earth is blue

Our planet is an ocean planet: Earth Is Blue. The National Marine Sanctuary System protects some of the most iconic underwater places throughout the United States, but we can't do it without you. 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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White anemones on a rocky surface

Not only does NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary protect upwelling zones, intertidal communities, and deep sea coral (just to name a few), this sanctuary also has a rich historical and cultural legacy! Find out more about this beautiful place.

Photo: Keith C. Flood

A bright orange Garibaldi fish head on and close up to the camera

Sitting in on a virtual meeting like...

This little fish is called a Garibaldi, found at NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! This fish gets its name from the 19th-century Italian leader of the same name whose famous army wore flashy red/orange colors into battle.

Photo: Keith C. Flood

A white boat with the words 'National Marine Sanctuary' across the side floats through a mangrove forest.

Just passing through! Did you know mangroves line more than 1,800 miles of shoreline within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary? Mangrove forests stabilize the coastline, reducing erosion from storm surges, currents, waves, and tides. Many of these forests can be recognized by their dense tangles of prop roots that make these trees look like they are standing on stilts above the water.

Photo: David Ruck/NOAA

A person paddling above a wreck that rests below the surface

Looking for some adventure? Paddleboarding provides a unique, interactive way to experience wrecks around Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Paddle over the wreck of Loretta, to see a steam barge that sunk in 1896!

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

Whale tail just above the surface surrounded by seabirds

Bummed you just missed this humpback breach? Whale aren't you in luck! Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary offers some of the world's best year-round marine mammal sightings. Although some species stop by seasonally, such as grey whales, humpback whales, and blue whales, others can be seen year-round, like minke whales, orca, and a variety of dolphins and porpoises!

Photo: Nicole Capps/NOAA

Bright pink and orange corals clustered together

The waters of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary are filled with life! Home to the largest near-shore "live-bottom" reef of the southeastern United States, divers can see all kinds of creatures from large invertebrates, like sponges and corals, to sharks! Take a virtual dive and see what you can spot!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Sea lion at the surface with kelp

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a unique wildlife watching destination at any time! The late summer and fall are the best time of the year to head offshore because of the better sea conditions and diverse seabird and marine mammal viewing opportunities. This attracts birders and whale watchers from around the world, to see species rarely seen so close to shore! Plan your future trip.

Photo: Dru Devlin/NOAA

A lighthouse on a rocky cliff over the ocean

Alert! There is just one more day to submit your sanctuary photos to our Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! Send us your best photos of the National Marine Sanctuary System and help us celebrate the beauty and importance of these special places.

Winning photos will be featured in next year's Earth Is Blue Magazine and on our Earth Is Blue social media campaign.

Photo: Michael Beattie, 1st Place Sanctuaries View Category 2019

A small reddish crab with black lines on its legs and dark red patterns on its back. The crab is holding two yellow sea anemones

"2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate!"

We consider this pom pom crab to be Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary's personal cheerleader! Although they are festive, its pom-poms are actually small anemones that it carries around for defense.

Photo: NOAA

Collage of different species seen around the sanctuary system

Today is National Wildlife Day and we want to celebrate the amazing biodiversity of your #WildSanctuaries! How many different species can you identify?

Photo: Peter Turcik

Exposed remains of a ship in front of a setting sun

On September 3, 2019, NOAA made history by designating Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, the first national marine sanctuary in almost two decades. The sanctuary protects the remnants of 118 World War I-era wooden steamships, collectively known as the Ghost Fleet.

The new sanctuary also protects heritage sites of the Piscataway-Conoy and other Indigenous peoples, as well as remains of historical fishing operations and Revolutionary and Civil War battlescapes. Plan your visit to paddle, fish, watch wildlife, and learn about the culture and history that live in this special place. Join us in wishing our newest sanctuary a happy 1st birthday!

Photo: Peter Turcik

 Image description: Red Grouper swims in front of a reef

In need of a mid-week tropical escape? Let us take you to the beautiful shores and seas of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! Learn all the ways you can get into this sanctuary and plan your future trip.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Red Grouper swims in front of a reef

Caption this! What do you think this Red Grouper from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is thinking as it swims past the reef?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Round silver fish swim over a wreck covered in marine life

What remains of U-85, a German U-boat from WWII's Battle of the Atlantic, can be found 90 feet below the surface near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Lost on April 14, 1942, this vessel is now acting as an artificial reef supporting an ecosystem from small invertebrates to sharks!

Photo: Steve Sellers/NOAA

Two tufted puffins standing together on a rocky ledge

Did you know that a tufted puffin, like these two spotted in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, can hold around a dozen fish on average in its bill to carry back to its chicks? These skilled divers have no troubles filling up as they use their wings to swim underwater to catch fish!

Photo: Mary Sue Brancato/NOAA

A pink cluster of organisms surrounded by darkness

This pink siphonophore is a great example of teamwork at play. While this may appear to be one organism, it is actually comprised of many zooids directly connected to each other by tissue. The interaction between the individual zooids is so strong that, together, they assume the function of a single, larger organism! This is just one example of the fascinating creatures that inhabit Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary!

Photo: NOAA

Two black oystercatchers walk along a tide line covered in kelp

Have you ever heard a shrill whistling wheep-wheep carrying across the surf of one of your West Coast national marine sanctuaries? Chances are you've heard a black oystercatcher before you've spotted it. Check out these two shorebirds surveying for mussels and other shellfish in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary!

Photo: Beach Watch/NOAA

Bright blue jellyfish surrounded by small silver fish

If we were a tiny juvenile fish, the tentacles of a jellyfish in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary would definitely act as a killer hideout! What would you name the color of this jellyfish?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Two red-footed boobies with bright colorful beaks

"That cloud looks just like a fish!" More than just cloud watchers, the red-footed booby breeds and nests on the islands of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Their lack of predators and the protection offered by the monument makes this area one of the safest places for many of these vulnerable seabirds.

Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA

Close-up view of corals spawning

Every August, seven to 10 days after the full moon, the reef-building corals of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary put on a fantastic spawning display! 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 allows for the fertilization and survival of a significant number of larvae despite the best efforts of predators!

Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA

Diver swims near the steering wheel of a shipwreck

This friend doesn't appear to be giving a seal of approval to Monday arriving...

Guadalupe fur seals, like this one in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, are known to be generally solitary and non-social at sea. After being heavily hunted to near extinction, their population is slowly recovering due to protections throughout their range. Don't worry, buddy, Monday will be over soon!

Photo: Tane Casserly/NOAA

Diver swims near the steering wheel of a shipwreck

If you're the helm (steering wheel) on a shipwreck, you're not exactly a wheel of fortune. However, this particular wheel is lucky to be so intact. While some wrecks found in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary are in better shape than others, Lake Huron's cold, fresh waters help preserve these invaluable artifacts of nautical history. Have you seen a shipwreck before?

Photo: Tane Casserly/NOAA

Colorful coral crest

Interrupting your feed today with a beautiful coral crest in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary! We hope these colors brighten your Saturday just as they did for us!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

An ROV floats underwater over a wreck

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is working with Marine Imaging Technologies and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in its 2020 expedition to document and collect samples from the seafloor! With the help of Pixel, a cinema-class remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the team will continue building 3D photogrammetric models to understand the condition of shipwrecks in the sanctuary and create 360° virtual underwater tours of these unique and historic sites. By collecting samples, Pixel will aid scientists in studying the diversity of marine species, such as anemones and sea stars, that call the sanctuary’s shipwrecks home. You can join in LIVE, August 25th-27th, for this expedition and learn all about this mission and see the seafloor in real-time!

As a leader in ocean science and exploration, WHOI is committed to carrying out its mission while following all relevant local, state, and federal guidelines to ensure the health and safety of its staff and research partners. Telepresence technology is one way that NOAA and its partners are able to continue conducting research in national marine sanctuaries safely. Scientists are able to connect to the vessel from shore while expanding participation in oceanographic research in real-time.

Learn more about the expedition and how to tune in.

Photo: Marine Imaging Technologies/NOAA

A large orange, blue and red crab in an upright position

Pop quiz: What is the largest terrestrial invertebrate?

This species can grow up to one meter from leg to leg and weigh as much as 30 pounds. Found in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, this creature makes for a tasty treat! Have you guessed it yet? Stay tuned for the answer!

Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA

A silver barracuda swims away as light shines down from above

What do you know about Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary? Learn how you can become an underwater explorer, and what you can do to protect this special place this Friday, August 21st in a live interaction! Hear from Florida Keys dive experts on their experiences inside the sanctuaries stunning reefs. Learn more and register for the event.

Photo: David Ruck/NOAA

Bright orange sea star attached to a rock above the water

Have you met the star of the tide pool? The organisms living within tide pools are repeatedly covered and abandoned by shifting tides, leaving them to cope with extreme physical, chemical, and biological changes. Sea stars, like this one in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, use tiny tube feet on each arm to grip onto rocks. Make sure to step lightly while exploring tide pools in order to protect these inhabitants!

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

A bright yellow and red colored anemone with white tentacles

Watch out, fishes! This bright sea anemone is known as a fish-eating anemone, and for good reason. Found in places like Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, its large, sturdy tentacles are capable of bringing down shrimps and small fishes.

Photo: Michael Carver

A hammerhead shark from below

How did the hammerhead shark do on their test? They nailed it!

As Shark Week comes to a close, we had to show off this hammerhead shark in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (and share a dad joke). Sharks are magnificent creatures, but often misunderstood: we seem to be a far greater threat to them than they are to us, as sharks are frequently caught as bycatch, while they provide a crucial ecosystem service by keeping marine food webs in check.

Photo: Mitchell Tartt/NOAA.

Sixgill shark near a rock structure in the dark

We have a tricky quiz question for folks today: How many gills does this bluntnose sixgill shark in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary have? Okay, we'll give you a hint: it's more than 5...

You can bring this and tons of other fintastic sharks to life on the page by downloading our free sharks and rays coloring book.

Photo: NOAA

Whale shark swims near the surface.

Pop quiz: Is a whale shark a whale or a shark?

Correct Answer: A shark! While whales are mammals, whale sharks, like this one in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, are actually cartilaginous fish. They get their name from their enormous size, sometimes stretching to around 40 feet long. Despite being the largest shark in the ocean, whale sharks are gentle giants, feeding primarily on plankton.

*Bonus fact*: Notice those white spots? Those are unique to each individual, just like a human fingerprint!

Photo: Ryan Eckert

Great white shark visible through a wave near bodysurfer

Incoming! Looks like this white shark in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary wanted to get in on the body surfing. White sharks are found in Monterey Bay year-round, but some of the larger migratory sharks show up around October every year. Do you know on average how far a white shark can travel in one day?

Photo: Jim Bryan

Side view of a swimming blacktip reef shark

Like this blacktip reef shark in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, sharks help maintain balanced prey populations by eating sick and weaker individuals. Often found living in nearshore waters, the presence of these friends can indicate a healthy ecosystem and are a welcome sight on the reef!

Photo: Mark Nadon/NOAA

Great white shark swimming towards the camera.

Great white sharks, like this one in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, are one of the most respected predators on earth. These behemoth beauties can grow to 20 feet in length and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Some great whites have been known to launch themselves completely out of the water to catch unsuspecting seals off guard. They're called "great" for a reason!

Photo: David McGuire

A tiger shark above the surface with a wide open mouth right behind an albatross facing away from it.

Dunnn dun...dunnnn dun... WOAH! #SharkWeek has snuck up on us once again, just like this tiger shark catching an albatross by surprise in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. We will be sharing some fintastic content about these jawsome predators all week long so make sure you have a big boat ready! Which species of shark are you most excited to see?

Photo: Ilana Nimz/NOAA

Snorkeler swims behind sea turtle

Shelfie time! The camera loves this green sea turtle in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, but that doesn't mean the turtle loves the camera. When encountering wildlife, always remember to give the animals plenty of room to ensure you both stay happy and safe.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Aerial view of lighthouse by sea cliffs

In honor of National Lighthouse Day, we are celebrating the sentinels of our sanctuary system! Lighthouses, like this one in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, have helped guide sailors away from danger and into safe harbors for centuries. Learn about a few of our sentinels here.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Kayakers in the distance paddling towards a tree line

Have you explored our newest sanctuary yet? Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary protects more than 100 sunken World War I wooden steamships. One of the best ways to visit this "Ghost Fleet" is by hopping in a kayak and heading out to the wrecks.

Photo: Kate Thompson/NOAA

Moray eel looks directly at the camera

What big eyes you have… what big teeth you have! This spotted moray eel in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary looks like it might just huff and puff and blow your house down!

Photo: Steve Miller

A pair of surfers walk on the shore during sunset

What do the ocean and Great Lakes mean to you? For many of our visitors, like these surfers in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the outdoors is a source of both physical and mental wellness. You can find connections with nature, history, and culture in the sanctuary system, which is why it is so important to be a steward and protect these treasures for future generations.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

People fishing from a small ocean boat

Adventure awaits! These anglers in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are taking full advantage of the sunshine and fresh air that nature has to offer. Few places in the world can compare to the beauty of the National Marine Sanctuary System, and this weekend is a perfect opportunity to get out there and take advantage of its wonders. Our sanctuaries are open to diving, surfing, swimming, kayaking, bird and wildlife watching, recreational fishing, virtual events and more! How will you Get Into Your Sanctuary this weekend?

