters today, give some credit to the organisms that hold up entire ecosystems. Giant kelp, for example, may just seem like any old seaweed, but this enormous algae grows into forests that support lush habitats. In the kelp forests of the Channel Islands and other national marine sanctuaries along the West Coast, you'll find sea lions, juvenile fish, and more! (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
he view from Inspiration Point.
Drum roll please...First place in the Sanctuary Views category goes to Donna Hendricks! Inspiration Point on Anacapa Island comes by its name honestly. From up here, you get a tremendous view of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park – including Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island in the distance. Congratulations to Donna and all the Sanctuary Views winners! Check out all the winners of the 2018 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html (Photo: Donna Hendricks)
Cormorants on a rock seem to be watching large waves crashing on shore.
Second place in the Sanctuary Views category goes to Sam Bailey! Big wave action in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is caused by weather systems further north, as far away as Alaska. Even Brandt's cormorants seem mesmerized by the show! Check out all the winners of the 2018 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html (Photo: Sam Bailey)
A rocky shoreline with snow and ice in the distance.
Winners of the 2018 Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest have been decided! You can check them all out at https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2018.html. This week, we'll be featuring the winning photos from the Sanctuary Views category! Stephanie Loewe takes third place with this beautiful – but chilly – view of Bell Bay in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Congratulations to Stephanie!(Photo: Stephanie Loewe)
Elephant seals vocalizing
Time to seal-ebrate – it's the 26th anniversary of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! This sanctuary protects more than 6,000 square miles off the coast of California. It's home to more than 35 species of marine mammals – including elephant seals like these. What's your favorite thing about Monterey Bay? (Photo: Phil Adams)
Several Atlantic spotted dolphins swim underwater.
Researchers at Stetson Bank in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary dolphinitely got a treat when these Atlantic spotted dolphins decided to investigate the remotely operated vehicle! (Photo: NOAA/UNCW-UVP)
A breaching humpback whale
"The National Marine Sanctuary System draws people to the wonder of water environments such as the ocean and Great Lakes. I am most proud of being able to interpret the wonders of humpback whales, monk seals and sea turtles to people who visit our sanctuary." – Michelle Paularena, NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA permit 15240)
Two people pull a conglomerate of fishing nets onto a boat.
Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere – today is the International Coastal Cleanup! Whether you're participating in an organized cleanup event today or not, head out to your favorite beach today and do what you can to fight marine debris. Not near a beach? You can still help keep our ocean clean by keeping your local streams and river clear of trash, using reusable shopping bags and drink containers, opting not to use plastic straws if you don't need them, and spreading the word about the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy ocean. (Photo: NOAA)
A group of people remove a large net conglomerate from the shorelines of Midway Atoll.
Tomorrow is the International Coastal Cleanup! Will you be joining in to help make our ocean and beaches cleaner and safer for marine life? You can learn more and find an event near you at https://blog.marinedebris.noaa.gov/join-us-international-coastal-cleanup. Last year's cleanup resulted resulted in more than 10,000 tons of trash collected by over 789,000 volunteers covering almost 18,000 miles! (Photo: Ryan Tabata/NOAA)
A leatherback sea turtle swims at the ocean surface.
Why should you reduce your use of plastic and always dispose of your trash properly? Well, for one thing, you'll be helping to protect marine animals like this leatherback sea turtle! One of the major issues with plastic in the ocean is that it's easily mistaken for food by hungry animals. Leatherback turtles like this one in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, for example, primarily eat jellies. And a plastic bag floating on the ocean surface looks a lot like one of those jellies! So always strive to reduce, reuse, recycle – and refuse! By reducing how much plastic we use, we help these sea creatures live long and healthy lives. Find resources to help you go DebrisFree at https://marinedebris.noaa.gov/discover-issue/solutions. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A view of a humpback whale from behind. Rope is wrapped around its tail.
Marine debris can have impacts no matter its size, from microplastics to large debris. Fishing gear, for example, can entangle large marine mammals like this humpback whale in NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Fortunately, teams of intrepid individuals are on the scene to help whales like this one. In Hawai‘i, the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network is a partnership of government state agencies, tour operators, fishers, and more who work together to free whales. This collaboration has freed more than 23 whales from entangling gear! If you see an entangled whale or other animal, please don't try to disentangle it yourself! These are large, wild animals that may be scared or panicked, and you put both yourself and the whale in danger by getting into the water with it. Instead, contact your local marine mammal stranding network: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/report.(Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under MMHSRP permit #932-1489)
An aerial photo of the coastline in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa
Ah, the beauty of a crystal clear sea – but is it really so clean? When we think of trash and plastic in the ocean, many of us picture big piles of large debris floating on the ocean surface. But the truth is that most of the plastic in the ocean is so small we can't even really see it. We call this microplastic. Plastic doesn't biodegrade; instead it breaks down into tiny, tiny pieces. Microplastics have been found in the stomachs of many marine organisms, from plankton to whales, and they can leach contaminants into the water. Because they're so small, they're incredibly difficult to remove from the ocean – you can't just scoop them out easily! So one of the best ways to stop microplastics from affecting our ocean is to keep plastics out of the water in the first place. What choices will you make today to help keep debris out of the ocean? Let us know in the comments! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
Many plastic bottle caps jumbled together after being picked up off a beach
Take a minute to think about the plastic you've used so far today. Did you get your coffee in a to-go cup with a plastic lid? Grab lunch takeout from the restaurant down the street? Get a plastic bag from the grocery store? Plastics are, of course, useful, but many of them end up in the trash and in the ocean. Because plastics don't biodegrade, they can persist in the environment for a long, long time. There, they can leach chemicals into the ocean, be mistaken for food by marine animals, and entangle marine life. The good news is that you can help! Say no to single-use plastic, recycle whenever possible, and get involved in local beach and watershed cleanups, and you can help keep our ocean and waterways clean and healthy. This week, we'll be bringing you information about marine debris and how you can help solve this problem. What questions do you have about trash in the ocean? (Photo: NOAA)
An underwater view of Gray's Reef, with fish swimming above a seafloor covered in invertebrates. A diver swims behind the fish.
"I came to work for NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary because I believe that in order to help preserve the biodiversity of our planet, we need healthy wilderness habitats. Our ocean offers the greatest example of wilderness but with the added challenge of remoteness. These habitats are harder for humans to reach and less known, but are equally impacted by human actions. Having a job that offers me the opportunity to make connections for people with the natural world is inspiring and a gift." – Jody Patterson, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary events and volunteer coordinator What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Aerial photo of an underwater shipwreck with snorkelers swimming above it
In NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, you can explore history beneath the waves! The cold, clear waters of Lake Huron help preserve the sanctuary's historic shipwrecks – and make it easy to see the shipwrecks while diving, snorkeling, or paddling. This is the wreck of Portland, which has rested in just six feet of water since it sank in 1877.(Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A purple and white octopus resting above seafloor sediment.
This octopus is much smaller than the mythical sea monster of old, but they both come from the deep sea. It was spotted in the Gulf of Mexico during a research expedition aboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018)
Mangroves seen from both above and below the waterline.
Mangrove magic! Mangroves are the key to the coastline in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Their dense roots lock the shoreline in place and diffuse energy from waves during storms. These natural buffers are a vital protection for island communities like the Florida Keys. Plus, they provide habitat to many creatures, including young fish seeking refuge from predators. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A view of a beach with seastacks and the ocean in the distance.
Wishing you could go back to the long weekend? Take a mid-week break by imagining yourself on the beautiful shores of Ruby Beach in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park. (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A Risso's dolphin leaping out of the water. It is covered in scars that are lighter than its mostly-gray body.
Sometimes spotted in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Risso's dolphins are easily identifiable by their white scars. These scars may be made by other Risso's dolphins or by squid, their preferred prey. These dolphins feed mostly at night, hunting squid that move toward the surface. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images/ Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies, under NOAA Fisheries Service Permit #20519)
A long-exposure image of the Milky Way.
In your national marine sanctuaries, you can get a glimpse of the world beneath the waves – and in many sanctuaries, you can experience the depths of the night sky. On a calm, clear night in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries videographer Nick Zachar captured this beautiful long exposure photo of the Milky Way. What's your favorite sanctuary to stargaze in? (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A reef scene at Stetson Bank, with a squirrelfish, sea urchins, and other small animals.
"I am fortunate to live only four blocks from the Gulf of Mexico, so visiting the beach to connect with the ocean is a regular experience. Just sitting next to it, feeling the breeze come off the water, watching the seagulls and other birds go about their business, sifting through all of the little shells washed up by the waves – all of these are connections for me." – Shelley Du Puy, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary education & outreach coordinator (Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA)
A dead Laysan albatross chick that has been dissected to show a stomach full of small plastic pieces.
Plastic trash can travel through watersheds and throughout the ocean. There, it breaks down into smaller pieces that animals may easily confuse for food. This is particularly a problem for seabirds like Laysan albatrosses, which skim the ocean surface for food and pick up plastic along the way. They then regurgitate the plastic to their chicks, who cannot digest it and may die as a result. This Laysan albatross – and many others like it – was born on Kure Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which is largely uninhabited and located more than a thousand miles from any major city. It died with a stomach full of debris. Your trash travels, so make sure to clean up after yourself and others to help keep wildlife safe and healthy. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
A stony coral releasing gametes.
Corals are stationary animals that build hard skeletons to protect their colonies. So how do they reproduce and ensure the genetic diversity of future generations? Earlier this month, the reef-building corals of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary spawned, releasing reproductive material into the water column where it has the opportunity to mix and produce larvae. Those larvae will drift along in the ocean until they find a suitable place to settle, and there they'll grow into a new generation of corals! (Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA)
A Pacific white-sided dolphin upside down in the air above the ocean, mid-backflip.
This Pacific white-sided dolphin is nofin if not acrobatic! These agile dolphins undertake incredible maneuvers like this on porpoise. This gymnast of a dolphin was spotted in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A humpback whale on its side at the ocean surface, extending one flipper into the air.
Humpback whales, like this one in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, have long flippers with bumps called tubercules on them. These tubercules make the humpback whale flippers more hydrodynamic, increasing humpback whale agility and helping the whales maneuver when catching fish. Researchers are studying this flipper shape to understand how to make more efficient wind turbines! (Photo: Dru Devlin/NOAA/Pt. Blue/ACCESS)
A close-up view of a Goliath grouper's head.
Goliath groupers can weigh up to 800 pounds! Once plentiful in the Florida Keys, these enormous fish were overfished almost to the vanishing point before regulations prohibited their harvest in U.S. waters in 1990. Now Goliath grouper populations are on the rebound in protected places like Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
White sea anemones cling to an underwater cliff.
Rocky reefs within Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary provide habitat for fish, invertebrates, seaweeds, and more. The giant plumose anemone is common on vertical walls, where they filter water for food. These anemones can reach three feet in height when their tentacles are fully extended!
A small blue and yellow damselfish swims over a sponge.
"I once had a single, small damselfish follow alongside me for whole hour as I swam across a bay from end to end. I'm not sure why it behaved that way – maybe it was habituated to people and thought I would feed it, or maybe it was just using me for cover from a reef shark that was also hanging around the area at the time. Regardless of the reason, the companionship struck me and the memory has lasted for years. It reminds me that every interaction we have with the natural world, even something as unassuming as a snorkel excursion, can affect some piece of that ecosystem – not necessarily in an obviously negative or positive way. You are always more than a spectator, whether you mean to be or not. I believe we all have a duty to be conscious of that implied responsibility." – Chiara Zuccarino-Crowe, Michigan Sea Grant outreach coordinator (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A colorful underwater view of a Florida Keys coral reef. Fish are visible in the distance.
Plunge into the weekend with a dive in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! This popular sanctuary supports more than 6,000 species of plants, fishes, and invertebrates, and is an ideal spot for diving, paddling, fishing, and more. (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
Two small black-and-white birds sit on the ocean surface facing one another with their beaks open.
What do you think these pigeon guillemots in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary are talking about? (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
A view of cliffs and an island over the ocean.
Picturing yourself in this paradise? National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is the perfect place to escape to, even if it's just in your mind! This remote national marine sanctuary preserves incredible biodiversity, as well as rich cultural history. (Photo: NOAA)
A translucent baby squid with red dots swims in a dish of water.
What are the speckles on this baby squid? Chromatophores! Chromatophores are special pigmented cells that enable squid, octopuses, and cuttlefish to rapidly change color and texture. This color-changing skill helps them camouflage themselves with their surroundings, and also assists with communication. This baby squid was found in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary by researchers with the ACCESS Partnership. ACCESS conducts regular monitoring expeditions within national marine sanctuaries in California to better understand habitat and ecosystem conditions. (Photo: Ryan Anderson/NOAA/Pt. Blue/ACCESS)
A white-spotted rose anemone begins to engulf a bat star.
This white-spotted rose anemone in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is devouring an unlucky bat star. Sea anemones may appear to be flower-like blobs, but this diverse group of invertebrates has many feeding styles and are typically carnivorous! They can eat fish, jellyfish, crabs, sea stars, and even other anemones. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
A humpback whale breaching sideways out of the water.
Every winter, thousands of humpback whales make their way to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. In the warm waters surrounding Hawai‘i, these whales mate, calve, and nurse their young. In the sanctuary, mothers can be seen swimming alongside their calves, while males can be seen competing with one another for females in fierce head-to-head battles. Learn more about the sanctuary at hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov! (Photo: Karen Grosskreutz/NOAA, under NOAA permit #15240)
A humpback whale lunge-feeding at the ocean surface.
"Being able to give back to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as a docent at the Sanctuary Exploration Center has been a privilege and an honor. Being able to see this Serengeti of the Sea through the eyes of people from all over the globe is a thrill." – Sandy Cohen, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary volunteer docent (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Two belted sandfish swim within a pink sponge.
More than 200 species of fish seek shelter and food in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary – including belted sandfish like these. Here in this rocky area off the coast of Georgia, you'll find fish, sponges, crabs, soft corals, and more! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A white humpback whale flipper reaching out of the ocean.
Humpback whale flippers are huge – up to one-third the length of the whale's body! These flippers are what inspired its scientific name, Megaptera, which means "big-winged." (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under MMHSRP Permit #20311)
A closeup view of a leatherback sea turtle's head while it swims at the ocean surface. A sea nettle tentacle is hanging out from the corner of its mouth.
Did you know the largest sea turtle in the world can be found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, just off the coast of California? Leatherback sea turtles like this one can be more than six feet long and weigh more than 2,000 pounds. These huge turtles have a big appetite for jellyfish – look closely, and you can see the tentacles of a sea nettle jelly hanging out of this one's mouth. That food preference puts them especially at risk from marine debris, as floating plastic bags and other plastics look remarkably like swimming jellies. Help protect these endangered sea turtles and always dispose of your trash properly! (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Snowy egret chicks in a nest hidden within greenery.
Look at these baby dinosaurs – er, snowy egrets – in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary! These awkward-looking chicks will one day grow up to be elegant, long-legged adults. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
A hawksbill sea turtle swims through a coral reef.
This hawksbill sea turtle in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is cruising through Turtle Tuesday. Sea turtles may seem to move slowly, but their flippers make them efficient swimmers and they can migrate thousands of miles across the globe. Who knows where this sea turtle will travel next? (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA)
A 360-degree spherical image of researchers on the water in a small boat. The larger research vessel is visible toward the horizon.
The world looks a little different when you're out at sea! The research team in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument took this 360-degree photo last year during an expedition to monitor intertidal organisms. (Photo: NOAA)
Anna (left) and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator Dr. David Wiley examine a shearwater that Wiley is holding.
"I am really proud to be affiliated with the great shearwater research program in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary as a Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar. The team tags birds with satellite tags each summer while taking a wealth of other data and samples from each tagged individual, and has so far identified some important trends in seabird habitat use and feeding preferences. This tagging work is both novel and highly valuable for fisheries management and seabird ecology. The team also gets to use fish gut catapults and other ingenious field gear to make the tagging happen, obviously making these research trips a big highlight of my year!" – Anna Robuck, Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar & URI Graduate School of Oceanography Ph.D. student (Photo: NOAA)
A purple and brown giant clam attached to rocks and corals.
Check out this beautiful purple giant clam in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Once nestled into a location on the reef, giant clams remain stationary throughout life, and play a major role in reef community structure. Like corals, giant clams have developed symbiotic relationships with algae called zooxanthellae. In return for shelter, zooxanthellae provide giant clams with nutrients they've photosynthesized. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A leather star resting on a rock beneath the water.
Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight! The rich waters of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary support a tremendous diversity of marine invertebrates. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A cormorant in flight.
Cormorants are just one of many varieties of seabird found in sanctuaries like Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. But unlike many seabirds, cormorant feathers aren't coated in a waterproofing oil. That means these birds have to spend much of their time sunning themselves and drying their wings. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A right whale surfaces so that part of its head is visible. A small seabird rests on the ocean surface in front of it.
Get a close-up glimpse of this North Atlantic right whale's baleen! Many whales have hundreds of plates of keratin – the same material that makes up your fingernails – that hang down from their upper jaw. These plates are known as baleen, and act like a strainer. The whale takes in a big gulp of water (and krill or fish), closes its mouth, pushes the water out through the baleen, and then slurps down the krill or fish left behind in its mouth. That way they get a belly full of food, and not saltwater! Each year, North Atlantic right whales travel north to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts to feed. North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, with only a few hundred left. Find out how the sanctuary is helping to protect them. (Photo: Peter Flood)
A researcher holds up a sieve filled with zooplankton. Another researcher kneels on the ship deck behind her. Both are smiling at the camera.
How do researchers track ecosystem health in our West Coast national marine sanctuaries? With regular surveys! The ACCESS Partnership supports marine wildlife conservation and healthy marine ecosystems by conducting regular ocean research throughout Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The data we collect helps resource managers understand ocean conditions and how they're changing over time. Here, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator Danielle Lipski (right) and student intern Grace Kumaishi (left) process zooplankton samples that were collected from 100 meters below the ocean surface. (Photo: Jaime Jahncke, NOAA/GFA/Pt. Blue/ACCESS)
A Hawaiian monk seal swims underwater and looks at the camera.
Why hello – I didn't seal you there! This curious pinniped is none other than a Hawaiian monk seal, or ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua in Hawaiian. Though they are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, there is some good news -- populations have increased by three percent annually for the past three years thanks to work by NOAA and our partners. Today, about 1,100 live in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, while an additional 300 reside in the Main Hawaiian Islands. If you see a Hawaiian monk seal on the beach or in the ocean, please let us know so we can better understand and track this endangered species! Get more info on how to how to report sightings. (Photo: Andrew Gray/NOAA)
Two kayakers talking to one another.
Volunteers help make sanctuaries fantastic places to visit and play. In Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, for example, Team OCEAN volunteers are trained naturalists who kayak throughout the sanctuary. These naturalists serve as docents on the water, teaching visitors about respectful wildlife viewing and the incredible ecosystems of the sanctuary. (Photo: Amity Wood/NOAA)
Two surfers stand on the beach at sunset in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Two surfers stand on the beach at sunset in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A brain coral releases egg bundles.
Every August, seven to 10 days after the full moon, the reef-building corals within the sanctuary put on a fantastic spawning display, onTA brain coral releases egg bundles.e of the most abundant displays in the entire Caribbean. Most scientists agree that these mass spawning events are designed to allow genetic mixing and dispersal of offspring over large distances. Plus, the sheer volume of the events allow for the fertilization and survival of a significant number of larvae despite the best efforts of predators. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
A snorkeler swims beneath the water, just above the wooden remains of a shipwreck.
Located in Lake Huron, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects one of the best-preserved and nationally-significant collections of shipwrecks in the United States. Here, a snorkeler explores the wreck of the two-masted schooner Portland, which sank in 1877. While many of the wrecks within the sanctuary are deep and only accessible by divers, Portland rests in a shallow area only six feet beneath the surface. That makes it easy to explore while snorkeling or kayaking! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A sea lion leaps out of the ocean near a beach. Additional sea lions are hauled out on the beach behind the leaping sea lion, and another sea lion is at the ocean surface in the foreground watching it.
Wheeeeee! This California sea lion is having a blast leaping out of the water in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. What do you think the sea lion in the foreground thinks of all this revelry? (Photo: Jeff Harris/NOAA)
Humpback whales lunge feeding at the ocean surface. Small fish are jumping through the water to try to escape.
Feeding frenzy! Each summer, humpback whales are drawn to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for its abundance of food sources like anchovies. Humpback whales use a number of feeding techniques, including lunge feeding, pictured here. When lunge feeding, a whale moves quickly toward the surface and opens its mouth, taking a huge gulp of water so its throat pleats expand. It then closes its mouth and pushes the water out through its baleen, filtering the water so that fish and krill are left behind in its mouth. Yum!(Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A large rock overlooking the ocean. The rock has honeycomb-like depressions in its surface.
A fossilized wasp nest in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary? Not quite! This is a tafoni formation, also known as honeycomb weathering. The divots are created over time when salty air and saltwater hit sandstone and collect in small depressions on the rock. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
Three people on an inflatable boat holding their hands up in celebration; the boat is holding piles of nets and other debris.
"Before I was the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument superintendent, I served as a member of a multi-agency team that spent a month in the monument removing nets and other discarded debris from the reefs and islands. We spent hours each day searching for and removing nets tangled on reefs that could have been entanglement hazards for all the protected and unique species that inhabit these remote islands. In a month we pulled over 20 tons of nets, buoys, line, and other debris off the reefs and shorelines. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and a daily reminder of why we need to do all we can to keep our ocean clean and healthy." – Athline Clark, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument superintendent (Photo: NOAA)
A tiger shark lunges at a Laysan albatross. The shark's head is above water and its jaws are open; the Laysan albatross is also at the surface.
Look out! This tiger shark (niuhi in Hawaiian) is about to snag a Laysan albatross snack in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Because of their association with shark attacks – and those impressive teeth – tiger sharks are feared by many people. But sharks like the tiger shark are incredibly important animals in ocean environments, helping keep ecosystems in balance. This Shark Week, thank a shark for keeping our ocean healthy! (Photo: Ilana Nimz/NOAA)
A sand tiger shark swims through a shipwreck.
When surveying shipwrecks throughout the Graveyard of the Atlantic, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary archaeologists often get to see sand tiger sharks like this one! Sand tiger sharks look fearsome due to their rows of protruding, ragged teeth. But in reality, they're quite docile! Shipwrecks serve as artificial reefs along the seafloor, attracting small fish and invertebrates, which are exactly what sand tiger sharks are interested in. Diving on a shipwreck? Give sand tiger sharks plenty of space and they'll do the same for you. (Photo: NOAA)
A view of mangrove trees looking up through the water.
This Shark Week, don't forget to think about shark habitat! Mangroves like these in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary serve as nurseries for sharks and other organisms. Mangroves are trees that grow in coastal waters, creating a dense tangle of roots throughout shallow water. These roots provide shelter to young sharks, which can prey on other small creatures that make their home in the mangroves. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A spiny dogfish shark turns away from the camera.
Not all sharks are big! Spiny dogfish, like this one in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, are only three or four feet long. But though they are little, they are fierce. Sharp venomous spines on front of each dorsal fin protect them from predators, and they relentlessly pursue prey like fishes, crabs, and squid. (Photo: Rick Starr/NOAA)
A black-and-white photo of a sandbar shark.
Sharks – like this sandbar shark in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary – have several adaptations that make them excellent predators. Specialized organs called ampullae of Lorenzini help sharks sense electric fields in the water generated by other fish. Their eyes, too, are specially adapted: all shark eyes have a tapetum lucidum, a layer of mirrored crystals located behind the retina, allowing them to see in in low light conditions and up to ten times better than humans in clear water. Despite these adaptations, sandbar sharks and other sharks typically pose little threat to humans. We're more dangerous to them than they are to us! (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A shark swims above a coral reef in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
A shark swims above a coral reef in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. (Photo: John Burns/NOAA)
A male elephant seal bellows while on a beach.
"I often think of the connectivity of the National Marine Sanctuary System. I think, for example, of elephant seals that may pass through Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary before making their way to Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Although we still have a lot to do for marine conservation, knowing that these sanctuaries provide habitat for all walks of marine life, from marine mammals to crustaceans, reminds me that we have done so much good already and we are only going to continue to do better." –Nissa Kriedler, Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
Two yellow, black, and white-striped anemonefish swim above a large sea anemone.
A special mucus layer on anemonefish – like these two in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa – allows them to live among anemones without being stung. In return for the protection the anemone provides, the anemone gets food leftovers from the fish. Plus, the anemonefish is quite protective of its home, so it chases away anything that might be interested in chowing down on the anemone! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A close-up of a young hawksbill sea turtle being held in a person's hand.