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

People fishing from a small ocean boat

Adventure awaits! These anglers in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are taking full advantage of the sunshine and fresh air that nature has to offer. Few places in the world can compare to the beauty of the National Marine Sanctuary System, and this weekend is a perfect opportunity to get out there and take advantage of its wonders. Our sanctuaries are open to diving, surfing, swimming, kayaking, bird and wildlife watching, recreational fishing, virtual events and more! How will you Get Into Your Sanctuary this weekend?

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Kayaker near the shore of Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary

Looking to connect with the outdoors? All weekend long (starting today at 3pm EDT!) we are bringing the best of nature right to your fingertips with 24 virtual opportunities to Get Into Your Sanctuary! Find out which birds call NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary home, or take a wildlife cruise through NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, there is so much to explore!

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Drawing of two Atlantic Puffins

Calling all ocean lovers! Show us how you get into your sanctuary by submitting photos to our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! Now through Labor Day, send us your best photos of your sanctuary and you may be featured on our website and social media!

This year we are introducing a new category, "Sanctuaries at Home," where you can show us your drawings, stewardship activities, attendance at virtual sanctuary events, or any other ways you're connecting to your sanctuaries from home.

Photo: Joya Wang

Tiger shark swims straight at the camera

Incoming! Today is International Tiger Day, and this tiger shark in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is making sure you know it. Tiger sharks are one of the most impressive predators in the sea. With their rows of serrated teeth, these sharks pack a bite powerful enough to chomp through the shells of sea turtles! These graceful hunters are sure to inspire you to celebrate today.

Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA

Diver swims above a shipwreck covered in corals

What happens to a shipwreck on the ocean floor? The City of Atlanta, pictured here, sank on January 19, 1942 in what is now known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Before becoming the artificial reef it is today, this vessel lived a dynamic life, traveling the East Coast of the United States for decades.

Photo: NOAA

Pacific white sided dolphin jumps out of the water upside down

"Look! I can fly!" This Pacific white sided dolphin in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary has been hanging out with the gulls a little too often. Have you ever seen a breach in action?

Photo: Sage Tezak/NOAA

Pink and gray fish swims in kelp forest.

In NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, home is where the kelp is! Kelp forests provide food and shelter to this California sheephead protecting it from predators and rough storms. These hotspots of biodiversity are the foundation of a complex food web and are of incredible importance to the health of our marine ecosystems.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Pink and gray fish swims in kelp fores

In NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, home is where the kelp is! Kelp forests provide food and shelter to this California sheephead protecting it from predators and rough storms. These hotspots of biodiversity are the foundation of a complex food web and are of incredible importance to the health of our marine ecosystems.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Four baby green sea turtles near the surface of the water

"Remember, rip it, roll it and punch it!" These little squirts are green sea turtles riding the waves in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Use them as a reminder to go with the flow today.

Photo: Koa Matsuoka

A group of spinner dolphins swimming closely just below the surface

Check out these Hawaiian spinner dolphins enjoying the blue waters of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! This photo was taken by one of our Nancy Foster Scholars, Alexandra Avila. Alexandra’s work has focused on the effects of oceanographic processes on the dispersal of larval rockfish, and the effectiveness of marine protected areas in Oregon and Washington.

NOAA’s Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program supports master’s and doctoral degrees in a variety of maritime-related disciplines. We encourage women and members of minority groups to apply!

Photo: Alexandra Avila

Two elephant seals play fighting on the beach while surrounded by pups

Are these two singing a duet? While it may seem that way, these juvenile elephant seals are actually play fighting. Once these seals reach maturity, their fights become more and more serious. For now, though, it's all in good fun!

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Orange anemone

Join us in shellebrating NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary's 26th birthday! Protecting over 3,000 square miles of ocean, this sanctuary is home to a wide diversity of marine life, including this orange sea anemone, orcas, sea otters, and many more of our favorite ocean critters. In addition to important ecological resources, the sanctuary has a rich cultural and historical legacy. The vibrant contemporary communities of the Makah Tribe, Quileute Tribe, Hoh Tribe, and Quinault Nation have forged inseparable ties to the ocean environment along the Olympic Coast. There are even shipwrecks, their remains broken by the intense natural forces of the coastline or concealed from us in deeper parts of the Sanctuary. There is definitely a lot to celebrate here!

Photo: David Katy Laveck Foster

A young person looking out over the water on a whale-watching boat

The ocean connects us all! Humpback Whales, which feed in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary from April through December, migrate each winter to the Caribbean Sea near the Dominican Republic to mate and calve. To celebrate the geographic connection, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary partnered with Hispanic Access Foundation and Massachusetts-based Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal last summer to bring community members in Lawrence, Massachusetts on a whale watching trip to see these behemoth beauties up close! The fun-filled day during #LatinoConservationWeek was a whale of a time, bringing folks together and encouraging environmental stewardship.

Photo: Courtesy of Hispanic Access Foundation

Close-up of a giant clam with black and blue mantle

What would you call this shade of lipgloss? This giant clam in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is making us think that maybe we should change the saying from "happy as a clam" to "glam as a clam!"

Photo: NOAA

Sea otter chewing on an orange crab with a second crab floating on its belly

Who's ready for second breakfast? Check out this greedy southern sea otter snacking on a red rock crab while holding on to a second one for later! Maybe they've been getting into meal prep?

Photo: Douglas Croft

Several students point toward a surfacing humpback whale

This week we are celebrating Latino Conservation Week! Created by the Hispanic Access Foundation, this week celebrates the Latinx community's role in conserving the great outdoors and encourages continued protection into the future. For many, caring for the environment can be driven by shared positive experiences. We are hosting a virtual live interaction with the Hispanic Access Foundation on Wednesday, July 22nd at 4pm. Tune in to learn more about Latino Conservation Week and the fun events you can get involved in, and how you can enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer from your home!

Photo: Anne Smrcina/NOAA

Snorkeler beneath the water trying a mooring buoy line.

Earlier this year, NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary teamed up with Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. They teach principles of responsible recreation, aiming to create sustainable and healthy ecosystems for everyone to enjoy. Through workshops, outreach, and service projects, trainers taught "The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace." These principles emphasize the best ways to recover and preserve this beautiful sanctuary.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Looking down on a diver swimming above a shipwreck with red fins.

Diving can be a great way to explore our beautiful sanctuaries! This diver in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary reminds us of an underwater Dorothy, though with ruby flippers instead of slippers. When diving, make sure you have your courage, brains, and heart all ready so you can have a grand adventure!

Photo: David Ruck/NOAA

Diver over the Dunnottar Castle shipwreck

Shipwreck central! Lying beneath the waves in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the Dunnottar Castle shipwreck. Built in Glasgow in 1874, this three-masted British ship got lost on its way to California due to a malfunctioning chronometer, and crashed into the reef. The crew abandoned ship, leaving the wreck to disappear under the surface until it was discovered by Kure Atoll refuge staff many years later. Today, this well-preserved artifact is home to a wide variety of marine life, and provides skilled divers with a window into the past.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Overhead view of a shark swimming

Today is #SharkAwarenessDay! Meet the basking shark. Basking sharks are the second largest sharks in the world, sometimes growing to the length of a school bus! These gentle giants filter feed on dense clumps of copepods, tiny crustaceans about the size of a grain of rice.

Our friends at NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary recently published a free Sharks and Rays coloring book.

Print it out and share a photo with us showing how you make these fintastic predators come to life on the page by submitting to our Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest in the "Sanctuaries at Home" category!

Photo: Kristin Campbell/Newport Coastal Adventure

Diver looking down at a reef structure of invertebrates

Did you know that NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia is one of the largest near-shore "live-bottom" reefs of the southeastern United States? "Live bottom" is a term used to refer to hard or rocky seafloor that typically supports high numbers of large invertebrates such as sponges, corals and sea squirts. These spineless creatures thrive in rocky areas, as many are able to attach themselves more firmly to the hard substrate, as compared to sandy or muddy "soft" bottom habitats. How many different creatures can you spot in this live-bottom reef?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Close-up of a red crab

Feeling crabby that it's already Sunday? Maybe some new food will help! Did you know this clawsome kelp crab in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary changes its diets with the season? During the summer, when algae are plentiful, kelp crabs are mainly herbivores. However, when the algae diminish in winter, these crabs switch to a carnivorous diet, eating mussels, barnacles, and hydroids. Now that is eating seasonally!

Photo: Chad King/NOAA

Orange bat star on the seafloor

We know that the first rule of fight club is that you don't talk about fight club...but have you heard about the brawls going on in the depths of NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary? Surprisingly, the fighters are none other than bat stars! When bat stars meet, they often "arm-wrestle" each other trying to get an arm on top of the other's. If you're able to catch a skirmish, we recommend some popcorn!

Photo: Dwayne Meadows/NOAA

Northern elephant seal sleeping on the beach

Biiiiig mood. We've made it through another work week, and for some of us (like this northern elephant seal in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary) that means it's time for a nap! How are you relaxing this weekend?!

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Four tufted puffins line a rock ledge

"Okay on the count of three we'll all jump in. One, two..." These tufted puffins in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary look a little wary about that first dive into the cold water below. Don't worry, the water is just fine!

Photo: Mary Sue Brancato/NOAA

Dozens of pink, yellow, and blue fish among corals

Let's add a pop of color to your day! The vibrant reefscapes in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa never cease to amaze us. The colors of these fish remind us of pink lemonade and sunsets! What do they remind you of?

Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA

A young person wearing a white NOAA and National Marine Sanctuary logo hat and teal shirt with the words 'I'm an Ocean Guardian Ambassador' holds a red ribbon on a beach while smiling at the camera.foreground

Students can make a big impact when it comes to reducing marine debris, like this ocean guardian near NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! An Ocean Guardian School makes a commitment to the protection and conservation of its local watersheds, the world's ocean, and special ocean areas, like national marine sanctuaries.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

Two people walk along a beach holding white trash bags with large rock formations in the background and large driftwood pieces in the foreground

How do you keep your local waters clean? We work with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to bring you information about marine debris, how it affects you and the ocean, and even better -- how you can prevent it. By working together, like these two volunteers in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, we can help make the ocean a cleaner, better place! Learn how you can help.

Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA

Close up of trash covering a tide line on a beach

It's time for trash talk! One of our least favorite things to see in our sanctuaries is trash, whether it's plastic bottles, broken glass, or a lost balloon. Simply put, we'd give you the option to dislike this photo from Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary if we could.

Learn more about where marine debris comes from, its impact on ocean ecosystems, and all the ways it can ruin a perfect beach day.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

A group of children gathered around a box of plant seedlings on the beach

It's Independence Day! Our planet is an ocean planet. The National Marine Sanctuary System protects some of the most iconic underwater places throughout the United States, but we can't do it without you. No matter where you are, the ocean and Great Lakes are in your hands. Today, just as any day, it is important that we continue to protect our marine habitats and ensure future generations can enjoy the wonders of the sea, like these Ocean Guardians in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. What do national marine sanctuaries mean to you?

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

A person crouches down by a brown bird in a sand nest removing debris from beside it

This Laysan albatross chick in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the species whose wellbeing is threatened by marine debris on the shore. Reducing your plastic footprint is a great first step. Commit to changing your habits by reducing your use of disposable and single-use plastic items, reusing items, and/or recycling them. Be sure that any trash you do bring with you to the beach this weekend is packed out. The only thing that should be left behind is footsteps!

Photo: Ryan Tabata/NOAA

Kayaker with bags full of marine debris smiling holding a paddle overhead

This ocean steward is taking responsible recreation to a whole new level! Trash and debris can unfortunately be found in all of our national marine sanctuaries, and it is up to each of us to do our part to reduce marine debris. This kayaker in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary shows just how much of a difference one person can make in this battle. When you visit your national marine sanctuaries, make sure to follow their lead and pick up any pieces of trash you safely can!

Photo: Robert Keeley/NOAA

Sandpiper walking on the beach

It's Clean Beaches Week! We are going to take this time to highlight the importance of keeping our coasts clean and the different ways you can be an ocean steward in your own backyard! Beaches, like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, rely on stewardship throughout the watershed to keep it looking this pristine for you and our marine friends! How do you help keep your local beaches clean?

Photo: Lisa Carpenter

Black and white orca mostly above the water turned slightly upside down

Don't be distracted by the orca-batics, this NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary visitor can propel through the water at great speeds with large, paddle-like flippers and a muscular tail! The record-holder is a male timed at 34.5 miles per hour in 1958. With the fastest human swimmers averaging just over 5 miles per hour, there's no competition!

Photo: NWFSC

Diver with research gear swimming past a large cluster of pink and orange anemones and hydroid

Now that has to be the world's largest (and deepest) strawberry! Although there isn't enough light (and maybe too much salt?) to grow strawberries on Craine's Point in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, these strawberry anemones, and orange hydroids are doing their best to brighten up these deep waters.

This photo is from a technical expedition in 2010. The mission was the first technical dive in Cordell Bank's waters since the sanctuary's designation in 1989. This dive contributed greatly to our knowledge of ocean communities living at the upper reaches of Cordell Bank.

Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA

Two sharks surrounded by fish over a shipwreck

Notice anyfin different about this reef? It's actually a sunken tanker from World War II hidden near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! Today, Dixie Arrow acts as a lively ecosystem for all types of marine life. With all this company, there are no lone sharks here!

Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA

Four dolphins jumping out of the water together

Are you enjoying your Saturday as much as these Risso's dolphins in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary? Typically, these dolphins are found in deep waters offshore, diving nearly 1,000 feet by the continental shelf edge. Lucky for us these Risso's dolphins decided to have some fun in the sun!

Photo: Douglas Croft, under NOAA permit #20519

A whale with five dolphins around the head

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most critically endangered populations of large whales in the world. Each year, right whales travel to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to feed. To protect these whales, we're working closely with NOAA Fisheries Service 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 1956. 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

A translucent jellyfish

I don't think you're ready for this jelly(fish)! Atlantic sea nettles can be found in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, and are known to pack quite a punch. The sting from their tentacles comes from a toxin that is mild to humans but paralyzes prey like zooplankton. We definitely won't be getting too close, though!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Brown eel with yellow spots poles its head out of a crevice

Someone call Dean Martin because that's a moray! Found in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, moray eels are incredible nocturnal hunters. Besides the razor-sharp set of teeth in their mouth, moray eels also have another set of jaws in their throat to help swallow prey. These slippery animals commonly hide in rock crevices, remember to always give them plenty of space.

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

Underside of a manta ray

Did you know manta rays have the largest brains of any fish? Found in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, these rays are sometimes called Einsteins of the sea, they can actually recognize themselves in the mirror. If you are planning a dive trip to see them, just be sure to leave your mirrors at home!

Photo: G.P. Schmal/NOAA

The R/V Storm research vessel floats above a sinkhole

NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to rare underwater sinkholes. These sinkholes host a unique bacterial community of microbes that scientists from around the world have studied for more than 15 years.

The R/V Storm, pictured here, is a NOAA research vessel that uses remotely operated vehicles to explore the sinkholes, and dive deeper (literally) into the history of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

Tan sea slug with black spots on sea floor

Anyone else ready for a nap? This California sea hare was found in an eelgrass bed in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The horn-like structures seen on the head of the sea hare is called a rhinophore (“rhino” means nose, “phore” means carrier). Rhinophores allow these animals to pick up chemical cues in the water!

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Sand tiger shark surrounded by fish

Coming through! Sand tiger sharks, like this one in Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, may look scary, but this species is known to be rather docile. Interestingly, sand tiger sharks sometimes come to the surface and gulp down some air. No— they aren’t doing this to breathe, but rather to hunt. By storing this air in their bellies, sand tiger sharks are able to float motionless in the water and stalk prey. What do you think this technique should be called?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Purple sea star on rocky surface

Did this sea star belly flop onto the sand? Is it tanning? Is it doing a split? Found in the rocky intertidal zone of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, sea stars like this actually use salt water to pump nutrients through their bodies. This fascinating feature is called a water vascular system, and is unique to echinoderms, like sea stars and sea urchins. Talk about feeling connected to the ocean!

Photo: Kate Thompson

Green sea turtle swims near the surface

It’s World Sea Turtle Day! This green sea turtle, or honu in Hawaiian, can be found in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, eating mostly seagrasses and algae. These green beauties are protected under the endangered species act, due to such threats as bycatch, habitat loss, and entanglement.

You can help protect these turtley amazing animals by picking up trash at the beach, keeping a safe distance from adults and nests, and always practicing good ocean stewardship.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

Yellow and black fish and orange and white fish swimming around coral

Happy birthday to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! The monument is of great importance to Native Hawaiians, with significant cultural sites found on the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana. These fish in French Frigate Shoals are just a few of the millions of creatures that this monument protects, including sea turtles, monk seals, and 14 million seabirds. With so many inhabitants, this birthday party is going to need a lot of cake!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A large collection of common murres on rocks by the sea

1, 2, 3… okay we give up trying to count! Despite what it looks like, those are not penguins in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, but common murres. As you can see, these seabirds have the most densely packed nesting colonies of any type of bird.

Can you count how many common murres are in this pic? We figure there has to be at least 10.

Photo: Sandra Rhodes/USFWS

Water splashing off a boat

Good vibes and high tides! This boater in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary certainly enjoyed an adventure-filled day! You can learn how to practice safe boating during National Fishing and Boating Week.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

Person fishing on intertidal rocks

Fishing is more than just a hobby! Anglers, like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, know that fishing helps maintain healthy ecosystems, benefits economies, and allows people to responsibly interact with nature. Besides, you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a fishing pole!

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Coastline with cloudy sky

Today we honor King Kamehameha, a legendary figure in Hawaiian history. In 1810, Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom and became the first ruler. A fierce and determined warrior, Kamehameha spent decades navigating tricky alliances and battling powerful chiefs, all in the relentless pursuit to unite and rule the Hawaiian Islands. Called Kamehameha the Great, he established the “law of the splintered paddle,” or Ke Kānāwai Māmalahoe in Hawaiian, which was adapted in 1978 to become part of the Hawaii State Constitution. Today, this breathtaking environment is protected by Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

A fly fisher casting on a boat

Boaters and anglers, like this fly fisherman in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, are cherished members of our sanctuary community. By recreating responsibly, following local regulations, and leaving our sanctuaries and sensitive wildlife unharmed, visitors can practice marine stewardship and ensure that future generations get to enjoy the wonders of the sea.

Learn more about how to interact with wildlife when you encounter them.

Photo: Sepp Haukebo

Aerial of anchored boats in the ocean

Eat, sleep, boat, repeat. We’d like to modify this excellent life motto just a tiny bit to eat, sleep, boat safely, repeat! It's important for both the health of our sanctuaries and the fun of our visitors that all boaters are operating safely. NOAA offers a wide range of free resources for safe recreational boating.

For boaters like these in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA offers some extra assistance for smooth sailing with this free Boater Education Course.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Child walks between rocks in shallow water

It's World Oceans Day! Each year on this day, we celebrate the life-giving force that is our ocean. The ocean provides the oxygen we breathe, sustains an amazing array of animals and plants, and more. This year, we want to highlight the next generation of ocean scientists, like this adventurer in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Children are the future and will one day lead us in protecting our amazing ocean.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Kid fishing on the shore

Planning your next trip? Where better to have some fun in the sun than our beautiful national marine sanctuaries? Fishing and boating offer amazing ways to connect intimately with nature and make unforgettable memories. With breathtaking views, calm seas, and a plethora of fish waiting just below the surface, people of all ages can enjoy a dose of vitamin sea.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Man throws fishing net off of a boat

It’s National Fishing and Boating Week! While our visitor centers are closed, the public waters within our national marine sanctuaries remain open for responsible recreation in accordance with CDC guidance and local regulations. Learn more

Photo: RBFF

OA group of kayakers paddling

Enjoyment and appreciation of the great outdoors is a fundamental American value. Like our iconic national parks, national marine sanctuaries are places of hope, inspiration, biodiversity, and resilience. But they are more than just ocean parks; they’re communities with diverse cultures, values, and ideas. By embracing and celebrating this diversity, we can ensure a bright future of our ocean and Great Lakes for current and future generations.

Whether you live on a coast or in a community far from the shore, we invite you to experience the power and beauty of America’s sanctuary system and form your own lasting memories.

Photo: NOAA

Oan orange and red octopus inside a crevice

Is anyone else having a hard time figuring out where this common octopus ends and the habitat starts? Divers found this camouflaged friend in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary blending into their surroundings! Using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin, this invertebrate can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings. Predators swim by without even noticing it. Keep an eye out for creatures hiding in plain sight on your next trip!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Otter looks directly at the camera

We interrupt your regular feed for a seally good joke, inspired by this wide-eyed seal in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. What do seals study in school? Answer: Art Art Art! Thank you, thank you, we'll be here all week!

Photo: Peter Pyle/SWFSC

Otter looks directly at the camera

Today is special because it is none otter than World Otter Day! Otters are one of the cutest inhabitants of our sanctuaries. I mean, look at this little friend in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Not only are otters adorable, they are keystone species. By feeding on sea urchins, otters help kelp forests flourish, which benefits the entire ecosystem. These fluffy chubsters can do no wrong!

Photo: Douglas Croft

Two paddle boarders on the water

Who else is ready to paddle into the weekend? Paddleboarding is a great way to explore NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa and watch wildlife. Even if you're far away from American Samoa, you can check out this amazing sanctuary.

Photo:Ropate Delana/NOAA

 Dr. Isabella Abbott

Dr. Isabella Kauakea Aiona Abbott has been called “the First Lady of Limu.” She was the first Native Hawaiian to earn a doctorate in science, the first female biology professor at Stanford University, and an internationally recognized authority on marine algae, or limu in Hawaiian, bringing unique ancient Hawaiian knowledge to her studies and teachings. She was the author of eight books and more than 150 scientific papers. She named more than 200 species, as well as naming NOAA’s research vessel, Hiʻialakai, which in Hawaiian means “embracing pathways to the sea.” Isabella was a towering inspiration to generations of students and colleagues due to her achievements, connections to people, and a lifelong passion for limu. She was a member of the Reserve Advisory Council from 2001 until her passing in 2010. In a fitting tribute, researchers at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument named a recently discovered species of limu from Papahānaumokuākea after Isabella: Martensia abbottiae.

Photo: Celia Smith/University of Hawaiʻi

A bright red anemone with white vertical spots

This rose has a different kind of thorn! Found in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the white-spotted rose anemone has specialized stinging cells in the tentacles surrounding its mouth. When prey or predators swim by, a barbed poisonous hook is ejected that can paralyze or even kill the target. Have you seen one of these anemones when diving in your sanctuary?

Photo: Cindy Shaw

A translucent white sea slug with bright blue and orange cerata

A beautiful undersea flower? No – this is a cockscomb nudibranch, a type of sea slug! Look closely and you can see its digestive tract through its translucent body.

This small nudibranch was photographed by Robin Agarwal at NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and was a submission for the 2019 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest. The 2020 photo contest is now open!

Photo: Robin Agarwal

Historical photo of King David Kalākaua standing in uniform

Hawaiʻi, the most isolated archipelago in the world, was globally connected in the 19th century due to the efforts of King David Kalākaua of the Hawaiian Kingdom, who reigned from 1874 to 1891. An educated and charismatic leader, he is the first head of state to circumnavigate the globe. His intellectual and artistic pursuits included science, law, music composition, military strategy, history, and new technology. Kalākaua, an avid inventor, met Thomas Edison in New York in 1881. By 1887, his home ʻIolani Palace boasted 325 incandescent bulbs four years before the White House acquired electric lights. His leadership inspired his people to take pride in their intellectual and cultural heritage. Kalākauaʻs vision of a vibrant nation is embodied and expressed by the cultural practitioners and artists at the annual Merrie Monarch Festival held in Hilo, said to be the “Superbowl” of hula and Hawaiian culture.

Photo: J.J. Williams/Hawai‘i State Archives

A rocky outcropping covered in invertebrates and surrounded by small fish

Time to celebrate! Today NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is recognizing 31 years in the National Marine Sanctuary System. Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is an extremely productive marine area off the west coast of the United States in northern California, just north of NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary protects a rocky bank, home to a rich and diverse marine community. What species can you spot in this photo?

Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA

Close view of a green sea turtle swimming

Crush, is that you? Today is the 20th anniversary of World Turtle Day, which was created to shell-ebrate and help protect turtles around the world. Our National Marine Sanctuary System is home to many species of turtles, including this green sea turtle, or honu, in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. They grow to 200 pounds or more and migrate once every two to five years across hundreds of miles of open ocean to mate and nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at French Frigate Shoals.!

Photo: John Burns/NOAA

A variety of fish swimming among corals.

Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity! Did you know that coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet?

Sometimes called rainforests of the sea, coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment. Having high biodiversity helps make these ecosystems more resilient to change. Healthy and diverse reefs, like this one in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, are key to discovering new medicines, contributing to local economies, and protecting shorelines. Always remember to practice responsible recreation to protect these beautiful biodiverse ecosystems!

Photo: Daryl Duda

a diver swims near a sand tiger shark, surrounded by many small fish

Save the date! You're invited to Get Into Your Sanctuary over the long weekend of July 31-August 2. We'll be holding events–virtual dives, webinars, and more–in celebration of recreation in your National Marine Sanctuary System.

Plus, our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest kicks off this weekend and will run through Labor Day weekend! Submit your photos in the categories Sanctuary Views, Sanctuary Life, Sanctuary Recreation, and Sanctuaries at Home for a chance to win.

Photo: Bruce Sudweeks

A Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner sounds the pū, a conch shell trumpet, in front of the ocean

The Hawaiian language was once on the verge of extinction. In 1984, there were less than 50 children that could speak fluently. It was then that the Hawaiian language revitalization movement began through the establishment of preschools that used immersion Hawaiian language-medium education. Today, Hawaiian language is an official language of the state of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiian language-medium education is present from preschool to Ph.D., an enormous accomplishment that has taken several decades. At the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo the doctorate program in Hawaiian and Indigenous Language and Culture Revitalization is the first doctorate in the United States conducted in an Indigenous language and the first doctorate in the world to revitalize an Indigenous language.

To support the normalization of Hawaiian language and to accomplish the stewardship goals of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in Hilo provides bilingual interpretation for the growing number of Hawaiian language speakers.