A turtley awesome success story! Last year, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary partnered with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to conduct assessments of suspected and known shipwrecks off North Carolina. On their way out to one site, researchers teamed up with NC Wildlife Resources Commission to bring along two rehabilitated sea turtles for release. This is a juvenile hawksbill named Puck, who got to go home to the ocean! (Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA)
A circular image of white anemones and other invertebrates clinging to an underwater rock.
Find a different world beneath the waves at Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! Tatoosh Island in the sanctuary has numerous channels, arches, and overhands. The giant plumose anemone is common on vertical walls, and filters water as it passes by. What else can you spot in this underwater view? (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA, in collaboration with The Ocean Agency)
A closeup view of orange and white coral polyps.
Coral: animal, vegetable, or mineral? Animal! Corals are actually made up of tiny animals called polyps. These polyps have little tentacles that they use to reach out and grab food, which they funnel in toward their stomach. Most coral polyps are nocturnal and retract inside the coral skeleton during the day. But on a night dive in places like Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary you might get to see the polyps in action! (Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA)
A humpback whale swims at the ocean surface. The photo shows half above water, and half below; land is visible in the background.
Take a deep breath and imagine you're swimming through the warm waters of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary like this glorious humpback whale! (Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under NOAA permit 14682)
A sea lion, underwater, looks directly at the camera.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary protects thriving kelp forests, bustling tide pools, and more. Here, you'll find more than a million seabirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds, as well as 29 species of marine mammals – including sea lions! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A black oystercatcher comes in for a landing over the surf. Note: this is not the bird that was transported to the wildlife rehabilitation center.
"Our nonprofit partnered with Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to bring 350 students to their sanctuary this year. Many of the students had never been to the ocean. To culminate their classroom lessons about marine debris, elementary students from Paso Robles, California, took a field trip to sanctuary. On the trip, the students noticed a bird in distress at the end of a pier, caught in discarded fishing line. They notified park rangers who captured the bird. The students helped transport the bird to the nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. It was the most memorable marine debris lesson ever!" – Gregory Ellis, One Cool Earth executive director (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A black-and-white photo of a swimming shark in silhouette. The sun is visible through the water toward the top of the photo.
Sharks get a bad rap, but they're actually incredibly important animals in ocean environments. For one thing, sharks help remove dead or decaying debris from the ocean. This shark was photographed at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
A close-up view of a sea spider resting on a sponge. The sea spider is black and looks quite spidery, with a small central body and thin legs.
Ssea spiders are actually arthropods related to crustaceans and insects. This one was spotted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A close-up of a coralline sculpin. This fish is bright pink and tan, and has bulging eyes that are looking directly ahead toward the camera.
What're you looking at? This startling photo of a coralline sculpin placed third in Save Our Shores' Waves and Wildlife Photo Contest celebrating Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Coralline sculpins use their color and texture as camouflage that helps them hide from bigger fish and birds that might eat them! (Photo: Phil Lemley)
A golden-tinged view of the cliffs along the California coastline.
Talk about the golden hour! This gorgeous photo of a sunset at Point Lobos placed 2nd in Save Our Shores' Waves and Wildlife Photo Contest celebrating Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. What's your favorite place to watch the sunset over the sanctuary? (Photo: Amelia Olson)
A distant harbor seal swims away from the camera. The seal is framed by kelp.
This ethereal image of a harbor seal in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was the winner of Save Our Shores' Waves and Wildlife Photo Contest celebrating the sanctuary! Harbor seals are one of more than 30 species of marine mammals found in the sanctuary, and can be spotted swimming through kelp forests and basking on and near shore. (Photo: Michael Langhans)
A colorful drawing of a sea butterfly, a kind of swimming sea snail. Unlike some sea butterflies, this species does not have a shell.
Each year, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary holds a student art contest in partnership with Massachusetts Marine Educators. Winchester High School 9th-grader Amy Wang won the "Scientific Illustration" category this year with her beautiful illustration of sea butterflies. Congratulations, Amy! (Image: Amy Wang)
A crab rests beneath a sea anemone on the deep-sea floor of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
"It was 3:42 am. Still pitch black outside and bleary-eyed, I scarfed down a croissant before my 4 am watch. That morning was miserable. I seldom get sea sick, but I couldn't keep my croissant down; needless to say, I was not looking forward spending the next four hours sitting in a dark shipping container trying to focus on monitors. But, when I stumbled up to the control van, I became transfixed on the screens. Dozens of beautiful bamboo corals extended out from a rocky wall like elegant fingers. A crab, perched on the wall, began to scuttle across and I quickly forgot about my seasickness and was instead mesmerized by the majesty of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. From the sea surface, you would never guess such stunning environments were just beneath the water in complete darkness! It was such a treat to see such a rare glimpse of the benthos and I was even more excited in anticipation of learning the stories of the deep sea through the chemistry of the corals in order to help protect their habitat." – Carina Fish, UC Davis/Bodega Marine Laboratory - University of California, Davis graduate student (Photo: OET/NOAA)
A snowy egret perched in a tree. The feathers on its head are sticking straight up.
Snowy egrets are one of many bird species found throughout Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
Broken-up ice lines the shore of Lake Huron.
Broken-up ice lines the shore of Lake Huron. (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A person bends over a large conglomeration of fishing nets and other debris that is submerged in shallow ocean water.
Trash travels: every year, NOAA staff journey out to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to remove literal TONS of debris from these remote islands. Though the islands are largely uninhabited, ocean currents carry trash to their shores from far and wide, putting animals like albatross, Hawaiian monk seals, and green sea turtles at risk. What will you do to help keep these islands – and other ocean habitats – debris free? (Photo: Koa Matsuoka)
A close-up view of a sea anemone. Its tentacles are white, while its body is yellow and bright pink.
A close-up view of a fish-eating anemone in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
A parasitic jaeger in flight opens its mouth to catch falling fish.
Parasitic jaegers often chase other birds and force them to drop their food. (Photo: Peter Flood)
A white plastic bag lies crumpled on the sandy bottom of the ocean. Two anemones – one purple, one orange – are on the bag.
Trash we discard here on land can make its way into the sea, where it travels into distant ecosystems. This plastic bag, for example, was lying at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico all the way at 5,250 feet – almost a mile down! By refusing, reducing, reusing, repurposing, and recycling, you can help reduce marine debris and negative impacts on wildlife throughout the ocean. (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research)
A person in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument adds a large handful of brightly colored plastic lighters to a bin. Only the person's arms are clearly visible; they are wearing work gloves. This is a photo from the annual cleanup of remote islands within the monument.
"I worked for a wildlife charter before working for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. I witnessed plastic pollution in various forms. I witnessed two turtles bound by plastic outside of Yokohama Bay. Authorities were notified and the turtles were disentangled. I've also retrieved plastic bags from the water – removing just one bag could potentially remove at least one animal from harm's way. Like the National Marine Sanctuary System, we all rely on each other's actions for improvement and change. One person can't save the world, but we can save lives. It's up to each one of us to do our part to save these animals and oceans. As each saved life accumulates, these efforts can and will be noticeable globally." – Caroline Jackson, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument administrative assistant (Photo: NOAA)
An orca flipping its tail out of the water. Its dorsal fin, back, and tail are visible. A bird flies above.
How do animals like orcas perfect the skills they need to survive? With plenty of practice! This young orca in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is practicing the tail-slap, a hunting technique that helps stun prey. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images/Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies, under NMFS permit #20519)
A sea lion rests at the ocean surface in a mass of kelp. It is holding its flippers and head out of the water.
While it may look like this sea lion in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is waving, it's likely actually regulating its temperature. Sea lions use their flippers to help cool down. Their flippers have less blubber than the rest of their body, so heat can escape from the flipper's surface when sea lions hold them above the water. (Photo: Dru Devlin/NOAA)
A bat ray disturbing the sand on the ocean floor. Kelp is visible in the background.
A bat ray near Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. These graceful creatures use their fins to expose buried prey like clams and other mollusks. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
Many white grunts swim around staghorn coral.
Many white grunts swim around staghorn coral in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Daryl Duda, submission to the 2017 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest)
A head-on view of a common dolphin leaping forward out of the water.
A levitating dolphin? Not quite! When small cetaceans like this common dolphin make low leaps near the surface of the water while they travel, they are said to be porpoising. There are several theories about why dolphins leap like this, but some researchers believe it enables them to save energy. (Photo: Peter Flood, taken near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary)
A female snorkeler swims above a very large coral formation.
Dive in to your week like this snorkeler at Rose Atoll Marine National Monument in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Then take a break from work and go on a virtual tour. (Photo: Ian Shive/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
An overhead view of a kayak pulled out on shore in Gerstle Cove in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.
"I believe actions speak louder than words and that it is essential to lead by example and show integrity in everything we do. I encourage my family to conserve water and respect wild and marine life. I try to inspire my family to appreciate nature. I also encourage my family to not litter and not be wasteful." – Jen L., NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries environmental compliance coordinator (Photo: Maria Brown/NOAA)
A portrait of a Brandt's cormorant underwater. It appears to be looking at the camera, and there is kelp in the background.
A portrait of a Brandt's cormorant underwater. This photo was a submission to the 2017 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest. (Photo: Curtis Wee)
A humpback whale surfacing and exhaling. A rainbow refracts above it.
A humpback whale surfacing and exhaling. A rainbow refracts above it.(Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A close-up view of a translucent larval squid.
In their larval stage, squid are tiny and translucent. Your national marine sanctuaries provide refuge for young squid and octopuses to grow to adulthood! (Photo: Matt Wilson/Jay Clark/NOAA)
An orange and white octopus sits on a coral reef. The octopus's coloration and texture makes it well-camouflaged with the coral around it.
A day octopus – or he’e mauli in Hawaiian – sits pretty at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Many cephalopods have special cells in their skin tissue called chromatophores that enable them to change color very rapidly. A part of their neuromuscular system, these cells receive signals from the environment that an octopus can use to inform color change. Octopodes of this particular species can change color almost instantly as they move over their environment, making them nearly invisible to predators! (Photo: Andrew Gray/NOAA)
A pink octopus moves away from the camera. A light orange deep-sea coral is in the foreground to the left.
A kraken of the depths? Not quite – but this octopus WAS spotted in the deep sea. Many different octopus species live in deep waters! Researchers from NOAA and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) glimpsed this octopus, Graneledone boreopacifica, hanging out at a depth of 6473 feet in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary among some deep-sea corals. (Photo: NOAA/MBARI)
A reddish octopus peers out from behind a rocky ledge covered in encrusting invertebrates.
This common octopus in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is coming out of its hiding place to see what all the fuss is about. What's your favorite sanctuary cephalopod? (Photo: Tim Henkel/Valdosta State University)
Nick stands on a beach, leaning over a video camera set up on a tripod. This image was taken on Ruby Beach in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, and the ocean and sea stacks are visible in the background.
"I am excited to have the special opportunity to share these treasures with the public through storytelling and video. It is a dream of mine to tell stories of conservation and environmental stewardship, and I am really proud to tell these stories within the National Marine Sanctuary System." – Nick Zachar, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries videographer (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A green sea turtle swimming just above an algae-covered ledge. The water's surface is visible in the top third of the photo.
Green sea turtles are often seen in many of your national marine sanctuaries – including Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. In Hawaiian, these turtles are known as honu. Have you seen one while visiting your sanctuaries? (Photo: Ali Bayless/NOAA)
A green sea turtle and a Hawaiian monk seal rest on a beach, cuddled up to one another.
This green sea turtle and Hawaiian monk seal are exhausted from all the celebrating! Both of these at-risk species find safe haven in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which protects more than 580,000 square miles of ocean and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA, under NMFS Research Permit #10137)
A Kemp's ridley sea turtle swims at the ocean surface, with its head poking above the water.
What's the smallest sea turtle in the world? The Kemp's ridley turtle! These wee sea turtles only grow to about two feet in length – from the tiny tiny hatchling size of 1.5 inches. These endangered turtles can be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. This one was spotted off the coast of Hatteras, North Carolina, not too far from NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. If you're lucky, you might also see them in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Peter Flood)
A hawksbill turtle rests on the reef floor. A diver swims up above it.
Did you know you can find sea turtles at every single site within the National Marine Sanctuary System, with the exception of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary? It's true! Our sanctuary system protects crucial habitat and breeding grounds for many species of sea turtles. In Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, for example, you'll find both loggerheads and hawksbills – the photo here shows a hawksbill. These relatively small turtles search in the holes and crevices of coral reefs to find sponges and other invertebrates to eat. (Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA)
A green sea turtle rests on a beach. In the foreground is a pile of derelict fishing nets.
One of the major threats to sea turtles is entanglement in fishing gear and other marine debris. Each year, threatened green sea turtles make their way to breeding grounds in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Although these islands are largely uninhabited and are protected by Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, ocean currents carry enormous quantities of trash here from around the world. More than 50 tons of debris enters monument waters each year! Here, fishing nets and other debris can entangle breeding adults and young hatchlings. You can help protect these and other sea turtles by reducing the amount of plastic you use and participating in beach and watershed cleanups. What actions will you take? (Photo: Andy Collins/NOAA)
A close-up of a hawksbill turtle that is looking directly at the camera. A small GPS tag is attached to its shell.
This endangered hawksbill turtle wants to be sure you know! Hawksbills are just one of several species of sea turtle found within the waters of NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Look closely and you can see a GPS-linked satellite tag on its shell. This tag helps NOAA researchers track its movements, so we can better understand which habitats are critical for hawksbill recovery. (Photo: Don McLeish/NOAA)
A girl holding an airplane made out of multicolored straws.
Ocean Guardianship in action! Second grader Cassie Munoz created this airplane as part of her school's airplane design contest. Her goal was to reuse the straws in her family's home and to raise awareness about the amount of plastic that enters our ocean. Be inspired by Cassie and say no to straws, and help reduce plastic pollution! You can learn more about the Ocean Guardian School Program. (Photo: Ann Munoz)
A bright pink jellyfish extends its tentacles downward. The sea around it is dark, with small particles of marine snow illuminated.
Hot pink in the deep sea? When exploring the deep ocean, researchers will often spot creatures that appear pink or red when we shine a light on them – like this jelly in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. That coloration is actually an evolutionary advantage! Red light doesn't penetrate to ocean depths, so a red fish or jelly will essentially be invisible. Read more about this ocean phenomenon. (Photo: NOAA)
A gray whale mother and her calf swim through the surface of a kelp forest in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
A gray whale mother and her calf swim through the surface of a kelp forest in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A close-up of a squat lobster.
Squat lobsters like this one spend most of their lives on the sea floor, though juveniles will swarm throughout the water column to feed on plankton. Although we call them lobsters, they are actually more closely related to hermit crabs. (Photo: NOAA)
Two common dolphins at the ocean surface.
Common dolphins like these are one of 36 species of marine mammals found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. What other species can you name? Can you name all 36? (Photo: Karen Grimmer/NOAA)
A lush coral reef including several species of coral and other invertebrates. Fish swim around the coral.
Your national marine sanctuaries protect all sorts of ecosystems, including coral reefs – like this gorgeous one at Rose Atoll in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Coral reefs support enormous biodiversity – you'll find more species per unit in these reefs than any other ecosystem on Earth. Plus, they harbor lush fisheries, protect our coastlines from storm surge and erosion, and support to local economies through tourism. This World Environment Day, thank a coral reef! (Photo: Ian Shive/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A close-up on a Hawaiian monk seal's face. Its eyes are closed and it is nestled under greenery in a way that makes the plants look like a flower crown.
This Hawaiian monk seal made its own flower crown for a seal-fie! These endangered seals haul out on beaches throughout Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to rest and look generally fabulous. Make sure to give them plenty of space so they can enjoy their time on the beach!
A group of sea lions swimming underwater.
"There is incredible diversity in each sanctuary on our planet that we work to protect, it's absolutely inspiring. People of all ages, from all different backgrounds, come together to fight for something so vitally important and beautiful. Once you explore it, you're hooked. I try to be a member on as many conservation boards as I can and educate myself and others on the future of our oceans and waters. For me, it's always a very rewarding experience to bring people out to NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, to really SHOW them rather than tell them. It's easy to become inspired in a sanctuary as beautiful as in the Channel Islands." – Michael Cohen, Channel Islands Adventure Company founder (Photo: Cindy Shaw)
An adult northern fulmar taking off from the surface of the ocean. The bird is facing away from the camera.
How did the fulmar get its name? This seabird's name comes from Old Norse for "foul gull." To defend themselves and their nest site, fulmar chicks will projectile vomit a foul-smelling stomach oil. How's that for a tern-off? (Photo: Peter Pearsall/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A view through a school of Atlantic spadefish. The fish are silver with black stripes. The light of the sun is visible on the right-hand side of the photo through the water column.
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary has fish in spades – spadefish, that is! Divers visiting this sanctuary off the coast of Georgia are often surrounded by schooling fish like these. Learn about diving in your sanctuaries.(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A black-legged kittiwake and Cory's shearwater flying close to one another.
"Hey, I'm flying here!" This black-legged kittiwake and Cory's shearwater got a little close while flying in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Fowl play, perhaps? (Photo: Peter Flood)
A red and brown hermit crab occupying a snail shell.
Feeling a little crabby? You're in good company! Hermit crabs can be found in many of your national marine sanctuaries, including NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, like this one. These wee crustaceans use empty shells to protect themselves. As they get bigger, they move into larger, more accommodating shells. (Photo: NOAA)
A close-up on the face of a Steller sea lion with its mouth wide open.
A close-up on the face of a Steller sea lion with its mouth wide open. This photo was taken in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Katy Laveck Foster)
A diver carrying a camera swims above a sunken aircraft wing.
Today, for Memorial Day, we honor the many men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation. In addition to protecting important ecosystems and habitats, your National Marine Sanctuary System also protects maritime heritage resources that tell the story of our maritime nation. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, for example, protects the waters around Midway Atoll, which are the resting place for at least 31 sunken aircraft that are considered war graves. The Battle of Midway was one of the most decisive U.S. victories of WWII and is referred to as the turning point of the war in the Pacific. Here, a diver documents the wing section of a F4U Corsair. Find out more about a recent expedition to explore these aircraft and honor the legacy of the brave men who helped to turn the tide in the Pacific. (Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
Members of the Chumash community paddle a traditional tomol, or plank canoe. The sun is rising in the background and the paddlers are in silhouette.
"In my capacity as a caretaker of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, I am always humbled by the knowledge that the first people of these islands and waters, the Chumash, have known for thousands of years about the life-sustaining, culturally-defining and sacred nature of this place. As I go about our work, I strive to learn from and honor these indigenous values and the Chumash people of our community. Through this native connection and wisdom, our sanctuary mission is even more profound." – Mike Murray, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary deputy superintendent for programs (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A close-up view of a sunflower star's arm. Small tube feet are reaching away from the arm.
How do sea stars get around? With tube feet! In this closeup of a sunflower star in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, you can see how it uses its tube feet to explore the world around it. In addition to locomotion, sea stars use their tube feet to pass food toward their mouth. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
A closeup of a graysby in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which appears to be looking at the camera. The fish is greenish-gray with red spots.
Don't look so surprised – it's time again for the annual Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! We're looking for your best photos of sanctuary seascapes, animals, and visitors. Learn how to enter at https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/photo-contest.html. (Photo: Steve Miller; entry into the 2017 Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest)
A black-footed albatross flies above the ocean. The bird's plumage is brown, and its wings stretch from the top of the photo to the bottom.
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1989 to protect the lush ecosystems on and around Cordell Bank, a rocky feature off the coast of California. Marine mammals and migratory seabirds – like black-footed albatrosses, pictured here – travel here from all over the Pacific Ocean to feed! (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A loggerhead sea turtle swims near the sea floor. Its shell has numerous barnacles encrusted on it. In the background, fish swim over a ledge covered in invertebrates.
Sea turtles are found in almost all of your national marine sanctuaries. Loggerhead turtles like this one often frequent NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. Here, they can be spotted resting among the natural reef ledges and basking at the ocean's surface. (Photo: Peter Auster/NOAA/UConn/Mystic Aquarium)
A California sheephead swims through a sunlit kelp forest.
Kelp forests, like those in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and other West Coast sanctuaries, are home to enormous biodiversity. Kelp forests provide food and shelter for many marine animals. Here, you'll find juvenile fish hiding from predators, sea stars hunting sea urchins, sea otters searching for invertebrate snacks, and more. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A close-up view of a starburst anemone.
Explore the tidepools of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and you're likely to see anemones like this starburst anemone! Though anemones look rather like flowers, they're actually animals. Their "petals" are stinging tentacles that they use to gather food like small fish and crabs toward their mouth. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
Fish swim above the wreck of the German U-boat U-85.
"Working for NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary opened my world to a new appreciation for cultural resources and our nation’s maritime heritage. I love telling people the wonderful stories of the Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor, and its brave crew, the Monitor Boys. Our sanctuary also researches the rich maritime history that exists all around Monitor, up and down the North Carolina coast, including World War I and World War II shipwrecks. With each shipwreck, I eagerly dive in to learn its stories and share them with students, teachers, and the public!" – Shannon Ricles, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary education and outreach coordinator (Photo: Steve Sellers/NOAA)
A humpback whale in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary breaches toward the right. Nearly its entire body is out of the water.
A humpback whale in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Jane Fay Baker)
A Hawaiian monk seal scoots on the beach toward the ocean. A small transmitter is attached to its back. Birds take flight in the background.
The National Marine Sanctuary System provides important refuge for many endangered species, from leatherback sea turtles to Hawaiian monk seals like this one. Though Hawaiian monk seals are one of the most endangered marine mammals on the planet, through protection efforts by NOAA and our partners, their numbers have been increasing over the past several years. Here, a rehabilitated monk seal heads home to the ocean in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The transmitter on its back will allow researchers to track its movements and learn more about Hawaiian monk seal populations. If you see a Hawaiian monk seal when you're in Hawai‘i, you can help protect it by giving it plenty of space so it can rest or hunt. You can also help by reporting your sightings to the island's local Marine Mammal Response Coordinator. The more we know about where these seals are, the better we can care for them! (Photo: NOAA)
A tan-colored octopus blends into sand on the seafloor.
If I stay very still, you can't see me! Octopuses like this one in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary are masters of disguise. Special pigmented cells called chromatophores allow them to change color and texture in the flash of an eye, helping them hide from predators and prey alike! (Photo: Alicia Reigel/LSU)
A side view of a California brown sea hare grazing on algae. The sea hare has two sensory organs on top of its head that look like rabbit ears.
Did you know that rabbits live in the ocean? Well, not exactly – but you can find sea hares! California brown sea hares like this one in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are actually large sea slugs. They get their name from the sensory organs on their heads that look rather like rabbit ears. Also like rabbits, they are grazers, though they far prefer algae to anything terrestrial. Have you spotted sea hares while tidepooling or diving in your California sanctuaries? (Photo: Dr. Tony Knight)
A close view of a nudibranch, a shell-less mollusk. The nudibranch is dark red, with orange branching gills.
Bad hair day? Not quite! This is Dendronotus iris, a kind of nudibranch. Those "hairs" you see are actually branching gills, which can be tipped with white, orange, yellow, or purple. This nudibranch prowls the rocky reefs of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for anemones to chow down on. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
A black and white North Atlantic right whale breaches out of the water. Its belly and flippers are visible.
Now that's a whale of a breach! This North Atlantic right whale was photographed breaching in the waters near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, with only about 450 remaining. After years of being hunted for their blubber and baleen, today they are at risk of entanglement and ship strikes. There is some good news: Stellwagen Bank is working closely with partners like NOAA Fisheries to protect these whales and reduce threats. (Photo: Peter Flood)
A photo of a kelp forest in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Yellow-brown giant kelp waves in the current in the foreground on the left side of the picture. In the background on the right, hundreds of fish swim.
"As a biology student and someone who is passionate about ocean conservation, I learn more and more of the negative trends in which our environment is heading. Sanctuaries give me hope that not all will be lost. Sanctuary waters are full of healthy marine life and incredibly beautiful ecosystems. Seeing how vibrant our ocean can be inspires me to be a better guest to this planet." – Savanna Mahn, constituent and legislative affairs volunteer intern, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A white and brown Laysan albatross stands over a small fluffy chick. The adult is looking down at the chick.
This weekend we celebrate both World Migratory Bird Day and Mother's Day – and what better way than with Wisdom the Laysan albatross? At about 67 years old, Wisdom is the oldest known wild bird in the world, and is a mother many times over! Here she is with her 2017 chick on Midway Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Every year, Laysan albatrosses and numerous other bird species migrate from their feeding grounds to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to breed and raise their chicks. Protecting these places helps ensure the survival of new generations! (Photo: Naomi Blinick/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A brown duck walks on wet sand, leaning forward with its bill near the sand.