Photo: Jamie Makasobe

A traditional Samoan Siapo – a circle with a repeating patten in brown, black, and white

Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month is here, and we are celebrating our sanctuaries’ unique historic and cultural identities. The Siapo (or Tapa) is one of the oldest art forms in Polynesia, and each design motif is a symbol originating from Samoa’s natural environment. The Siapo shown here was created for NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa by the Samoan artist Reggie Meredith, using a traditional Siapo mamanu form. The sanctuary's visitor center, the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center, is octagonal in shape to match this Siapo’s eight sections (or motifs).

Photo: Reggie Meredith

A manu-o-Kū/white tern taking flight

Manu-o-Kū, or white terns, are known by traditional Hawaiian navigators as one of the best indicators of land. Manu-o-Kū go out to sea in the morning to feed on fish, and return to land at night to rest. The flights of such birds are useful signs for those seeking landfall since they provide a fairly specific direction to the seafarer. Observing the daily flight patterns of these birds can indicate the direction of islands far out of the range of sight.

When foraging for food for their young, it is estimated that manu-o-Kū may forage as far as 120 miles from land. In Hawaiian culture, some seabirds are often referred to as extensions of land because of their connection to islands.

The meaning of manu-o-Kū is often interpreted as “bird of Kū." Kū is one of the four major Hawaiian gods and is associated with diverse aspects of the Hawaiian universe such as governance, certain types of fishing and crop production, carving of canoes, long life, and family. Some of the meanings of the word kū that are also associated to the god Kū are upright, to rise up, or to establish. As reliable patrons of navigation and wayfinding, manu-o-Kū embody the energy of Kū and his concern for the governance and prosperity of a rising nation like an island from out of the sea.

Photo: James Watt/NOAA

Close view of a white ibis bird with a long red beak and blue eyes

The white ibis certainly "fits the bill" as one of the most common wading birds in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Their long, red bills are used to stir up and catch prey in the sanctuary's shallow waters. White ibises are usually followed by other wading birds that attempt to catch the scraps.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

The island of Nihoa as seen from aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hikianalia, sister canoe to Hōkūleʻa

In 1980, Nainoa Thompson became the first Native Hawaiian in 600 years to use wayfinding – non-instrument navigation – to sail a traditional Hawaiian waʻa kaulua (double-hulled sailing canoe) to Tahiti and back. He learned this ancient skill from master navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal, Micronesia. The voyage of Hōkūleʻa and the crews that sailed it helped spark a renaissance of Hawaiian language and culture. Since then, Hōkūleʻa has sailed around the world, visiting over 150 ports across 18 nations to spread a message of Mālama Honua (caring for Island Earth). Nainoa and a small group of other master navigators continue to train new generations of wayfinders, using the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument as training grounds for apprentices readying themselves to lead crews on long, open ocean voyages beyond the Hawaiian archipelago.

Photo: Brad Ka‘aleleo Wong/Office of Hawaiian Affairs

A person kneeling and holding a coconut in their hands, with the face clearly displayed

The month of May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month! In American Samoa, there is a mythological story called “Sina and the Eel” that tells the origin of the first coconut tree. Legend tells of a beautiful girl named Sina who befriended an eel. The eel grew large and fell in love with Sina, but this frightened her. The village chiefs saw her in anguish and rushed out to kill the eel. Before it died, the eel requested Sina to bury its head in the ground, and from its place, a “tree of life” known as the coconut tree would grow from it. This tree is the eel’s gift of love for her.

The coconut, with husks removed, has a facial resemblance of the eel, with its two eyes and a mouth. The legend suggests that by taking a drink from the coconut, it is a kiss for the eel. The coconut tree is a gift of life for the Samoan people. Every part of the tree is used in Samoan culture. It provides a source of food, shelter, clothing, cooking materials, and a wide range of useful products.

Photo: NOAA

A mottled-orange creature disguising itself against the seafloor

It's time for a round of I Spy in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary! Can you identify the creature hidden in this photo?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

 A humpback whale swimming just beneath the ocean surface

Whales, such as the humpback whale, are known as koholā in the Hawaiian language. They have long been revered for their connection to the native people of Hawai‘i and their history. Various oral traditions and written historical accounts describe the relationship between the early people of Hawaiʻi and koholā in Hawaiian waters and there are many other examples of this cultural heritage within legends, storied place names, and material culture. Here, a humpback whale swims in the warm waters of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #14682

People rowing a fautasi, with the mountains of Tutuila in the background.

The fautasi (meaning “built as one”) is a traditional Samoan longboat canoe, sometimes up to 100 feet long! The fautasi is significant as a living maritime cultural tradition in American Samoa. Long ago, fautasi were used primarily in warfare to transfer cargo and supplies, and as a mode of inter island transportation. Today, fautasi racing is the highlight of the annual American Samoa Flag Day festivities in April, with support from the entire village that trains several months prior.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

A sea lion raising its head out of the water at an angle that looks like it's groaning

So, Monday...we meet again. This sea lion in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary has a bad case of the Monday Blues. Let's put a smile on its face! Comment below with something you're looking forward to this week.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A tiger shark swimming just beneath a wave

Tiger sharks are one of many shark (manō) species in Hawai‘i and are important members of the coastal ecosystem. As apex predators, they help keep marine ecosystems in balance by removing injured and sick animals. Manō are an important part of Native Hawaiian culture. They are found in many stories and songs, where they appear as guardians, villains, navigators, and healers.

Photo: Koa Matsuoka

A small rocky island backlit by a sunset, surrounded by ocean

Have you ever wondered about the name of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument? The name of Papahānaumokuākea acknowledges two prominent Native Hawaiian ancestors: Papahānaumoku, the broad expansive earth who gives birth to islands through the oceanic womb, and Wākea, sky father, the broad expanse that allows us to access time and space. Naming the monument for Papahānaumoku and Wākea is an acknowledgment of the ancestral connections of people and place. Throughout the Pacific, other island cultures acknowledge Papahānaumoku and Wākea by other names such as Papatūānuku and Ranginui in Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Fakahotuhenua and Ātea in Tahiti. These similarities tell us about a common origin among distant places throughout the Pacific Islands connected by one ocean.

Pictured here is Nihoa, one of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands protected within the monument.

Learn how to pronounce the name Papahānaumokuākea

Photo: Kaleomanuiwa Wong

A vibrant coral reef, with a diver swimming in the distance

May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month! The National Marine Sanctuary System has a long history of working closely with communities in American Samoa and Hawai‘i, and all month we'll be featuring information and stories about these collaborations.

Today, say talofa–hello–to NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! The phrase Fa‘a Samoa is often heard in American Samoa and refers to the traditional Samoan way of life. It is the foundation of Polynesia’s oldest culture, dating back about 3,000 years. Just like Fa‘a Samoa places great importance on the collective rather than the individual, the sanctuary is a hub of collaboration, striving together to preserve and protect our special underwater treasures.

Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA

A stand-up paddleboarder looks down at a shipwreck beneath a glassy lake surface

This week is National Travel and Tourism Week! This is a great time to explore our resources and plan your next adventure at a national marine sanctuary. Where do you dream of going next?

Photo: Bryan Dort

Giant Pacific octopus in dark water

How do you make an octopus laugh? You give it ten-tickles! We hope these dad jokes are kraken you up. This giant Pacific octopus in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary seems to think our puns are inkredible!

Photo: Katy Laveck Foster

Several sea stars surrounding a jellyfish on the seafloor and eating it

That's no moon! It's a moon jelly, and it's being eaten by a swarm of Death Stars – er, bat stars – in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Happy Star Wars Day from your national marine sanctuaries, and May the Fourth be with you!

Photo: Chad King/NOAA

An orange and pink rockfish hides among bright pink strawberry anemones

You might not expect to find strawberries and roses in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, but they’re out there—they just look a little different. This rosy rockfish and these strawberry anemones really bring springtime to the reefscape.

Photo: Matt Vieta/BAUE

A view of the deep blue-green ocean. The sky above has a few clouds, and birds fly in the distance

Time for your daily medit-ocean! Take a deep breath and enjoy the blue-green seas of French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Look closely and you can see terns flying above the water.

Photo: NOAA

A red and iridescent blue fish with a mouth full of small, very pointy teeth

What do you think this lizardfish in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is thinking? Leave your caption in the comments!

Photo: Keith C. Flood

A manta ray swimming in clear blue wate

Our love for the ocean is manta be! Tag a friend you want to share this (manta) ray of light with.

Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA

many colorful corals and algae

Happy anniversary to NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! This sanctuary was originally created to protect the tiny Fagatele Bay, a hotspot for coral biodiversity. In 2012, the sanctuary expanded to become one of our largest national marine sanctuaries. NOAA and the government of American Samoa co-manage this ocean treasure to not only protect its rich biodiversity, but also to support the cultural traditions and history of the region.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A cluster of white, claw-like barnacles on a rock

Dragon claws? A rocky bouquet? No – gooseneck barnacles! These barnacles are filter feeders, and attach to rocks in the intertidal zone so they can grab small particles of food from the surf. They can be found in many of your national marine sanctuaries, including NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Dayna McLaughlin/NOAA

A close up of a tide pool, containing several purple sea urchins and a bright green sponge

Each tide pool of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park is a microcosm, a window into the diversity of ocean life. Here, you'll find sponges, sea urchins, and more!

Photo: B. Bacchus/NPS

Osprey sitting on a shipwreck

Our newest national marine sanctuary is Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, located in Maryland's Potomac River. This site is most renowned for its “Ghost Fleet,” the partially submerged remains of more than 100 wooden steamships that were built in response to threats from World War I-era German U-boats that were sinking ships in the Atlantic. Today, in addition to serving as living museums, the shipwrecks serve as habitat for animals like ospreys.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

 A small fluffy white bird chick standing on a log with its wings outstretched

I believe I can fly! This adorable little floof is a white tern chick. Also known as fairy terns, or manu-o-kū in Hawaiian, these small birds breed throughout Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. They're one of the 22 species of seabirds that breed and nest in the monument. Unlike most other seabirds, adult white terns don't build a nest; instead, they find a suitable spot on a tree branch, rock ledge, or other surface and lay their egg there.

Photo: Dan Clark/USFWS

A pale tan brittle star clings to a pink bubblegum coral

It's National Environmental Education Week! From lessons on deep-sea corals to virtual dives into your national marine sanctuaries, we have educational resources for everyone.

Photo: NOAA

A person standing on a beach looking out into water. She is wearing a shirt that says '2019 Sanctuary Ocean Count Site Leader'

National Volunteer Week is a time to recognize our outstanding corps of volunteers who make a difference in their communities and help protect our ocean and Great Lakes. Our intrepid volunteers assist with a wide variety of activities, including beach cleanups, water quality monitoring, community outreach, and wildlife surveys. Here, a volunteer keeps a sharp eye out for whales in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary during last year's Sanctuary Ocean Count, a citizen science project to monitor whales. A warm thank you and mahalo to all our amazing volunteers!

Get to know some of our volunteers.

Photo: Kael Kattil

 A gray whale mother and calf swimming through a kelp forest

Happy Earth Day! Today we are celebrating Earth Day's 50th anniversary. Earth is an ocean planet, and our ocean connects us all and sustains vibrant ecosystems. Your national marine sanctuaries protect creatures great and small from whales to krill, and habitats from kelp forests to coral reefs. Today is an opportunity to celebrate our blue planet and its wild diversity, and to ask ourselves what we can do to conserve it for future generations. How are you celebrating Earth Day today?

Photo: Douglas Croft

a large white pelican swimming on the ocean surface. It has a bright orange bill with a large protrusion on the top.

What's up with this pelican's bill? American white pelicans are among the many birds that live in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for at least part of the year. During the breeding season, adult white pelicans grow a distinctive horn on their upper bill. The horn's purpose isn't known for sure, but scientists think it may be part of courtship competition.

Photo: Douglas Croft

A pinkish shrimp hiding within a white sponge

Caption this! What do you think this shrimp is thinking while hanging out in a deep-sea sponge in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa?

Photo: OET/NOAA

Purple octopus on the seafloor with its arms outstretched

"WAIT FOR MEEEEE! I want to give you a hug! And a hug, and a hug, and a hug..."

This social octopus was spotted in the deep waters of Bodega Canyon in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, during the 2019 expedition with Nautilus Live.

Photo: OET/NOAA

Over/under shot looking at rocks and gulls from in the water

Take a second to close your eyes and imagine all the sounds of NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Do you hear the gulls squawking? The waves splashing against the rocks?

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A red bat star with five normal-sized arms and one additional small one

Happy Bat (Star) Appreciation Day! Bat stars typically have five arms connected by webbing that gives them a bat-like look. This one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, though, has an extra one. Some species of sea stars can regenerate limbs after damage or predation, so it's likely that this sea star is growing a new arm after a narrow escape.

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

Breaching minke whale

Timmmbbeerrrr!! This minke whale in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is making a splash. Minke whales rarely exhibit breaching behavior, but every once in a while the mood seems to strike them. Can you blame them?

Photo: Anne Smrcina/NOAA

A barracuda in open ocean

What do you call two barracuda? A pairacuda! This barracuda in NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary seemed to like our pun. Just wait, we’ve got more fintastic jokes where that came from!

Photo: NOAA

A heavily-scarred dolphin jumping out of the water

Happy National Dolphin Day! 🐬 Your National Marine Sanctuary System is home to a huge variety of dolphin species. Here, a Risso's dolphin leaps out of the water in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. What's your favorite kind of dolphin to see in your sanctuaries?