This little cutie is none other than the Laysan duck. These ducks are considered the rarest native waterfowl in the United States: while once they were found throughout the Hawaiian Islands, today they only reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. There, they're protected by Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. In recent years, Pacific Islands: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has relocated some Laysan ducks from Laysan Island to Midway Atoll and Kure Atoll, in order to increase their chance of survival! (Photo: Wayne Levin)
A close-up photo of a long-tailed jaeger in flight over water, seeming to look at the camera.
Long-tailed jaegers are just one of the many birds to visit Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: Peter Flood)
A snowy egret stands in shallow water. The bird is white, with a long neck, yellow and black bill, and black legs.
Whether you're a birdwatching beginner or an avian expert, national marine sanctuaries are a bird enthusiast's paradise! Snowy egrets are just one of the hundreds of species of bird to visit Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Keep a sharp eye on the shallows and you might spot these beautiful birds using their brilliant yellow feet to stir up prey! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A black oystercatcher stands on a rock in front of breaking waves. The bird is black, with an yellow eye, red-orange bill, and pinkish legs.
Seabirds aren't the only birds that rely on national marine sanctuaries. For shorebirds like this black oystercatcher in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, sanctuaries are home. Black oystercatchers patrol the intertidal zone, looking for mussels and other shellfish. They find open mussels, jab that long bill in, and extract the contents for a hearty seafood meal. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A fluffy white young bird looks through foliage on Rose Atoll
Say what? It's bird week?? It's true! This week we'll be bringing you information and stories about the birds of your National Marine Sanctuary System. Sanctuaries play a critical role in protecting seabirds, shorebirds, and more: in these protected areas, birds breed, forage for food, migrate, and raise their young. (Photo: Brian Peck/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
An elephant seal resting in the surf.
"One day, there was an injured elephant seal on the public beach outside my office. It's a popular beach with people and dog-walkers. There was also a group of three families from the US and France at a family reunion. I asked the kids if they wanted to help me make a driftwood fence around the injured seal to keep dogs and people away. The kids, four to 12 years old, quickly gathered bundles of driftwood and made a stick fence around the seal giving it about 20 feet on all sides. The parents wanted to leave to see the sunset, but the kids would not go until their project was done. They were so proud of their accomplishment, I got a huge group hug and lots of group pictures before they left. In my work, this is what I'm most proud of: connecting kids to the ocean, making them feel important through stewardship activities, and empowering them to take action." – Carolyn Skinder, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary southern region program coordinator (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A close-up on a red-orange giant Pacific octopus resting on the sea floor.
Excuse me, this space is already octopied! This giant Pacific octopus was spotted hanging out in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. These octopuses are masters of disguise, using special skin cells called chromatophores to change color and blend in with their surroundings. What's your favorite octopus fact (or pun)? Share it with us in the comments! (Photo: Katy Laveck Foster)
A pile of orange and white sea stars on the ocean bottom.
In a galaxy far, far away – er, NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary – lurks...the death stars? Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Fourth be with you! (Photo: Tim Henkel/Valdosta State University)
A swimming child wearing a snorkel and mask looks down at a shipwreck on the lake bottom.
From the wrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to the beaches of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, there's something for everyone in your sanctuary system. (Photo: Jeff Gray/NOAA)
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Three cheers for the pom pom crab! Also known as the Hawaiian boxer crab, these crabs are found in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands -- including in NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Its pom-poms are actually small anemones that it carries around for defense. (Photo: NOAA)
A great shearwater flies above a wave crashing on an unseen beach. The ocean and sky are in the background.
Take flight into the week like this great shearwater in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: Peter Flood)
Ten orcas swim at the ocean surface, all heading toward the right.
Throughout the spring, orcas come to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where they feed on migrating gray whales. Wildlife photographer Douglas Croft got a treat when he saw the CA140 pod en route to a meal, led by their matriarch Emma and joined by the male Liner. Can you spot all 10 orcas here? (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A colorful outcropping of a variety of coral species. Blue-green parrotfish swim in front of the corals.
"I believe my job and personal life philosophies are intertwined. I am constantly inspired by the people I work with here and abroad. Interacting with them reminds me that I am part of a global community inspiring me to strive to look for ways to support ocean protection in all aspects of my life, from within my home, to my community, and with folks around the globe who share the same mindset." – Gabrielle Johnson, senior international program analyst for the NOAA International MPA Capacity Building Team (IMPACT) Program (Photo: Ian Shive/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, taken in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa)
 a dark blue and bright yellow nudibranch clings to the side of the reef.
What is this blue and yellow beauty? A royal sea goddess! This nudibranch was spotted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Nudibranchs are soft-bodied mollusks and are sometimes known as sea slugs. "Nudibranch" means "naked gills" – these mollusks carry their gills on their backs! There are many different species of nudibranch found all throughout national marine sanctuaries. (Photo: Timothy Henkel/Valdosta State University)
A child standing on a beach looks into the camera. She holds a sand crab on the palm of her right hand.
Ocean scientist in training! Through the Ocean Guardian School Program, students and teachers commit to protect local watersheds, the ocean, and national marine sanctuaries. By proposing and implementing school- or community-based conservation projects, students learn valuable citizen science skills and also get hands-on experience leading their community toward environmental solutions. Here, a student from Adams Elementary School in Santa Barbara, California shows off a sand crab she found during a beach monitoring excursion. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
A close-up of a western gull in profile. The gull has an upside-down sea star held in its beak.
How would you caption this photo of a western gull eating a sea star in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary? Add your caption in the comments -- we can't wait to see what you come up with! (Photo: Enrique Patino/NOAA)
Three students kneel over a quadrat monitoring tool and observe life in the rocky intertidal zone.
Citizen science in action: here, students participating in the LiMPETS Monitoring program survey a tidepool in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Through LiMPETS -- Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students -- students from sixth grade to college monitor the biology of coastal ecosystems in California. By monitoring, students and community groups become the eyes and ears for our shores, and their data often inform the management of marine protected areas! (Photo: Jessie Altstatt/NOAA)
An adult and child stand on rocks at the edge of the ocean. The child is crouching and the adult is pointing to something in a tidepool.
Tidepools like this one in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary are excellent place to teach young ones about the ocean. In tidepools, you'll find sea anemones, sea urchins, hermit crabs, and more living together. Check out our guidelines on good ocean etiquette, then plan your next trip to a sanctuary tidepool near you! (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
A close-up view of a long-spined sea urchin. The spines are white and black while its body is reddish; in the center is a small round organ.
Dive in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and you're likely to see the lovely long-spined sea urchin! Look closely and you'll see a small bulb in the center of the urchin. While an urchin's mouth is on its underside, waste gets expelled through this specialized organ on top! On some species, it can be quite colorful. (Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA)
several Clark's anemonefish swim above a large sea anemone in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa
Our planet is a blue planet, and we are all connected by our amazing ocean. Our ocean is essential for life on earth: it regulates our climate, provides our oxygen, and feeds us. Beneath its waves are marvelous ecosystems that sustain an incredible array of life. It's up to us to protect our ocean for future generations. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
An under/overwater shot of salmon swimming up a river. On the bottom half of the photo, salmon swim away from the camera up a rock-lined river. The top half of the photo shows a coniferous forest on the riverbank.
If you live inland, it may seem like you're not very connected to the ocean – but through rivers and watersheds, you are! Waterways like these also connect fish habitats. Salmon like these coho salmon spend much of their lives at sea in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, then make their way up rivers in Olympic National Park to spawn. By protecting both ocean and river ecosystems, we help ensure species like these salmon can thrive! (Photo: Adam Baus)
A gray angelfish faces the camera. The coral reef is visible behind it.
Gray angelfish in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Daryl Duda)
Three Hawaiian monk seals play in shallow water.
Cuddle pile! These are Hawaiian monk seals, or ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua in Hawaiian. Though they are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, there is some good news -- populations have increased by three percent annually for the past three years thanks to work by NOAA and our partners. Today, about 1,100 live in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, while an additional 300 reside in the Main Hawaiian Islands. If you see a Hawaiian monk seal on the beach or in the ocean, please let us know so we can better understand and track this endangered species! Get more info on how to report sightings. (Photo: NOAA)
Three divers holding photographic equipment swim above the greenish hull of a shipwreck. Schools of fish swim in the background.
Photographing history: divers from Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and East Carolina University photograph the German U-boat U-352. This U-boat sank on May 9, 1942 and was the first U-boat sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard off the U.S. East Coast during World War II. Today, U-352 is one of the most frequently-dived U-boats in the Graveyard of the Atlantic. It rests in 115 feet of water and is covered in coralline algae, sea anemones, and corals. Red barbier baitfish and amberjack are so common that it can be difficult to take a clear photograph of the wreck! (Photo: NOAA)
A deep-sea fish rests above the sea floor. Two small parasitic isopods are attached to its fins.
Happy Bat Appreciation Day! There are lots of bats beneath the waves, like BAThypterois viridensis, a type of tripod fish. Tripod fishes rest on the seafloor on the tips of elongated rays of their pelvic and lower caudal fins. They use the elongated rays of their pectoral fins as sensory “antennae” that project out and forward as the fish sits facing into the current. (Photo courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017)
A diver cleans a PVC tree from which coral fragments hang.
Here, a volunteer cleans staghorn coral fragments at the Coral Restoration Foundation's coral nursery in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Daryl Duda)
An underwater view of the wreck of the D.M. Wilson, looking at the vessel from the bow. A diver swims along the wreck's starboard side.
"The shared dedication to special Great Lakes and ocean places in the National Marine Sanctuary System creates a sense of camaraderie and community. Here in the Great Lakes, there are students, educators, researchers, public officials, citizen scientists, volunteers, tourists and visitors, divers, and more that are all drawn together by fascination with the area's rich maritime history." – John Bright, NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A common dolphin rises from the surface of the ocean. In front of it, a tail of another dolphin is above the surface.
Happy National Dolphin Day! Common dolphins like these are often spotted in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Common dolphins are eager bow-riders, and sometimes can be spotted in groups of hundreds or thousands! In the sanctuary, they prey on squid and other small schooling fish. (Photo: Peter Flood)
white sponges cling to the side of a muddy slope. A brittle star clings to one of them and other invertebrates grow above the sponges. Two laser dots calibrated to 10cm apart show the size of the sponges.
Discovery in the deep! This beautiful deep-sea sponge is actually a new species. In 2017, scientists on board the E/V Nautilus used a remotely operated vehicle to explore never-before-visited areas of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Among the creatures they saw were two new species of sponge! The sponge in the foreground here is one of them, and is a kind of Farrea sponge. (Photo: NOAA/OET)
An aerial view of a mother humpback whale and her calf swimming through bright blue ocean water. The calf is close to the mother's side.
The cuteness here is over-whale-ming! Each winter, thousands of humpback whales visit the warm waters of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to mate, give birth, and care for their newborns. Mothers and calves like this pair can often be seen swimming or resting at the surface. While adult humpback whales can hold their breath for 10 to 15 minutes, calves must rise to the surface every three to five minutes to breathe. (Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under MMHSRP permit #20311)
A female snorkeler swims over the flattened remains of a wooden shipwreck. The water is blue while the shipwreck appears greenish-yellow.
You don't have to be a diver to explore the shipwrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Many of the historic wrecks in this Great Lakes sanctuary are shallow enough to explore with a snorkel or a kayak. This is the wreck of the wooden schooner Portland, which sank more than a century ago after running aground. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
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Heroes in training: last month, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary staff and partners were trained to safely disentangle whales. One skill they practiced was how to attach a telemetry buoy to gear entangling a whale, which allows rescuers to track the whale's movements. Knowing where the whale is helps buy more time for experts to attempt to set it free. Disentangling whales is extremely dangerous work and requires expertise and training. Responders never get into the water with a whale, and nor should you! If you see an entangled whale, please alert your local marine mammal stranding network: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/report. (Photo: Nicole Capps/NOAA)
A large mola mola swims above the sea floor. Smaller fish swim beneath it.
Holy mola! Don't be fooled, this isn't a baby whale – it's a mola mola! Also known as ocean sunfish, mola mola are the largest bony fish in the ocean. Despite their huge size (they can weigh more than 2,000 pounds!) these fish chow down on tiny prey like jellyfish. This mola mola was spotted in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Marybeth Head/NOAA)
Two divers, surrounded by pink fish, swim above a vibrant rocky reef. The reef is covered in bright pink strawberry anemones and other colorful invertebrates.