Photo: Douglas Croft Images.

A bat ray hovering just above the seafloor in a kelp forest

Nananananananana bat ray! Rays like this bat ray in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are searayiously cool. Their "wings" help them gracefully swim through the water and churn up sand to expose small mollusks, shrimp, crabs, and other animals to eat.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Sea otter floats on its back and eats.

Oh to be a California sea otter, floating on our backs and eating a snack. Sea otters have thick fur that traps air and allows them to float like this adorable little one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The picture of relaxation!

Photo: Peter Flood

A light purple octopus sitting on the sampling tubes of an ROV

"Hi! Hi! What are you doing? Can you give me a ride? Can I grab this? What about this?"

This opportunistic octopus is celebrating National Submarine Day in style. Last fall it hopped aboard the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules while it was exploring a whale fall in the depths of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with Nautilus Live. Check out footage of the whale fall .

Photo: OET/NOAA

Many small fish swim above colorful invertebrates and algae

We were hoping to add some more color to your day, and this pic from NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary seems like it’ll add about a hundred! Cordell Bank is home to a wide variety of anemones, fish, and other species that all add their own pop of color to the reefscape. Which one catches your eye the most?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Sandpipers reflected in sunlit sand

Seaside sandpiper silhouettes…try saying that 10 times fast! The vibrant colors of nature never cease to amaze us, and we hope this golden scene on the shores of NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary does the same for you.

Photo: Anne Mary Schaefer

Diverse array of green and brown seaweed

An algal bouquet? Send it my way! Low tides reveal a diverse array of algal species competing for space on a remote beach on the Makah tribal reservation on the Washington coast. NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary staff collaborate with Makah tribal staff to annually monitor seawater temperature and intertidal organisms, including the beautiful algae!

Photo: Jenny Waddell/NOAA

A  rainbow stretching over a beach and the ocean

Have you taken a moment to unwind today? We’re relaxing by day-dreaming of rainbows over the beach in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Jeff Moore

Orange and white fish swimming over a sunlit coral reef.

It may be Monday, but we've got your moment of calm. Unclench your jaw and imagine diving with these beautiful pyramid butterfly fish over the coral reefs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

close-up on a giant clam with a turquoise and brown mantle

Other mollusks: "Ugh, the giant clam is so shellfish for stealing attention."
Us: "Clam down, we love you all!"

Giant clams like this one can be spotted at Rose Atoll in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. They're the largest bivalve mollusk in the world!

Photo: NOAA

A close-up of a bright orange fish, seen from below

Keep your chin up!" says the Garibaldi. The vibrant Garibaldi is the California state marine fish, and is known for its bright orange color. This one was photographed off Santa Cruz in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Keith C. Flood

White seabird with a blue beak, black wingtips, and red legs and feet perching on a ship

The red-footed booby is a seabird well known for its distinctive red feet, bodies well adapted for swimming and diving, and strong flying abilities. They live year-round in tropical and subtropical regions, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Red-footed boobies feed at sea, and are known to visit and rest on boats like this research vessel.

Photo: Eden Zang/NOAA

A translucent baby squid with red dots swimming in a dish of water

Sometimes you just need a photo of a baby squid.

This little squid-let was seen on a past research expedition in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California. Have you ever seen anything so inkredible?

Photo: Greg Ryan Anderson/NOAA/Point Blue Conservation Science/ACCESS Oceans

A close-up of a pufferfish eye

Here's your daily reminder that the little things in life can be just as beautiful and mysterious as the big stuff. Greens and blacks swirl within the eye of a pufferfish in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the Georgia coast, where a kaleidoscope of colorful creatures thrive on and around the sanctuary's living reef.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A colorful reef, with an orange and white fish blending in toward the top

Here's a magic eye puzzle for you: can you spot the spotted scorpionfish? These masters of disguise are found (by those with keen eyes) in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Their textured skin and mottled coloring helps them sneak up on prey like small fish and crustaceans.

Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA

A Steller sea lion with its mouth very wide open

"AAAAAAAAAA I am a Steller sea lion, hear me roar!" What do you think this sea lion in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has to say?

Photo: Katy Laveck Foster

Two cormorants sitting in a nest. They are both almost all black, with bright blue eyes and throat

Brilliant blue Brandt's beak – can you say that three times fast? Brandt's cormorants, like these two, are often spotted in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. During breeding season, their throat patch and eyes turn a vivid blue – quite the fashion statement!

Photo: Douglas Croft

A rocky outcropping completely covered in bright invertebrates, with many fish swimming around it.

Brighten up your weekend with this view of NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! This sanctuary protects a rocky undersea feature 115 feet beneath the ocean surface at its tallest point. Despite its depth, though, Cordell Bank is host to a whole array of technicolor wildlife, from bright pink strawberry anemones to schools of juvenile rockfish. What other creatures can you spot here?

Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA

Sun coming through the clouds over the ocean, with Santa Cruz Island off in the distance

Time for your daily medit-ocean! Take a deep breath in, exhale, and enjoy the sunlight over NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

 White sea slug with black, orange, and pink cerata

Time for a nudibranch break! This beauty in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a Hilton's aeolid. Though small (about 2 inches long), Hilton's aeolids aren't to be trifled with – they're known for picking fights with other nudibranchs!

Photo: Robin Agarwa

A humpback whale feeding at the surface with a bird nearby

"Roar! Just kidding, I'm a whale."

Photo: NOAA

The sunset over a glassy ocean

Your Tuesday moment of calm: take a deep breath and enjoy the sunset in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A sea lion swimming over algae with its eye wide open

This sea lion in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has its eye on you! Sea lions have a reflective membrane at the back of their eyes called the tapetum lucidum. This membrane acts as a mirror, bouncing light back through the eye to help sea lions see in murky and low-light conditions.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as seen from the edge of space via a weather balloon

Today is World Water Day! Wherever you are, you are connected to the ocean by your local waterways. The ocean creates the oxygen we breathe, influences our weather and climate, and harbors an astonishing diversity of life.

This photo of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was taken with a GoPro that was launched to the edge of space via weather balloon. The balloon was launched from San Francisco, hit a maximum altitude of 91,470 feet, and landed in the Salinas Valley area. At this altitude, the camera is above 99.9% of the atmosphere, so it is able to capture the blackness of space above Earth's relatively thin atmosphere. Views like this remind us that Earth Is Blue

Photo: Bryan Chan

Sunlit kelp forest

Today is the International Day of Forests – and did you know there are forests in the ocean? Kelp forests grow in many of your national marine sanctuaries along the West Coast, where they support lush, biodiverse communities. In NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, pictured here, giant kelp canopies tower above the ocean floor. Giant kelp can grow up to 18 inches per day! Among the many mammals and birds that use these forests as shelter or feeding grounds are seals, sea lions, whales, sea otters, gulls, cormorants, and more.

Photo: Nathan Coy

Several dolphins swimming together

March is Dolphin Awareness Month! These charismatic ocean creatures are known for being sociable, intelligent, and acrobatic. What is your favorite species of dolphin?

Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA

Two California sea lions facing one another, one on a rock and the other in the water

CAPTION THIS: What do you think these two California sea lions in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are chatting about?

Photo: Peter Flood

A pile of sea stars on a sponge

Why have one sea star in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary when you could have...er...eight? Nine? Ten?

Photo: Kim Roberson/NOAA

 A green moray eel coming out from a crevice in a coral reef

Happy St. Patrick's Day from this green moray eel in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! Green moray eels are actually brownish, but they wear green in celebration of the holiday – or, rather, to protect themselves from parasites and disease. That is, these eels secrete a yellowish mucus that covers their skin, giving them a greenish tinge.

Photo: Olivia Williamson

A large black bird with scruffy-looking feathers and a bright red throat pouch.

Look, we get it. Not every day can be a good hair day. But cheer up, magnificent frigatebird – you're making an excellent fashion statement with that bright red throat pouch! The lady frigatebirds of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are sure to love you.

Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A humpback whale calf with a scar from a boat collision. This photo was taken in 2013

On the water? Always keep an eye out for whales! At least nine instances of humpback whale/vessel collisions have been reported since December in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and whales are also at risk of collisions in other national marine sanctuaries. With recent reports of whales – often young whales – showing propeller injuries, please remember to keep a safe distance. Collisions with vessels are a risk to both the animals and humans.

Boaters can help prevent collisions by posting a lookout at all times throughout the year, not just when whales are most prevalent. An extra set of eyes scanning the waters ahead and to the side of a boat can prevent collisions with marine life, obstructions, divers, and other vessels. Slow down, too: slower speeds may help you avoid hitting a whale or other animals.

If you come across an injured or entangled marine mammal, please maintain the required safe and legal distance and notify your local stranding network.

Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240

A green sea anemone in a tide pool with purple sea urchins in the background

Happy Pi Day! This sea anemone in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary isn't a pie and we definitely wouldn't recommend eating it. BUT, sea anemones do exhibit radial symmetry, meaning they're symmetrical around a center point, like a pie, and you could measure their circumference using pi.

Photo: Andy Collins/NOAA

A jellyfish and a brown and white spotted fish in sunlight beneath the waves.

unlit waters harbor a moment of unlikely friendship between a jelly and a fish in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Thank you for joining us this week to honor the memory of NOAA diver and staff member Greg McFall, and for sharing your memories with us.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Grey and white feathery gills

With his macro lens, Greg McFall showed off parts of the ocean that many of us never get to see. This “forest” in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is a closeup of a Dendrodoris nudibranch’s gills.

This week, we’re honoring the memory of NOAA diver and staff member Greg McFall. If you knew Greg or his photography, we would love to hear your memories.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Two anemonefish over a large sea anemone

“We can stop finding Nemo!” With a sense of humor and an eye for beauty, Greg McFall captured all sorts of scenes through photography. Here, two anemonefish swim over a large sea anemone in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa.

This week, we’re honoring the memory of NOAA diver and staff member Greg McFall. If you knew Greg or his photography, we would love to hear your memories.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A diver silhouetted behind a coral reef

In recent years, Greg McFall was based in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where his photography lit up the coral reef. Here, a research diver hovers over the reef in the North Tortugas Ecological Reserve.

This week, we’re honoring the memory of NOAA diver and staff member Greg McFall. If you knew Greg or his photography, we would love to hear your memories.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Greg McFall filming a coral reef while diving

Earlier this year, the National Marine Sanctuary System lost one of the treasured members of our family, Greg McFall. The director of the NOAA Diving Program, Greg had also served as research coordinator and superintendent of NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary and supported many other national marine sanctuaries. His passing is a huge loss to us and to the larger sanctuaries community.

Whether you have been following us on social media for a few months or a few years, you likely came to know Greg through his photography. An accomplished diver and gifted photographer, Greg provided an unparalleled view of the underwater world from the Florida Keys to American Samoa. This week, in honor of his memory, we will be sharing some of his photographs across our social media. If you knew Greg or his photography, we would love to hear your memories.

Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA

A woman on a ship holding a small glass sampling container

Happy International Women's Day! Today we're celebrating all the women who make the National Marine Sanctuary System possible and who dedicate themselves to protecting and understanding marine species and ecosystems.

Here, Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Carina Fish pauses during a research expedition in Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones national marine sanctuaries. The Foster Scholarship supports women and members of minoritized groups in graduate school for ocean-related sciences.

Photo: Julie Chase/ACCESS/NOAA/Point Blue Conservation Science

A lettuce sea slug on bright pink algae

What do you see here: an invertebrate grazing on algae or a piece of abstract art? This is in fact a beautiful lettuce sea slug found in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. We think all marine life is beautiful, especially when it looks like art. What species is your favorite?

Photo: Tiffany Duong/Ocean Rebels

Purple hydrocoral growing from a rocky outcropping

If the color purple is associated with royalty, then all hail NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary for its purple hydrocoral! Have you seen this bright, stunning invertebrate when visiting your national marine sanctuary?

Photo: Adam Obaza

Scorpionfish hiding in seagrass

Happy Seagrass Awareness Month! Let’s get down to the grass tacks: seagrass plays a vital role in supporting ocean ecosystems. A wide variety of animals, such as manatees, seahorses, and this shy scorpionfish in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary rely on seagrass for both food and shelter. Seagrass also produces oxygen, protects shores from powerful wave action, and makes water clearer. So put those lawnmowers away, this grass is way too important!

Photo: NOAA

Bright pink anemones and a barnacle

These strawberry anemones in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary are so colorful it feels like summer's right around the corner. These beautiful invertebrates reproduce by cloning themselves, spreading out to cover a large are of rocky reef. Talk about a berry patch!

Photo: Matt Vieta/BAUE

A Hawaiian monk seal mother and pup lying on a beach

Happy World Wildlife Day! Your National Marine Sanctuary System is dedicated to protecting marine wildlife – from tiny shrimp and corals all the way to massive whales. We work diligently to safeguard endangered species like Hawaiian monk seals, pictured here in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. What steps will you take to protect marine wildlife?

Photo: Melody Bentz

A brightly colored coral reef

Start your week off right with a virtual trip to Fagatele Bay in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! This small bay is a hotspot for coral diversity. Here, you'll find at least 270 species of fishes, 160 species of coral, and 1,400 species of algae and invertebrates – all in 0.25 square mile! What kinds of corals can you spot in this photo?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A common dolphin jumping out of the water.