"I am inspired by the communities of people that led the way to preserve the incredible treasures that the National Marine Sanctuary System protects. Everyday people like you and me stepped up to participate in the federal processes to help stewards take care of these special ocean and Great Lakes places. That level of collaboration inspires me. Now, we need to find ways to connect all people to the ocean so they form their own personal love and care for it. Its easy for me, growing up and living so close to a shoreline my entire life, but I often think about those that live out of reach, or the means to get there are not possible, or those that are states away. How can we inspire an ethic to conserve our ocean to those that can't experience its awe itself?" – Jennifer Stock, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary education & outreach coordinator
An orange sea star clings upside down within a rock crevice. The top rock is covered in limpets and other invertebrates; the bottom rock is coated in algae.
Hold tight, little sea star! Look closely and you can see this sea star's tube feet, which it uses to cling to this tidepool in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. A sea star's tube feet use hydraulic pressure to move, and then the tube foot likely uses a glue-like substance to stick to the rock. Sea stars aren't the only ocean animals with tube feet – their cousins sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers also have them. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
A reddish octopus sits against a reef on the sea floor on top of a few shells. A fish swims above
Apr. 6, 2018: Look closely and you'll see this octopus in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is mid-snack on some shellfish! But how do octopuses eat, anyway? An octopus's mouth is on its underside, and contains a hard beak. The beak is made of chitin, a material similar to what's in your fingernails, and helps the octopus chow down on tough food! (Photo: P. Auster/NOAA/University of Connecticut/Mystic Aquarium)
a bobcat stretches out between two small rocks in the midst of a river in golden light
Apr. 5, 2018: Stretch it out! On the Olympic Peninsula, land and sea are closely connected. Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary works closely with Olympic National Park to protect the animals that depend on these watersheds. Here, a bobcat hunts for salmon. Salmon that swim up rivers to spawn in the park live much of their lives in sanctuary waters offshore: seven species of Pacific salmon can be found along the outer coast of Washington. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
North Atlantic right whale breaching
Apr. 4, 2018: Celebrate Whale Wednesday with this amazing view of a North Atlantic right whale breaching! With only about 450 individuals remaining, the North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Each year, many of them travel to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Massachusetts to feed. The sanctuary has been collaborating with partners to find innovative ways to protect these whales from entanglement and ship strikes. (Photo: Peter Flood)
Cockerell's dorid
Apr. 3, 2018: Is this Cockerell's dorid wearing orange in decoration? Perhaps, but these q-tip-like appendages serve another function. They're called cerata, and function sort of like external gills, aiding the dorid in respiration! (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA, taken in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary)
orange colored Crinoid
Apr. 2, 2018: Blast from the past: Crinoids like this one are living fossils. They've been in our ocean for almost 500 million years! Don't let their plant-like appearance fool you: crinoids are invertebrates, and are relatives of sea stars and sea urchins. This one was photographed in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: NURC/NOAA)
kids examining items they found on the beach
Apr. 1, 2018: "Every day I go to work knowing that I am making a difference. I am proud of what I do. Plus, I try very hard to think about my actions and how they are protecting the environment every day. I rethink my choices in the grocery store, reduce my plastic use, bike my kids to school, reclaim my household water to use for my gardens, ALWAYS say no thank you to plastic straws, and lastly, I'm involved in a number of steering committees and advisory panels (outside of work) for the community and the school districts to ensure that the kids entering into the world know the impacts on the environment and how to mitigate them." – Seaberry Nachbar, Ocean Guardian School Program director. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
giant clam
Mar. 31, 2018: A vision in turquoise! Like corals, giant clams house colorful photosynthetic algae in their tissues, which is part of the reason they can grow so large. It's also why they prefer shallow, clear waters with plenty of sunlight -- making the reefs of Rose Atoll in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa the perfect habitat. (Photo: Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
octopus blending into its surrounding
Mar. 30, 2018: Ocean magic eye puzzle: look carefully and you'll see an octopus! Octopuses, as well as many of their squid and cuttlefish cousins, are masters of camouflage. Special pigmented cells in their skin called chromatophores enable them to change color rapidly. Part of the octopus's neuromuscular system, these cells receive signals from the environment, helping the octopus hide from predators and prey! Despite its excellent disguise, this octopus was spotted in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
moray eel with its mouth open
Mar. 29, 2018: Who captures fish raw with two sets of jaws? That's a moray! Look closely - but not too closely - and you can see how the purplemouth moray eel gets its name. This is one of several species of moray eel that can be found in the reefs of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
sea otter is having a snack
Mar. 28, 2018: You otter believe this sea otter is having an otterly delicious snack! Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Jessica Hale studies sea otters in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. She got a treat when she spotted this female otter chowing down on a lingcod egg mass. Learn more about her research. (Photo: Jessica Hale)
white-spotted rose anemone clings to and attempts to ingest a moon jelly
Mar. 27, 2018: Talk about a big bite! Here, a white-spotted rose anemone clings to and attempts to ingest a moon jelly in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Although the jelly is twice the size of the anemone, most of the jelly is water, so it's not an impossibly large meal. While moon jellies are usually open ocean species, sometimes oceanographic conditions bring them closer to shore – and into the mouths of creatures like this anemone. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
elephant seals resting on the beach
Mar. 26, 2018: Someone's got a case of the Mondays! Northern elephant seals like these haul out each year along the California coast, including in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. On shore, they rest, mate, and raise their young. Though elephant seals look goofy, it's always important to remember that these are wild animals and give them plenty of space! Learn how to safely watch wildlife along the coast. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
many different types of fish swimming together
Mar. 25, 2018: "Being a dive master has opened up so many incredible doors for me. One of the most rewarding parts of getting to lead people around is when they notice garbage or fishing line on the reef and help to remove it. I think the reason the sanctuaries are so successful is that it allows people to physically see what is being protected by the law. Because of this firsthand experience anyone can have, they learn to appreciate the marine life and want to help protect it too! " - Natalie Nites, NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Team OCEAN volunteer. (Photo: Daryl Duda)
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Mar. 24, 2018: Lingcod in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
wisdom with chick on the beach
Mar. 23, 2018: There's a new celebrity baby in town! At 67 years old, Wisdom the Laysan albatross is famous as the oldest known wild bird on record. This season, Wisdom has hatched another healthy chick, one of more than 30 healthy chicks that she has successfully hatched in her lifetime. Wisdom and thousands of other albatross return to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands every year to breed. The monument provides a safe and peaceful area for adults to raise their young. (Photo: Bob Peyton/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
sunset on the beach at Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Mar. 22, 2018: Happy World Water Day! More than 95 percent of the water on our beautiful blue planet is held by the ocean. The ocean is vital in regulating our climate and is home to a vast numbers of species. A healthy ocean also drives economies and supports cultural traditions around the world. The National Marine Sanctuary System works to keep key marine habitats vibrant for the human and natural communities that depend on them. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA, taken in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary)
sea otter with cub
Mar. 21, 2018: Today is the International Day of Forests! Did you know that there are forests beneath the waves, too? Kelp forests like those found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary provide shelter and food for a wide array of ocean life -- like sea otters! Learn more about kelp forests in your national marine sanctuaries. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
northern right whale dolphins swimming together
Mar. 20, 2018: It's Dolphin Awareness Month! Many national marine sanctuaries support large populations of different species of dolphins. These sleek northern right whale dolphins were observed in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Highly streamlined bodies help these dolphins move rapidly through the water. Like many other dolphin species, northern right whale dolphins are gregarious, and sometimes are found in groups of several hundred to more than a thousand! (Photo: NOAA)
aerial view of Rose Atoll
Mar. 19, 2018: The pink reef fringing this atoll might give you a hint of its name – Rose Atoll! Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and National Wildlife Refuge lies at the heart of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Here, you'll find 113 species of coral, large populations of giant clams, nesting seabirds and sea turtles, and more. (Photo: Ian Shive/USFWS)
juvenile elephant seal smiling on the beach
Mar. 18, 2018: With this smile, this juvenile elephant seal is definitely a seal of approval! Each winter, northern elephant seals haul out on the shores of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to breed and raise their young. Elephant seals can be tons of fun to watch, but it's important to give them plenty of space so juveniles like this one can grow up healthy and strong! A zoom lens is the key to capturing awesome photos. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Green sea
Mar. 17, 2018: Green sea turtles are always ready for St. Patrick's Day! Adult green turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they eat only plants; they primarily feed on on seagrasses and algae. This diet is thought to give them greenish-colored fat, from which they take their name. This one was observed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. (Photo: James Watt/NOAA)
wreck of the caribsea with fish and sharks swimming near by
Mar. 16, 2018: From tragedy to new life: sunk by a German U-boat during World War II, the American cargo ship Caribsea is now host to a vibrant reef not far from Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The wreck is largely intact and is now a popular dive site. Learn about Caribsea's history and significance today. (Photo: NOAA)
tidepool with many creatures like sea stars, mollusks, and sea anemones
Mar. 15, 2018: Ides of March? More like tides of March! Et tu, Anemone? Tidepools like the ones along Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary are the perfect places to explore and learn about ocean creatures like sea stars, mollusks, and yes – sea anemones. For your safety, though, don't turn your back on the ocean while exploring and keep an eye on the rising tide! (Photo: NOAA)
leather stars
Mar. 14, 2018: It's Pi Day, and these leather stars are putting the rad in radial symmetry. Sea stars like these are symmetrical in any direction around their center point -- just like a pie (though not as tasty!). Other marine animals that exhibit radial symmetry are sand dollars, sea urchins, sea anemones, and jellies. These leather stars were observed in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
drawing of a lobster
Mar. 13, 2018: March is Youth Art Month, and what better way to connect with your sanctuaries than through art? Each year, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Massachusetts Marine Educators have jointly sponsored a student marine art contest. Check out this gorgeous lobster by Chemsford High School student Elizabeth Salomaa! Learn more about the contest. (Image: Elizabeth Salomaa)
group of Northern right whale dolphins jumping out of the water
Mar. 12, 2018: Single file, please! Northern right whale dolphins have especially streamlined bodies, which helps them swim quickly when fleeing predators or heading toward prey. These gregarious dolphins are sometimes found in groups of several hundred to more than a thousand! These were spotted in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Gary Friedrichsen)
Scrawled filefish swimming near a reef
Mar. 11, 2018: "I make sure that when I am boating that nothing goes into the water, I try to recycle everything I can, and I don't eat seafood unless it is invasive lionfish. I also participate in as many coastal cleanups to help to remove all of the garbage along our shorelines and I try to encourage others to do the same. We have a long ways to go in ocean conservation, but national marine sanctuaries, along with national parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges, afford us the best opportunity to help leverage limited resources to address coastal and marine conservation." – Mark Chiappone, research associate at Nova Southeastern University and assistant professor at Miami Dade College (Photo: Scrawled filefish in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Daryl Duda)
krill on a person's finger
Mar. 10, 2018: They're krilly small and unassuming, but krill form the backbone of many ocean ecosystems! These tiny crustaceans consume phytoplankton, and in turn are food for whales, fish, and other marine animals. During their peak feeding times, blue whales can eat up to 8,000 pounds of krill each day! (Photo: Maps For Good, taken in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary)
diver spots a ray hiding in the sand
Mar. 9, 2018: Shipwrecks serve as refuge for marine life, so when exploring wrecks divers often encounter wildlife. This diver from NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was investigating the wreck of the U-boat U-352 when he spotted a ray hiding in the sand. (Photo: Steve Sellers/NOAA)
Jessica Hale looking through a telescope
Mar. 8, 2018: Today is International Women's Day! We're celebrating the women of our National Marine Sanctuary System and the amazing contributions they make to ocean conservation! This is Jessica Hale, a Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar who studies sea otters in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Thanks to her research, the sanctuary is learning more about sea otters' role in this Pacific Northwest area. Learn more about Hale's work. (Photo: Kate Thompson/NOAA)
seastar
Mar. 7, 2018: Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight! The rocky reef of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary supports a tremendous diversity of marine invertebrates. Explore the ledges of this sanctuary and you might spot a small spine sea star like this one and get to make a wish! (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
a large school of convict tangs
Mar. 6, 2018: Jail break! These convict tangs in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument use their stripes like zebras do, to confuse predators. The disruptive patterns make it difficult for attacking predators to pick out a single fish. Convict tangs are common in the Pacific waters around the Hawaiian Islands, where they go by the name "manini." (Photo: John Burns/NOAA)
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Mar. 5, 2018: This month we're showing some love for the autotrophs in our lives -- it's Seagrass Awareness Month! Seagrasses can form dense underwater meadows, and produce oxygen and sustain complex food chains. In NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, they're integral to ecosystem health. They are a nursery for fish, a food source for creatures like manatees, and habitat for creatures like this scorpionfish. (Photo: NOAA)
doplhins swimming together
Mar. 4, 2018: "I connect to the ocean through a literal connection: diving, walking the beach, exploring the coastline. From not using straws and consuming sustainable seafood, to just picking up the trash and instilling these ideals in my children and others, I protect the ocean with responsible decisions." – Chad King, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary research specialist (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
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Mar. 3, 2018: March is Dolphin Awareness Month, and here at Sanctuaries, we love our dolphins! Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Alexandra Avila photographed these Hawaiian spinner dolphins in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Spinner dolphins are incredibly gregarious, sometimes gathering in groups of several hundred or more! These dolphins feed at night and return to coastal waters to rest and socialize. Because they rest during the day, it's important to give them lots of space -- would you like someone trying to hang out with you when you're trying to get some shut-eye? (Photo: Alexandra Avila)
shipwreck on the beach covered invasive species
Mar. 2, 2018: Where do invasive species come from? In some cases, nonnative species can hitch a ride to new places on ships or via marine debris, like this derelict vessel near Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Though species can also travel from one place to another on organic matter, plastic and other manmade materials don't degrade as quickly and are more likely to cross large distances. You can help reduce the spread of invasive species by reducing marine debris: always dispose of your waste properly and join beach cleanups in your area whenever you can! (Photo: NOAA)
women holding up a loinfish she caught
Mar. 1, 2018: Fishing for a cause: Each year, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary holds the "Lionfish Invitational," a lionfish research and removal effort in the sanctuary. In recent decades, Indo-Pacific lionfish have invaded the reefs of the Flower Garden Banks and other sanctuaries, threatening fish populations and reef biodiversity. In an effort to limit the effects of the lionfish, divers and researchers spend several days removing them from the reef. Scientists also conduct surveys to determine what species, quantities, and sizes of fish are present. Here, participant Rachel Bowman holds up a lionfish after a dive. (Photo: Andy Lowe)
a shrimp crawls over the invasive Watersipora subtorquata
Feb. 28, 2018: Watersipora Wednesday! Here, a shrimp crawls over the invasive Watersipora subtorquata in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Watersipora is an invasive genus of bryozoan -- or aquatic filter-feeding invertebrate -- that has taken up residence in and around the sanctuary. Though there's still much to learn about how these organisms grow and thrive, Watersipora are thought to have been introduced to the California coast by hitching a ride on ships and boats traveling along the coastline. Once settled in a new environment, Watersipora can have damaging effects on native invertebrate species, smothering them and outcompeting them for space. But researchers at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary have been working hard to understand how these organisms grow and thrive, and what ecological consequences we can anticipate from their spread. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
diver holding a captured lionfish
Feb. 27, 2018: With voracious appetites and no natural predators in the Atlantic, invasive lionfish are seriously threatening coral reef biodiversity and health in several national marine sanctuaries. There is good news, though: research led by scientists from REEF Reef Environmental Education Foundation shows that volunteers can help defend local marine habitats! The data show that lionfish derbies in areas including Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary can reduce lionfish numbers by 52 percent across an area of nearly 75 square miles. (Photo: Brenda Altmeier/NOAA)
diver surveys an area of rocky reef
Feb. 26, 2018: It's Invasive Species Week! All week long, we'll be bringing you information about invasive species and their effects on national marine sanctuaries. Though environments certainly change over time, invasive species can crowd out native species, shifting the balance and potentially damaging the ecosystem to which they've been introduced. Here, Dr. Steve Lonhart surveys an area of rocky reef in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for invasive species. These surveys are a part of a series by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center to detect and characterize the spread of invasive species. Learn more about invasive species in sanctuaries. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
Christmas tree worms
Feb. 25, 2018: "Most people think of foreign lands when they think of beautiful ocean habitats, and I get the opportunity to amaze them with what we have in our own backyard. My own passion for the places I help protect often gets other people excited about them, as well." – Kelly Drinnen, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary education & outreach specialist (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
a large mass of seabirds crowd onto the rocky outcroppings of the Farallon Islands
Feb. 24, 2018: What do you think, can we fit one murre common murre on this island? More than a quarter of a million seabirds flock to Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to breed each year. Many of these birds crowd onto the rocky outcroppings of the Farallon Islands, like these common murres nesting on Southeast Farallon Island. Learn about the sanctuary's efforts to protect these birds. (Photo: Point Blue Conservation Science)
horse conch
Feb. 23, 2018: Giddy up! This mollusk is a horse conch, found in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Horse conchs are the largest sea snail found in U.S. waters -- they can grow up to two feet in length! These enormous sea snails are predators, chowing down on other snails and mollusks. (Photo: NOAA)
Table coral with fish swimming around
Feb. 22, 2018: Corals come in all shapes and sizes! Table corals like this Acropora hyacinthus in Fagatale Bay of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa form shelf-like structures that shelter many other animals. Coral reefs are key habitats for thousands of species, and their structural diversity creates rich, varied homes for everything from eels to octopuses. (Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA)
male elephant seals competing against each other on the beach
Feb. 21, 2018: Fierce competition: every winter, male elephant seals haul out on the shores of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and compete for females. These fights can be intense and bloody, and decide which males will get to mate. If you're visiting the sanctuary, please make sure to give elephant seals lots of space! It can be dangerous to get too close to fighting seals, and nursing pups and moms need plenty of rest. (Photo: Phil Adams)
humpback whale and calf swimming
Feb. 20, 2018: It's peak humpback whale season at NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Each year, humpback whales flock to this sanctuary from Alaska to mate and calve. Why do they travel so far to give birth? These waters are highly suitable for raising a youngster: warm, clear, and free of predators! (Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240)
diver swimming over the wreck of the manuela
Feb. 19, 2018: Take a trip beneath the waves and back in time at the wreck of the freighter Manuela. The area around NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary is the resting ground for many shipwrecks, many of which were sunk during World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. On June 25, 1942, Manuela was traveling from Puerto Rico to New York with a convoy of 11 ships when they were attacked by the German U-boat U-404. Today, Manuela lies off the coast of North Carolina in 160 feet of water. Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA)
rocky intertidal zone olympic coast
Feb. 18, 2018: "It is such an honor to be charged with the care of America's ocean and Great Lakes playgrounds and be a steward for the generations that follow. The mission of the sanctuary system is unique and the people called to this work are driven and passionate individuals that come together to form a symphony of excellence. It is a pleasure to work for this system and with these people." – Matt Stout, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries communications director (Photo: Mandy Miller, taken in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary)
whale shark
Feb. 17, 2018: When is a whale not a whale? When it's a whale shark! While whales are mammals, whale sharks are actually fish, named for their vast size. Like some whales, they are also filter feeders, chowing down on plankton. During the summer months, whale shares travel to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico to find this favorite food. (Photo: Kevin Lino/NOAA)
humpback whale feeding with birds flying overhead
Feb. 16, 2018: "ROAR!! Just kidding, I'm a whale." Although humpback whales are large, they only feed on krill and small fish. Photographer Douglas Croft snapped this photo of a humpback whale taking a big gulp of anchovies! Humpback whales and other whales flock to the nutrient-rich waters of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to feed. By winter, most humpback whales leave the sanctuary for warmer waters in Mexico, but some juveniles and non-breeding adults stick around a little longer to take advantage of the over-whale-mingly large feast. (Photo: Douglas Croft)
Pacific white-sided dolphins jumping out of the water
Feb. 15, 2018: We're continuing to leap through Whale Week with these Pacific white-sided dolphins! For fifteen years, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Blue Conservation Science have been collaborating to understand how whales, dolphins, and other marine creatures use sanctuary habitats. Data from the ACCESS Partnership have been used to help ensure the safety of these wonderful animals. For example, sanctuary managers use the data to reduce the overlap of whales and ships transiting to and from the ports of San Francisco Bay. (Photo: NOAA/Point Blue/ACCESS)
Humpback Whale entangled in marine debris
Feb. 14, 2018: One of the biggest risks to humpback whales and other whales is entanglement by fishing gear and other debris. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary leads the Hawaiian Islands Disentanglement Network, a community-based network that works to locate entangled whales and free them. In March 2017, the team removed more than 500 feet of electrical cable from this whale! You can help protect whales like this one by disposing of waste properly and participating in beach cleanups near you. Less trash in the ocean means less risks to these magnificent whales! (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under MMHSRP Permit #18786)
North Atlantic right whale feeding near Atlantic white-sided dolphins
Feb. 13, 2018: The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most critically endangered populations of large whales in the world -- there are likely only about 450 left in the wild. Each year, right whales travel to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to feed, and give birth to young in the warm waters near Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. To protect these whales, we're working closely with NOAA Fisheries and other partners to reduce human impacts, like collisions with vessels and entanglements in fishing gear. You can help protect right whales, too, by supporting your regional stranding network and by working to reduce marine debris! This right whale is known as Scoop. He's an adult male who was first sighted in 1982 and has fathered at least 3 calves. Here, he's feeding near Atlantic white-sided dolphins -- images like these give a sense of just how big whales like Scoop are! (Photo: Allison Henry/NOAA, under MMPA Permit #17335)
breaching humpback whale
Feb. 12, 2018: Whale what do you know? It's Whale Week! All week long, we'll be celebrating these gentle giants that are found throughout our national marine sanctuaries. This magnificent breaching humpback whale is Salt, the "grand dame" of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary She was first spotted in Massachusetts Bay in the 1970s, and has been seen in the sanctuary just about every year since then. She has had 14 calves and many grandchildren, and at least one great-grandcalf! Salt was one of the first northern humpback whales to be recognized at Silver Bank off the coast of the Dominican Republic, providing proof of the humpback whale migratory route in the North Atlantic -- which in turn has helped us better protect humpback whale populations through "sister sanctuary" relationships. (Photo: Peter Flood)
juvenile blue angelfish
Feb. 11, 2018: "I got interested in the ocean when I was a pre-teen. On a trip to St. Maarten I was awed by a school of barracuda gracefully swimming past me as I was snorkeling and exploring the bay bottom. I've never forgotten that feeling and have always been drawn to the ocean and all of its beauty. Now, I act as a steward and model for protecting the environment. I think of more than myself as I walk through this glorious life." - Monique Gordon, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council member for K-12 education What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Juvenile blue angelfish in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, Greg McFall/NOAA)
well-camouflaged frogfish was spotted lurking on the ree
Feb. 10, 2018: "Nope, you can't see me. I'm invisible!" This well-camouflaged frogfish was spotted lurking on the reef at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Frogfish are "lie and wait" predators: they stay very still until prey comes by, then quickly snatch their meal. (Photo: Steve Miller)
stalked crinoid
Feb. 9, 2018: This may look like a beautiful flower blooming beneath the waves, but it's actually an animal! This stalked crinoid was spotted in the deep waters of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. The feathery "petals" you see are arms, which this invertebrate uses to grasp small particles of food out of the current. Crinoids can also use these arms to crawl along the seafloor if they need to relocate! (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa)
humpback whales and sea lions swimming by each other
Feb. 8, 2018: It's easy to spot the humpback whales in this photo, but can you see the sea lions, too? The waters within Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are rich with nutrients and food, providing feasting opportunities for all sorts of creatures! (Photo: Patrick Smith)
purple sea urchins and a leather star
Feb. 7, 2018: Watch out, little purple sea urchins -- you're one of the leather star's favorite foods! This leather star may be scoping out a sea urchin snack in the kelp forest of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Left unchecked, sea urchins will chow down on huge amounts of kelp, so by eating them, leather stars and other sea stars help keep kelp forest ecosystems healthy and balanced. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
a little cephalopod among the many invertebrates of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Feb. 6, 2018: Can you spot the octopus? 🐙 Look closely and you might spot a little cephalopod among the many invertebrates of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! Cordell Bank is a deep-water feature located along the cold California Current. Each year, the current brings in nutrient-rich water, which supports a rich biological community of fishes, invertebrates, and more. What else can you see in this photo? (Photo: Clinton Bauder/BAUE)