We’re dolphin-itely excited about Dolphin Awareness Month! The month of March is dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness about dolphins. These extremely intelligent creatures can be found in many of your national marine sanctuaries. In NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, common dolphins are known for their impressive acrobatic energy. What is your favorite species of dolphin?

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A breaching humpback whale

Happy Leap Day! We think this humpback whale in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary has the right idea. How are you celebrating the extra day?

Photo: Laura Lilly

Small green and black crab held in a person's fingers.

We’re feeling crabby about the invasive European green crab that has made its way into NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary! This species first appeared along the Western U.S. in 1989, likely through the ballast water of cargo ships traveling across the ocean. These highly adaptable predators feast on shrimp, oysters, clams and small Dungeness crabs, taking away important food sources for local shorebirds and migratory seabirds. Since 2009 researchers from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, universities, and volunteers have been working to remove these crabs.

Photo: Kate Bimrose/NOAA

A close-up view of a light-brown seaweed.

Asian kelp, or "wakame," is an invasive species of kelp native to Japan that has colonized harbors along the California coastline, including in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Wakame colonizes ecosystems rapidly and densely. That can alter the habitat of native species by reducing the amount of light cover and and restricting water movement. Thanks to a little kelp from national marine sanctuary scientists and volunteers, wakame removal and research efforts are well underway! Studying wakame will help improve management practices of the invasive species while improving understanding of how it impacts local ecosystems.

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

Black and white striped mussels

What’s black, white, and dangerously strong? Zebra muscles – er, mussels! Zebra mussels are an invasive species in the Great Lakes, probably brought via ballast water discharged by large ships from Europe. These mussels take over hard surfaces such as buoys, docks, and submerged archaeological resources, including the shipwrecks in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Zebra mussels’ presence on shipwrecks creates a significant challenge for archaeologists, historians, and resource managers, making it difficult for them to document wrecks over time. They also alter nutrient cycles and deplete the local food supply for native species.

Photo: USFWS

A lionfish swimming near a coral reef

In recent decades, Indo-Pacific lionfish have been found in coral reefs throughout the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean – including in sanctuaries like NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Because of their voracious appetites, rapid reproduction rate, and lack of natural predators, these invasive lionfish pose a serious threat to coral reefs, with potential long-term consequences for native fish communities, habitats, and entire ecosystems.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

A diver using a square made of PVC pipe to survey the kelp forest floor.

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 NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Chad King/NOAA

A purplish octopus on the seafloor, with two green dots above it.

Deep sea research in national marine sanctuaries requires all eight hands on deck – at least for this octopus! Researchers aboard the E/V Nautilus spotted this octopus while diving on Davidson Seamount in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary last year. Those green dots in the upper left aren't spooky eyes looking out from the mud, but rather two lasers shined from the remotely operated vehicle Hercules. The lasers are mounted 10 centimeters apart from one another, and help researchers estimate the size of animals like this one.

Photo: OET/NOAA

Hawaiian monk seal sleeping on a beach

Nap time! This sleepy friend in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is a Hawaiian monk seal, which is unfortunately one of the most endangered species in the world. These seals face many threats, including limited food supply, entanglement, habitat loss, and human interaction. NOAA scientists are working to manage and conserve monk seal populations so that these adorable animals can continue to survive. If you see a Hawaiian monk seal, keep plenty of distance and report sightings to pifsc.monksealsighting@noaa.gov.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

A dark blue and yellow sea slug

Nudibranch alert! This little beauty in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is a regal sea goddess. 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. What is your favorite kind to spot?

Photo: Peter Flood

A sea otter at the ocean surface

"For real? You think I'm cute? Aw, get otter here."
We're pawsitive that sea otters are one of the most adorable inhabitants of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Even though they look cuddly, though, make sure to give them plenty of space (pro tip: use a zoom lens or binoculars!). If you get too close, you might interrupt their feeding, grooming, and resting, which can negatively impact their health and make it harder for these adorable creatures to survive. With good ocean etiquette, you can help protect sea otters and other animals.

Photo: Timothy Henkel/Valdosta State University

Three dolphins swimming at the surface of a calm ocean

Enjoy a moment of calm today with these dolphins swimming in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Eden Zang/NOAA

A comb jelly in dark water

Have you ever met a ctenophore? Also known as comb jellies, these invertebrates move tiny comb-like cilia to travel through the water. These "combs" diffract light, giving the animal a shimmering, rainbow appearance. This one was spotted at night in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Olivia Williamson

A breaching North Atlantic right whale

This North Atlantic right whale is splashing into World Whale Day! Today, we're celebrating these beautiful ocean giants.

North Atlantic right whales like this one in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary are one of the most highly endangered whale species in the world – only about 400 whales remain. They are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with ships. There is good news, though: so far this season there have been 10 new calves sighted!

Photo: Peter Flood

Many marine animals feeding on the skeleton of a whale on the seafloor

When a whale dies at sea, its body becomes an oasis for other animals on the seafloor. After death, a whale's body will sink to the seafloor – and there, it can feed other organisms for years or even decades. On the seafloor, the whale carcass or skeleton is known as a whale fall. This past October, researchers on the E/V Nautilus were exploring Davidson Seamount in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary when they came across this whale fall at a depth of 10,623 feet. What animals can you spot on the whale fall?

Photo: OET/NOAA

A pod of orcas swimming together at the ocean surface.

Looking for a Valentine today? Try using echolocation! Toothed whales, like these orcas in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, emit sounds that travel through the water and bounce off fish and marine mammals. They can use the sounds to create a mental map of where exactly things are! Sounds like a good way to locate a Valentine to us.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle napping together on a beach

Happy Valentine's Day from your National Marine Sanctuary System! We hope today – and every day – brings you lots of love and naps.

Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA, under NMFS Research Permit #848-1695

A humpback whale underwater trailing rope

One of the biggest threats to humpback whales and other whales is entanglement in fishing gear and other debris. Entanglement can injure, starve, or drown whales. Fortunately, teams of intrepid individuals are on the scene to help whales like this one. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary leads the Hawaiian Islands Entanglement Response Network, a partnership of government agencies, tour operators, fishers, and more who work together to safely free whales. While of course everyone wants to help entangled whales, it is crucial that you never attempt to disentangle a whale yourself – it can be dangerous for both you and the whale. Instead, call your local stranding network so that trained professionals can help.

Photo: J. Moore/NOAA, under MMHSRP permit #18786-02

Aerial view of two blue whales

Whale-come back to Whale Week! Blue whales such such as these beauties in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are the largest animals to ever live on our planet. They are also one of the loudest. Under good conditions, scientists estimate that blue whales can hear each other 1,000 miles away! These behemoths of the sea are threatened by entanglement in fishing gear, being hit by ships, and pollution. To learn more about blue whales, check out .

Photo: Jess Morten/NOAA

ZoBell crouching in front of a hydrophone on a boat

It's the International Day of Women & Girls In Science AND it's Whale Week! Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Vanessa ZoBell combines the best of both of these things. A Ph.D. student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, ZoBell uses acoustic monitoring to understand whether slower ships improve whale communication in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Learn more about her research and check out the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship.

Photo courtesy of Vanessa ZoBel

Humpback whale underwater

We’re splashing our way into Whale Week 2020! National marine sanctuaries work closely with NOAA Fisheries Service and other partners to ensure the conservation of all whales protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. Stay tuned this week to brush up on your whale facts! This beautiful humpback whale was seen swimming underwater in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA under NOAA Permit #14682

Salt the humpback whale feeding at the ocean surface

Meet Salt, the "grand dame" of NOAA's 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: Laura Howes

A close-up view of a spiky green mystery creatur

Here's a thorny (hint!) trivia question for you: what is this a picture of? Clue number two: this photo was taken in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Comment your guess and we'll reveal the answer on Monday!

Photo: Stephen Matadobra/NOAA

Three common murres resting on the water; one has all white and light-brown feathers

One of these things is not like the other! All three of these birds in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are common murres, but the white one is leucistic. In leucistic birds, feathers lack melanin pigment, so appear light in color. Common murres are usually black and white like the two in the back, but this one gets to make a fashion statement.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

Four people standing on a lighthouse, with the ocean in the background

Did you know you can see three national marine sanctuaries from the newly-renovated Point Reyes Lighthouse? The lighthouse gives an unparalleled view of NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Recently, NOAA deputy director RDML Tim Gallaudet (second from left) visited Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary headquarters and took in the view with sanctuary staff, including deputy superintendent Michael Carver (left), then-acting superintendent Carol Bernthal (second from right), and education and outreach coordinator Jennifer Stock (right).

Photo: Adrian Mahoney/NOAA

A sandy, flat beach with a sheen of water reflecting clouds.

Nothing is better than walking the beach at low tide, when the sand is still wet and you can see the clouds above and below. What's your favorite beach to wander along NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary?

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A humpback whale's tail above the ocean

Humpback whale tails, or flukes, can be up to 5 meters across! Every humpback whale has a distinctive pattern on its fluke. These patterns are so unique that they can be used to identify individual whales, just like a human fingerprint. This one was spotted in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: R. Finn/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240

An octopus sheltering in a shell.

Look, little octopus, we didn't want to get out of bed this morning either, but it's Monday and here we are.

This Caribbean reef octopus was spotted taking shelter in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. These beautiful octopodes have specialized color-changing cells that help them blend in with their surroundings so they can stay safe while they rest or sneak up on prey.

Photo: Tiffany Duong/Ocean Rebels

 A sea otter at the surface with its mouth open as if smiling

This sea otter in Elkhorn Slough is otterly thrilled that it's World Wetlands Day! Located in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Elkhorn Slough is one of California's last great coastal wetlands. Flushed by ocean tides in the heart of Monterey Bay, its waterways, mudflats, and marsh support a huge diversity of wildlife – including sea otters! Estuaries like Elkhorn Slough are extremely productive ecosystems, and provide food, shelter, migration stopovers, and places to breed for many animals. However, they're also quite delicate and need our help to ensure they remain thriving ecosystems.

Photo: Jenni Peters

A snowy egret perched in the trees

We snow everyone loves the snowy egret! Keep your eyes peeled for their bright orange-yellow feet, and you might be able to spot one in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. These wading birds were once extremely rare, having been hunted extensively for their feathers. However, with protection, their populations have recovered and they can often be spotted in your national marine sanctuaries.

Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA

 A scuba diver with his arms and legs stretched out in a star while fish pass him

"Everybody, single file please, one at a time...oh, fine. Come on through." Being an underwater traffic director is a little challenging – the fish of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary definitely have places to be.

Photo: Scott Bauer

A diver over the wreck of Monitor, which is encrusted by marine invertebrates

Happy 45th anniversary to NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! This iconic place was the first national marine sanctuary ever designated. It protects the historic shipwreck of the Civil War era USS Monitor, and its designation highlighted on the importance of conserving the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of special marine areas across the country. Happy birthday, Monitor!

Photo:NOAA

 Many shorebirds on the beach and flying above the waves

Birds of a feather really do flock together! Along the coast of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, visitors can spot an amazing variety of shorebirds. How many different species can you spot here?

Learn more about the various shorebirds and seabirds that call this sanctuary.

Photo: Peggy Langford

A boy boogie boarding

It’s National Plan for Vacation Day! What better place to spend your next vacation than at one of your beautiful national marine sanctuaries? Visitors can dive into the mysteries of the deep, explore shipwrecks and reefs, and watch acrobatic whales fling themselves out of the water. There are also ample opportunities for surfing, paddling, boogie boarding, and more. Better start planning now – there is so much to see and do, and 14 national marine sanctuaries to choose from!

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Clouds over the sea

There’s a storm a-brewing! While it can’t always be warm and sunny at NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, gray skies don’t have to be so dreary. This cloudy sky over Santa Barbara Channel and Santa Cruz Island reminds us of the lively ocean lying just below.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

An orca leaping out of the water.

Where do whales go to get braces? The orca-dontist! *crickets* We’ll show ourselves out, you just enjoy this breaching orca in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Michael Richlen

Fish swarming around a sea turtle at a cleaning station.

Rinse and repeat looks a little different in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. This green sea turtle, or honu in Hawaiian, is visiting a “cleaning station,” a spot in the reef where fish clean parasites off the turtle’s shell. It may not be your typical shower, but it helps keep these beautiful animals squeaky clean and healthy.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Common snapping turtle near the surface with its nails visible

Look at those nails! This common snapping turtle in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary must have a great manicurist. Snapping turtles hunt for their prey in lake depths, and then like this one, return to the surface to warm up in the sun. Have you encountered a snapping turtle in your national marine sanctuary?

Photo: James Garner

A humpback whale breaches close to a small inflatable boat

"Whale...we're gonna need a bigger boat." These scientists in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary got a treat (or maybe a fright) when a humpback whale breached surprisingly close to them. Small boats like this one allow permitted researchers to get close enough to whales to attach tags with suction cups. The tags then give them a wealth of information about the whale's movements, feeding patterns, and more. If you're out on the water whale watching or just in an area with whales, make sure to give the marine mammals plenty of space!

Photo: NOAA, under NOAA Fisheries Permit #14245

A bird poking its head underwater to look directly at the camera

"Uh, excuse me. What are you doing down there?" What do you think this bird fishing in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is thinking?