person looking throug binoculars counting whales
Feb. 5, 2018: Keep a sharp eye out for whales! Each year, volunteers with Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary participate in the Sanctuary Ocean Count to keep track of visiting humpback whales. Sanctuary Ocean Count events are held on the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i on the last Saturday of January, February, and March. Learn more about the Count and how you can get involved. (Photo: Cindy Among-Serrao/NOAA)
ocean
Feb. 4, 2018: "I'm inspired to work with marine protected area programs in the United States and internationally because of the committed, creative people who are working to protect the ocean's most important places. It makes me feel great when I see our partners succeeding at creating a new marine protected area, or putting new management tools in place, and I think, 'we helped make that happen.' Conservation has a key role to play, not only in protecting our planet and the life-support systems it provides, but also in promoting global understanding and peace. There's nothing like working together on a common problem to help us see our common ground." - Lauren Wentzel, director of National Marine Protected Areas Center (Photo: John Burns/NOAA, taken in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument)
diver filming sargassum seaweed
Feb. 3, 2018: Out in the Gulf of Mexico near Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, large mats of sargassum seaweed serve as a life raft for small marine creatures. Fish, young sea turtles, and more use sargassum mats as shelter and an important food source. Here, sanctuary research specialist Marissa Nuttall documents life beneath the seaweed. (Photo: Jesse Cancelmo)
white ibis foraging for small crustaceans
Feb. 2, 2018: Today is World Wetlands Day! The wetlands of the islands within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary provide important habitat for shorebirds, Key deer, and other animals. This white ibis was spotted foraging for small crustaceans. What's your favorite wetland creature? (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
ice cover shoreline of lake huron
Feb 1, 2018: Dangerous beauty: Ice, collision, and storms have claimed more than 100 ships throughout Lake Huron's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. In this icy shot of the sanctuary shoreline, it's easy to imagine how treacherous these conditions could be! (Photo: Kate Thompson/NOAA)
Foster Scholar Samara Haver deploys a noise listening station
Jan. 31, 2018: Science in action: Here, Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Samara Haver deploys a noise listening station in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. For her Ph.D. work, Haver is listening in on the soundscapes of several national marine sanctuaries using the NOAA Ocean Noise Reference Station Network. With her data, she'll be able to better understand how humans and animals contribute to ocean soundscapes. Working in the Channel Islands, Haver and sanctuary researchers deployed a hydrophone off the R/V Shearwater earlier this month. The hydrophones are suspended underwater between a foam float and an anchor on the ocean floor. By floating above the ocean floor, the hydrophone can pick up a broad variety of sounds. (Photo: Lindsey Peavey/NOAA)
diver photographing the wreck of the uss monitor
Jan. 30, 2018: Happy anniversary to Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! Today, our nation's first national marine sanctuary celebrates its 43rd birthday. The sanctuary protects the wreck of the USS Monitor, a Civil War-era ironclad that changed the course of naval history forever. (Photo: NOAA)
three northern elephant seal pups are taking a snooze togheter
Jan. 29, 2018: Time for a nap? These northern elephant seal pups are taking a well-earned snooze. Each year from December through February, elephant seals haul out on beaches along Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Here, they rest, mate, and pup. Adult elephant seals don't eat while hauled out during this time, though, so they need to conserve their energy! If you see elephant seals on the beach, please stay back at least 50 feet to help them stay healthy. (Photo: Phil Adams)
fish swimming around a coral reef
Jan. 28, 2018: "I am inspired by the people who I work alongside. The research staff, educators, managers, and crew of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary work tirelessly to conserve, protect, educate, and understand our marine ecosystems. In my personal life, I reduce, reuse, and recycle as often as I can. When I take my dog for beach walks here in Galveston, I make an effort to pick up trash or debris lying on the beaches. Galveston is a popular tourist destination, and if visitors can see the clean up efforts, they may be more inclined to clean up after themselves." – Dustin Picard, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary marine operations coordinator (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
whale breaching near the responders who just disentangled it from fishing gear
Jan. 27, 2018: A leap into freedom! After being disentangled from fishing gear, this humpback whale breached several times near responders in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The disentanglement took place off Maui on January 12, where responders from the sanctuary and partners removed more than 285 feet of fishing line from the whale's mouth. If you see an entangled whale, please NEVER try to disentangle it yourself -- that can be dangerous for both you and the whale. Instead, maintain your distance and call the NOAA 24-hour Hotline at 888-256-9840. (Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under MMHSRP permit #18786-02)
orange nudibranch
Jan. 26, 2018: Orange you glad to see this nudibranch? This fuzzy looking invertebrate is none other than an orange-peel nudibranch, also known as the yellow horned dorid. Spotted in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, this petite nudibranch can be found throughout much of the West Coast. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
above and below water shot at thunder bay national marine sanctuary
Jan. 25, 2018: In Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, history is waiting for you right beneath the surface. This Great Lakes sanctuary protects some of the best-preserved shipwrecks in the world. And even better, you can explore many of the wrecks while diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and more. So what are you waiting for? (Photo: NOAA)
ulua swimming towards the camera
Jan. 24, 2018: Ulua you looking at? Ulua is the Hawaiian name for the giant trevally, one of the top predators of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Ulua are now relatively rare in the main Hawaiian Islands due to human impacts like fishing, but they are often seen in the monument. Ulua are quite large: they can grow to weigh more than 100 pounds! (Photo: John Burns/NOAA)
fish swimming around a coral reef
Jan. 23, 2018: Fagatele Bay in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is a coral-lover's dream. This small bay is only about a quarter-square-mile in area, but is home to nearly 170 species of coral! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
humpback whale feeding at the surface of the water
Jan 19, 2018: Open wide! Humpback whales like this one in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary are filter-feeders, chowing down on small schooling fish and krill. Plates of baleen – the hairlike material you can see on the roof of this humpback whale's mouth – help them strain out tiny prey from huge gulps of seawater. A humpback whale can have between 300 and 400 baleen plates on each side of its mouth! (Photo: Carolyn O'Connor)
close up of a sea fan
Jan. 18, 2018: This "arm" reaching for you belongs to none other than a red gorgonian, Lophogorgia chilensis. Also known as sea fans and sea whips, gorgonians are closely related to coral. Like corals, gorgonians are colonies of individual organisms. Those white, flower-like appendages are actually polyps, reaching out to grab plankton and other prey. This beautiful gorgonian was photographed in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Evan Barba)
spotted moray eel
Jan. 17, 2018: What??? It's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary's anniversary?? This spotted moray eel may be shocked, but it's true -- the sanctuary is 26 years old today! This vibrant sanctuary is located in the Gulf of Mexico and protects some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world. Learn more at flowergarden.noaa.gov. (Photo: Steve Miller)
top: seabird swimming, bottom: crab
Jan. 16, 2018: Happy 37th anniversary to Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary! Though these two sanctuaries share a birthday, they're quite different. Off the coast of California, the misty Greater Farallones provides breeding and feeding grounds for whales, sharks, seabirds, and more. Georgia's Gray's Reef, on the other hand, protects a live-bottom reef home to more than 200 species of fish, as well as invertebrates like this little crab. Happy anniversary to these two sanctuaries, and many thanks to their staff and volunteers for protecting our ocean's amazing places! (Top photo: Patrick Sysiong; bottom photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
lobate comb jelly
Jan. 15, 2018: What on Earth is this mysterious blob? A lobate comb jelly, of course! Comb jellies, or ctenophores, move around by beating comb-like rows of cilia. This one was spotted in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
wreck of D.M. Wilson
Jan. 14, 2018: Ever wish you could hop into a time machine? Diving in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, you can get pretty close by exploring some of the best-preserved shipwrecks in the world. This is the wreck of D.M. Wilson, a wooden bulk freighter that sank in 1894 after springing a leak. Much of Wilson's hull remains intact today! (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
green sea turtle
Jan. 13, 2018: It's a honu world! In Hawaiian, green sea turtles are known as honu. These turtles can frequently be spotted in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, where they chow down on algae and seagrasses. (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
pink hydrocoral
Jan. 12, 2018: Does this pink look a little tropical to you? Don't be fooled! This pink hydrocoral was actually photographed in the cold, deep waters of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Northern California. The rocky habitat of Cordell Bank rises from the seafloor of the continental shelf, and hosts all sorts of technicolor creatures! (Photo: NOAA)
Sunset at Rialto Beach
Jan. 11, 2018: Need a moment of relaxation? Take a deep breath and imagine the sound of waves splashing into shore on this rocky Pacific Northwest beach. Sunsets at Rialto Beach in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park are spectacular. What's your favorite sanctuary to catch the sunset from? (Photo: Adam Baus)
Venus flytrap anemone
Jan. 10, 2018: Watch out – this Venus flytrap anemone stings! Like the plant from which they get their name, Venus flytrap anemones trap unwitting prey. The anemone's tentacles contain stinging cells that inject venom and can close to keep prey from escaping. This beautiful anemone was spotted in the deep waters of National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa by researchers aboard the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. The anemone itself is perched on top of a dead Iridogorgia coral, perhaps to better access the current and passing prey. (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa)
a pair of manta rays swimming
Jan 9, 2018: These two were manta be together! These manta rays were spotted at Pearl and Hermes Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Known as hāhālua in Hawaiian, manta rays can weigh up to 3,000 pounds and have wingspans of 20 feet across. Despite their size, they have tiny prey: these enormous fish feed on plankton. (Photo: Andrew Gray/NOAA)
Sand tiger shark swims past a diver
Jan. 8, 2018: Close encounters of the shark kind! Last year, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary partnered with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to assess shipwreck sites off the coast of North Carolina. Here, East Carolina University diving safety officer Jason Nunn encounters a sand tiger shark amidst the wreck of Raritan. Sand tiger sharks are often found at shipwreck sites in these areas. Though their scraggly teeth give them a fearsome appearance, they're actually quite docile! (Photo: John McCord/CSI)
coral reef with fish swimming around
Jan. 7, 2018: "The most inspiring feature of the National Marine Sanctuary System is its ability to capture people from a young age. In 13 years of teaching marine science I've seen it happen right in front of my eyes. Year after year, young adults who visited NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary through the MarineLab program either apply for jobs with us or come to tell me about how being in this environment has inspired them to pursue a career to further understand and protect it. My children may not grow up to pursue a career in marine science (or they might), but I hope that no matter their career choice, they have a strong enough knowledge of our ocean to be able to make good choices for its future. I hope this for everyone." – Jessica Dockery, director of education at MarineLab Environmental Education Center/Marine Resources Development Foundation (Photo: Daryl Duda)
elephant seal hanging out on the shore
Jan. 6, 2018: This elephant seal was spotted hanging out on the shores of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Each year, elephant seals haul out on these beaches to molt, give birth, and mate. These elephant seals need their rest, and approaching them can be dangerous – always give them plenty of space! If you're looking to get a seal photo like this one, a zoom lens is key. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
Laysan albatross male tending to an egg
Jan. 5, 2018: New year, new life – Wisdom, the oldest known bird in the world, has laid another egg! A Laysan albatross, Wisdom is approximately 67 years old. Each year, she flies to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to meet up with her mate, Akeakamai. Since 2006, Wisdom has successfully raised and fledged at least nine chicks. Here, Akeakamai tends to their egg while Wisdom forages offshore for food. (Photo: Jodi Spross/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) USFWS Pacific Region
sanctuary responders on boat removing marine debris from a whale
Jan. 4, 2018: A Christmas miracle! On December 25th, these intrepid responders from Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary freed an entangled whale off Maui. The whale had been trailing some 400 feet of heavy gauge line from its mouth, but working with partners, sanctuary responders were able to remove and recover all the gear. Many thanks to these ocean heroes! If you spot an entangled whale, please don't try to disentangle it yourself – this can be dangerous for both you and the whale. Instead, call your local marine mammal stranding coordinator hotline. (Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under NOAA MMHSRP permit #18785-02)
tulip snail
Jan. 3, 2018: You won't just find snails in your garden – they also live beneath the waves! This beautiful tulip snail was spotted by researchers in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Tim Henkel/Valdosta State University)
shoreline of american samoa, a rainbow can be seen in the background
Jan. 2, 2018: Your national marine sanctuaries offer stunning scenery – like this rainbow in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Which sanctuary will you visit next? (Photo: Apulu Veronika Molio'o Mata'utia Mortenson/NOAA)
Pacific white-sided dolphin
Jan. 1, 2018: Leap into the new year with this Pacific white-sided dolphin in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! What will you do in 2018 to help protect the ocean and Great Lakes? Let us know in the comments! (Photo: Douglas Croft)
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