Photo: Stephen Matadobra/NOAA

View of a rocky beach covered in driftwood, with sea stacks in the distance and tree-covered cliffs leading down to the beach

Today is National Squirrel(fish) Appreciation Day, and we're big fans of the resident squirrelfish in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary! These reef-dwellers are nocturnal, resting under coral ledges during the day and spending the nights chowing down on small crustaceans

Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA

View of a rocky beach covered in driftwood, with sea stacks in the distance and tree-covered cliffs leading down to the beach

We could spend all day looking out at the towering trees and rock formations found at Ruby Beach in Washington state. Which scenic overlook into NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is your favorite?

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

 An orange and white sea slug crawls on the top of an orange-and-pink-shelled snail.

Orange you glad these two little invertebrates made friends? This opalescent nudibranch flashes its opal-fire blue stripes as it crawls across the top of a jeweled top snail. What small beauties have you seen in the tide pools of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary?

Photo: Robin Agarwal

Two young male elephant seals mock battling on a beach

Every winter, the beaches of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other sanctuaries along the West Coast transform into a mating ground for elephant seals. Males battle it out for territory in quick clashes that rarely result in lasting damage. Soon after, the females arrive to breed, and will spend a month on land raising their pups before voyaging back to the sea. Elephant seals are lots of fun to watch, but make sure to give them plenty of space – an elephant seal selfie is NOT a good idea! These huge seals can be dangerous, and when you get too close you can stress them during a critical time in their life.

Photo: Chad King/NOAA

A fish swims among corals

Twenty-eight and feeling great! Happy anniversary to NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. In the late 1960s, scientists began researching the extensive, healthy, and pristine coral reef ecosystems found in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Now, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary protects some of the healthiest coral reef ecosystems in the world! Learn more about the sanctuary at flowergarden.noaa.gov.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

 Top: A white shark underwater; Bottom: Many small fish swimming above a rocky outcrop covered in invertebrates

Happy anniversary to NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Gray's Reef 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 a wide variety of animals, including the iconic white shark. 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 an abundance of invertebrates. Happy birthday to these two national marine sanctuaries, and many thanks to their staff and volunteers for protecting our ocean's amazing places!

Top photo © Steven K. Webster/Monterey Bay Aquarium; bottom photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

 A diver, a sand tiger shark, and small fish swimming close together

Dreaming of warm summer adventures? Today is National Shop for Travel Day, and it's an excellent time to start thinking about summer vacations in your national marine sanctuaries. Find an adventure for everyone.

Bruce Sudweeks

The bow of a kayak, with a dolphin surfacing in the distance

Dreaming of warm summer adventures? Today is National Shop for Travel Day, and it's an excellent time to start thinking about summer vacations in your national marine sanctuaries. Find an adventure for everyone.

Photo: Chuck Graham

A black, white, and grey butterflyfish with orange and yellow edging

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is home to a wide variety of tropical reef fishes. This reticulated butterflyfish was spotted by photographer Rick Gaffney off the Big Island. What's your favorite fish to see in your national marine sanctuaries?

Photo: Rick Gaffney

Small white dots clustered together in a ribbon-like pattern

Pop quiz: can you identify this mysterious ocean sight? It was spotted in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. We'll have the answer for you tomorrow!.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A pink octopus rests of the seafloor.

We're a sucker for octopuses, especially cute ones like this dumbo octopus! Dumbo octopuses get their names for their ear-like fins, which help them move through the water. This octopus was spotted in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on this year's Nautilus Live expedition.

Photo: OET/NOAA

A mola mola at the ocean surface with its dorsal fin above the water.

Duunnn dun...duunnn dun...wait a second, that's no shark – it's a mola mola! Also known as ocean sunfish, mola mola are the heaviest bony fish in the ocean. These ocean giants roam the seas in search of their favorite food, jellyfish. This one was spotted impersonating a shark in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA

Small corals growing in a tank

In recent decades, the coral reefs within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have been damaged by hurricanes, bleaching, disease, and heavy human use. To help protect and restore these reefs, NOAA and our partners have launched Mission: Iconic Reefs. By restoring corals at seven iconic reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – including through outplanting corals grown in nurseries, like these – we can change the trajectory of an entire ecosystem.

Photo: Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium

Three dolphins swim together

Nofin is better than swimming with your friends in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! Common dolphins are gregarious – they're often seen gathering in groups in the sanctuary. What's your favorite kind of dolphin?

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A blue fish swimming over a pink-hued coral reef

We dove headfirst into the new year, just like this pink-footed shearwater in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. What new adventures and treasures did the first week of 2020 bring you?

Photo: Sophie Webb/NOAA

A blue fish swimming over a pink-hued coral reef

Pink coralline algae gives Rose Atoll in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa a rosy hue. What other creatures can you spot in this photo?

Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA

A brown pelican in flight

We're celebrating National Bird Day with some peli-can-do spirit! Hunted for their feathers and later contaminated by DDT and other pesticides, brown pelicans were once endangered. But this iconic bird species, and many others, have recovered in the years since these pesticides were banned. Now, they're commonly seen in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which provides a plentiful supply of fish, krill, and plankton for local and migrating birds to feast on. What's your favorite bird to see in your national marine sanctuaries?

Photo: Sam Bailey

Manta ray with its mouth open

Open wide! Manta rays are the world's largest ray, but they eat tiny, tiny food: plankton like copepods and small shrimp. When feeding, they open their mouths wide, creating a funnel that pushes water and prey through their mouth and over their gill rakers. Not a bad way to get a snack!

Photo: James Watt/NOAA

A bird flying near a feeding humpback whale

Pop quiz: what do hungry humpback whales like to eat? Don't be fooled by this photo: humpback whales aren't into eating birds! Rather, these baleen whales live on a diet of krill and small fish. Birds tend to hang around feeding humpback whales to get a bit of the leftovers.

Photo: Jeremy Winn

Outrigger canoes at sunset

Paddling out has a special significance at Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Early Hawaiians used outrigger canoes to navigate a wild Pacific Ocean while they set out on voyages for exploration and fishing. Today, outrigger canoeing is the official team sport of the Aloha State, and an excellent way to experience the beauty of this national marine sanctuary.

Photo: Barbara Craig

A diver looking directly at a large orange sea star

Stargazing – it's not just for the night sky anymore! NOAA biologist Greg Williams came face to face with this ochre star on Tatoosh Island in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary during a research dive in 2017.

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

A group of people pulling a conglomeration of fishing nets and other debris off a beach

Happy New Year! For this year’s New Year’s Resolution, we’d like to challenge you to join us in committing to a healthier ocean. Whether you participate in a local beach cleanup, reduce your water consumption, or fish responsibly, it all contributes to protecting our ocean for this and future generations.Learn more about how to be a friend of the seas.

Photo: Ryan Tabata/NOAA

An orange fish and a pink fish looking like they are kissing

There must be mistletoe somewhere in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! They say there are plenty of fish in the sea, but these two sheepheads are clearly taken.

Photo: Tony Knight

Red and white striped shrimp

Coral reef candy cane? Not quite – this little dose of holiday cheer is none other than the banded coral shrimp, often spotted in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Happy National Candy Cane Day!

Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA

A bright pink branching organism with white 'lights' at its tips

Holiday lights? Yes please – this Christmas tree hydroid wants in on the festivities! This colonial invertebrate gets its name from its branches, which give it the appearance of a Christmas tree from afar. This one was spotted celebrating the holidays in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Small reddish sea anemones

Red, white, and merry! These strawberry anemones in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary say happy holidays to all!

Photo: Matt Vieta/BAUEA

A diver explores a coral head that is significantly larger than they are

Listen up, this is mom-umental! Fale Bommie, or Big Momma, is one of the largest coral heads in the world. Located in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, this coral colony is more than 500 years old and over 6 meters high! Curious divers, like this one, can explore Big Momma and other coral heads in the Valley of the Giants, or take a virtual dive.

Photo: Wendy Cover/NOAA

Three kayakers paddle over a shipwreck

Kayaking in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the best ways to explore shipwrecks like the Portland, seen here. The cold, clear water of Lake Huron makes it easy to see the shipwreck resting below!

Photo: Bryan Dort

Great shearwater taking off from the ocean surface

Last minute holiday shopping got us like

Photo: Peter Flood

Two people sitting on a log on a beach looking at the waves

With the chill of winter upon us, we're dreaming about summertime sunshine. Taking in the sunset at NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is one of our favorite things to do on a summer weekend. Tell us your favorite way to get into your sanctuary!

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

Two bright orange sea slugs, one bumping into the other

These two orange-peel doris nudibranchs are in a race for the finish line in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Who do you have your bets on: the rookie pushing from behind or the veteran in the lead?

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

Fish schooling around a sunken submarine

The waters off North Carolina have claimed thousands of vessels over the years. Most of the shipwrecks near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary are from World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. U-352, for example, was a German U-boat intended to patrol the waters off the U.S. East Coast during the war. Instead, U-352 became the first U-boat sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard during the Battle of the Atlantic. Today, the wreck is a popular dive site for those interested in its history and the dense array of marine life.

Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA

A humpback whale underwater with its flippers

The humpback whale's genus is Megaptera, which means "big wing." It's easy to see how they get this name – their flippers are about a third the length of their entire body! Each winter, these big-winged whales gather in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to mate, give birth, and raise their young.

Photo: NOAA, under NOAA Permit #774-1714

Close-up of a pink Christmas tree worm

The coral reefs of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are getting into the holiday spirit! These Christmas tree worms are actually a kind of marine worm. Each worm has two brightly colored crowns that protrude from its tube-like body. The "branches" help the worm snatch small bits of food out of the water column.

Photo: Steve Miller

Several California sea lions poking their heads out of the water

*sniff sniff* Do you smell that? Smells like the weekend! These California sea lions in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary can tell fun is in the air (and the water) today, so you have our seal of approval to go out and do something super sealy!

Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA

Two common dolphins leaping above the ocean surface

Known for their incredible energy and acrobatic skills, short-beaked common dolphins are one of many marine mammal species that call NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary home. These gregarious dolphins can be spotted in large groups within the sanctuary. At night, they typically dive to about 100 feet to feed on schooling fish and squid, but they're capable of diving to up to 1,000 feet below the ocean surface!

Photo: Douglas Croft

Two brightly colored sea slugs on algae

These technicolor beauties are none other than painted elysias! Painted elysias are a kind of sea slug. Keen-eyed divers can spot them in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, but only if they're looking carefully – though they're bright, these sea slugs are usually no bigger than an inch in length.

Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA

Purplish-white octopuses tucked in a rocky nook with arms facing outward

Today is International Mountain Day – and did you know that there are mountains in the ocean? Seamounts are undersea mountains formed by volcanic activity, and they're typically biological hotspots. For example, on Davidson Seamount in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, researchers with Nautilus Live encountered more than a thousand Muusoctopus octopuses tucked into nooks! Most of the octopuses had their arms inverted in a brooding posture. We love a good octopus garden, but we love an octopus garden on an ocean mountain even more!

Photo: OET/NOAA

Trumpetfish camouflaging itself

Someone call Louis Armstrong! This trumpetfish is using some A+ camouflage to blend in at NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Trumpetfish often remain motionless to fool their prey into getting too close. We bet they wouldn’t fool Louis, though!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A Cassin's auklet taking off from the ocean surface

Up, up, and away! This little Cassin's auklet is taking flight in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Cassin's auklets are known for foraging for small crustaceans while swimming underwater. They can dive more than 120 feet below the surface!

Photo: Patrick Sysiong

Dolphin leaps out of the water upside-down

Is this a Pacific white-sided dolphin in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary…or a bird?

Photo: Sage Tezak/NOAA

A Laysan albatross

Wisdom is back in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! Wisdom is a female Laysan albatross and the oldest known banded bird in the world. At least 69 years old, Wisdom is a world-renowned symbol of hope for all species that depend upon the health of the ocean to survive. Each year, she and her mate Akeakamai return to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the monument to mate, lay an egg, and raise their chick. To date, Wisdom has hatched more than 35 chicks over the course of her life. Welcome back, Wisdom!

Photo: William Kennerley/USFWS

A bluehead wrasse swims over an Orbicella coral

Looking for a way to help corals stay healthy? Make sure you're using a reef-safe sunscreen or use Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) sunwear! Several chemicals in traditional sunscreen can damage and kill corals, and are also harmful to green algae, sea urchins, fish, mussels, and dolphins. Even if you don't live near the ocean, when you shower, the chemicals in sunscreen may wash off and enter our waterways. So by making a small change in your sun protection, you can help support healthy coral reefs!

Photo: Olivia Williamson

Red arms of a brittle star reaching out from beneath a coral to catch coral gametes

Who's that reaching out from the coral reef of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary? A sneaky brittle star! Every August, the reef-building corals within the sanctuary put on one of the most abundant spawning displays in the entire Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Each coral species times its gamete (egg and sperm) release to ensure genetic mixing and that coral larvae can disperse over large distances. The gametes also provide a feast for small animals like this brittle star.

Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA

Side by side view of a reef before and after bleaching

What's wrong with this picture? These two images show a reef in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa just months before (left) and after (right) a bleaching event. When we burn energy sources like gasoline and coal, we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide acts like a heat-trapping blanket, keeping heat from the sun close to the planet and warming the atmosphere and the ocean. Corals are sensitive to temperature: if the water gets too warm, they expel the colorful algae that they need to survive. This is called bleaching, and if it lasts long enough, the corals can die. But there are things we can do: by working with your community to curb your fossil fuel consumption and reduce other coral stressors, like pollution, you can help protect vibrant coral reefs!

Photo: XL Catlin Seaview Survey/The Ocean Agency

A pink deep-sea coral covered in brittle stars

Did you know there are corals in the deep ocean? It's true! Many species of coral thrive in the deep sea, like this Swiftia coral in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The corals position themselves so they can grasp small particles of food from the current, and also provide habitat for other animals like these brittle stars. What other deep-sea dwellers can you spot here?

Photo: OET/NOAA

Large vertical coral structure

Happy Corals Week! All week long, we'll be celebrating the beauty and importance of coral reef ecosystems around the world. Stay tuned for some coral-ly awesome facts! This colorful coral structure provides habitat for a variety of species in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Bald eagle flying over a beach and waves

Is an eagle by the sea technically a seagull? We’re not shore, but we hope you fly into the new week and the new month like this bald eagle in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA

Diver takes an underwater selfie

Selfie Saturday! NOAA diver Mitchell Tartt paused for this science selfie while surveying the coral reefs of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Not a bad place to spend a day for work!

Photo: Mitchell Tartt/NOAA

Mola mola swimming in the water

What's the largest bony fish in the ocean? Holy mola - it's the mola mola! This mola mola, also known as an ocean sunfish, was spotted in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Marybeth Head/NOAA

Praying mantis sits on a person's gloved hand

We’ve got the Cali-formula for healthy ecosystems here at NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary! This week we're thankful for the ongoing Kent Island Restoration Project. Hundreds of volunteers have removed 60,000 square feet of invasive plants and restored more than 10 acres of habitat, making room for pollinators, other insects, birds, and more. Learn more about this coastal restoration project and how you can get involved at.

Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA

A purple sea star on sand

Star light, star bright, first...ochre star I see today on this beach in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary?

Photo: Anne Mary Schaefer

A large sea fan

Yeah, I'm a huge fan. Are you?

Sea fans are closely related to the stony corals that build coral reefs. They orient themselves with the prevailing current so that they can catch tiny food particles. These beautiful invertebrate colonies grow throughout NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Common dolphin leaping through the water

This common dolphin hopes you have a fin-tastic week! These fast and energetic dolphins can be spotted by lucky whale watchers in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A krill held on a person's fingertip

They may be tiny, but krill are mighty! Krill are small, shrimp-like crustaceans that are found throughout national marine sanctuaries, including in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. These little critters are an important food source for fish, seabirds, and whales alike: during feeding season, blue whales eat two to four TONS of krill each day!

Photo: Sophie Webb/NOAA

Fish school over eelgrass

One fish, two fish...lots and lots and lots of fish! Eelgrass thrives in the shallow waters of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. In addition to providing habitat for fish, eelgrass beds provide shelter to snails, sea stars, anemones, crabs, and clams.

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A kayaker paddling among shipwrecks

Say hello to our newest national marine sanctuary: Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary! This sanctuary protects over 100 World War I-era wooden shipwrecks, many of which have been partially reclaimed by nature. Learn about our recent community celebration and how you can visit this historic treasure.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

A largely intact shipwreck

On this day 148 years ago, the schooner E.B. Allen took its last voyage in Lake Huron. While the ship was bound for Buffalo, New York, a thick fog settled over the water. Unable to navigate, E.B. Allen collided with another vessel. Fortunately, all of the ship's crew were rescued and no lives were lost. Today, E.B. Allen lies at about 100 feet beneath the surface, protected by NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: NOAA

Close-up on a manatee's face

Comment below if manatees are your favorite animal! Manatees like those in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary can munch as much as 150 pounds of seagrass per day. These gentle, slow-moving animals are at risk from boat strikes, but conservation efforts are helping them! When you're boating in manatee habitat, always make sure to slow down and keep an eye out.

Photo: Robert Bonde/USGS

A shearwater taking off from the ocean surface with a fish in its beak

Snack time! Seabirds like this Cory's shearwater flock to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to chow down on fish like sand lance. Their activities help researchers in the sanctuary track the health of fish populations, which in turn indicates how the sanctuary is doing overall.

Photo: Peter Flood

Risso's dolphin breaking the surface

This Risso's dolphin is breakin' free! This species is very active on the ocean surface when they're not diving 1,000 feet deep near the edge of the continental shelf. This one was spotted swimming in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Douglas Croft

A red grouper peeks out from a coral reef.

29 never looked so fine – happy anniversary to NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! Protecting over 3,800 square miles and the only barrier coral reef in the continental United States, the sanctuary is home to a plethora of marine wildlife, including this beautiful red grouper. Learn how you can help the sanctuary thrive for the next 29 years and beyond

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Two Hawaiian monk seals in shallow water.

We see silly seals by the sea shore! While Hawaiian monk seals are undeniably adorable, they're also one of the most endangered marine mammals on the planet. NOAA Fisheries Service and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are working hard to help the population recover, but they still remain in critical status.

Photo: Paulo Maurin/NOAA

Two children with their arms up facing the ocean.

Raise your hands 🙌 if you love NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary as much as we do!

Photo: Dan Evans Jr.

A white nudibranch on sand

You knew about seahorses but did you know about sea bunnies? This fluffy-looking nudibranch is called the white-knight dorid and lives in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and elsewhere along the West Coast. Maybe bring a carrot next time you go diving here! (JK, they eat sponges.)

Photo: Chad King/NOAA

Fish surround the wreck of the USS Tarpon

Shipwrecks on the ocean floor provide a safe harbor for all sorts of marine life! Here, fish flourish around the wreck of the USS Tarpon, located near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. This U.S. submarine sank in World War II and now rests at a depth of 135 feet. Tarpon is heavily encrusted with coralline algae and other invertebrates, and sand tiger sharks are often spotted here.

Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA

A fly fisherman casting on a boat.

This summer, NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary held a "Vet Into Your Sanctuary" fishing trip to bring U.S. military veterans out to the sanctuary. A total of 22 participants enjoyed an educational and fun fishing day with support from Project Healing Waters. A day on the water with a fishing rod in hand can provide veterans and others with a personal connection to the ocean that can develop to a life-long appreciation and continued stewardship of our underwater parks. We're honored to have been able to provide this opportunity to our veterans – happy Veterans Day!

Photo: Sepp Haukebo

Lagoon triggerfish swimming along the ocean floor.

The lagoon triggerfish is also known as the Picasso fish – an apt name for its bright colors. These beautiful reef-dwellers are found throughout the Indo-Pacific, including in Hawai‘i. This one was spotted in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Michelle Smith

Octopus on the seafloor

Cephalopod Saturday! 🐙💙 This gorgeous octopus was spotted in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary during an expedition with Nautilus Live.

Photo: OET/NOAA

Close-up of a manatee

Happy Manatee Awareness Month! Frequent visitors to NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, manatees face threats of habitat loss and watercraft collisions. But it’s not all doom and gloom for these gentle sea cows, as manatee populations have been increasing significantly since conservation efforts began. If you're boating in a known manatee habitat, keep them safe and slow down!

Photo: Bob Bonde/USGS

Lone sandbar shark swimming

Sandbar sharks might not be the biggest sharks in the seas, but they are certainly impressive. Sandbar sharks are one shark species spotted at NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, where they tend to stay near the ocean floor. These beautiful sharks prey on fish, mollusks, and small crustaceans. Have you seen one while diving in the sanctuary?

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

Close up of a common octopus.

I spy with my little eye something…red! Well, red for now. This common octopus in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary can change colors to hide from predators and to surprise prey. Specialized cells called chromatophores in the octopus’s skin allow it to camouflage itself with its surroundings. These clever cephalopods may be hard to play I Spy with, but they’re amazing at Hide and Seek!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

The Milky Way over a lighthouse

What do you call a fish in space? A starfish! Though you may not actually be able to spot any sea stars in the night sky, many national marine sanctuaries offer beautiful views of dark skies. Here, the Milky Way shines brightly over the Anacapa Island Lighthouse in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

Top: a humpback whale feeding; bottom: humpback whales swimming underwater.

Happy birthday to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! Though thousands of miles apart, both of these sanctuaries offer refuge to humpback whales. Each summer, humpback whales migrate from the Caribbean to Stellwagen Bank off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they and other whales feast on the food that flourishes in sanctuary waters. And in the Pacific, humpback whales journey to the warm waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands each winter to mate, calve, and raise their young.

Top photo: Jeremy Winn; bottom photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Fisheries Permit 14682-38079

Small fish sheltering in the bell of a jelly.

Happy Jellyfish Day! These baby fish are celebrating by hanging out in the bell of a moon jelly in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. What's your favorite species of jellyfish to see in your national marine sanctuaries?

Photo: Tiffany Pixie Duong/Ocean Rebels

A breaching humpback whale with a second whale's flipper next to it.

A whale watcher's treat: Moments after a 4.7 magnitude earthquake struck California near NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary last month, these humpback whales went into a breaching extravaganza. While it's not possible to say for sure, the whales were likely responding to the noise that occurred underwater during the earthquake.

Photo: Douglas Croft

 A manatee appears to flex while looking toward the camera.

We’re manatee-ing off Manatee Awareness Month with this big flex. Manatees are large, slow-moving herbivores that reside in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in the winter. Unfortunately, manatees are listed as a federally threatened species, largely as a result of collisions with boats. Remember to always slow down when boating in areas known to have manatees!

Photo: Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fish swimming around tugboat wreck

Congratulations to Bruce Sudweeks, first place winner of the Sanctuary Life category of our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! Life often flourishes on shipwrecks: here, fish swim around a tugboat located near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Bruce Sudweeks

Photo contest winners

Bright green and blue-ish invertebrates growing on a reef

Congrats to Tiffany Pixie Duong for capturing first place in the Sanctuary Views category of our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! Her photo brings Molasses Reef in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary alive on the screen. What invertebrates can you spot?

Photo: Tiffany Duong/Ocean Rebels

Photo contest winners

Scuba diver swims alongside a green sea turtle

This turtle-y awesome picture from Olivia Williamson swam right into 1st place for the Sanctuary Recreation category of our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! This diver got a treat when a green sea turtle swam by in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Scuba diving is one of the best ways to explore our beautiful national marine sanctuaries. When swimming near wildlife, always give them plenty of space. Don't follow animals, cut off their path, or get between mothers and young; rather, watch quietly like this diver is doing. Learn more about responsible recreation.

Photo: Olivia Williamson

Photo contest winners

A pair of barracuda patrols a coral reef

Ooh, barracuda! Mike Johnson's photograph of two barracuda in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary takes 2nd place in the Sanctuary Life category of our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! Barracuda are highly effective ambush hunters with two sets of razor-sharp teeth. Mike waited for 45 minutes, hovering just off the seafloor, for these barracuda to approach close enough to get a stunning photo that wouldn't disturb them.

Photo: Mike Johnson

Photo contest winners

A rocky beach with cliffs in the distance

Take a trip to Bowling Ball Beach in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary! Congratulations to Anne Mary Schaefer for this stunning photo, which placed 2nd in the "Sanctuary Views" category of our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest.

Photo: Anne Mary Schaefer

Photo contest winners

Scuba divers explore a shipwreck

2nd place in our Sanctuary Recreation category for the Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest goes to Keith C. Flood! Keith photographed these divers exploring the Florida shipwreck at 200 feet of water in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The steamer Florida sank in 1897 after a collision with the steamer George W. Roby, which nearly cut the ship in half. Today, the wreck sits awaiting exploration by advanced divers.

Photo: Keith C. Flood

Photo contest winners

Humpback whale lunge feeding at the ocean surface.

Lunch time! Thanks to Douglas Croft Images, this hungry humpback whale lunged its way right into 3rd place in the Sanctuary Life category of our Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest. One way humpback whales get their meals is by lunge feeding, when they rush up to the surface with open mouths and swallow mouthfuls of fish. Congratulations to Douglas for such an amazing NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary photo!

Photo: Douglas Croft

Photo contest winners

A small fox silhouetted by the sunset.

Congratulations to Dustin Harris, whose photo of an island fox watching the sunset in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary placed third in the "Sanctuary Views" category! Island foxes are only found on California's Channel Islands and nowhere else in the world. They're the largest of the islands' native land mammals, but one of the smallest canid species in the world.

Photo: Dustin Harris

A woman walking with a dog on a beach at sunset.

Today's our anniversary, and we're celebrating by kicking off the announcement of our Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest winners! Placing third in the "Sanctuary Recreation" category is Anne Mary Schaefer, with this paw-fect walk on the beach in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Congratulations, Anne Mary!

Photo: Anne Mary Schaefer

 A bright orange, spiky-looking sea cucumber on a coral reef

Don't let the spikes fool you! While their cousins the sea urchins are covered with long, hard spines, sea cucumbers like this one in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa are actually covered with soft, leathery skin.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

 A humpback whale with its mouth open above the water, showing off its baleen

Sing it with us (and this humpback whale): Happy birthday to the Marine Mammal Protection Act! Enacted on this day in 1972, this important piece of legislation helps us protect animals like this humpback whale in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The act ensures that marine mammals like whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters, and dolphins can carry out their normal lives without disruption – and without the threat of hunting, poaching, or exploitation.

Photo: Carolyn O'Connor

A purplish octopus sitting on top of a submersible's sampling instruments

Citizen science isn't just for people anymore! This Muusoctopus octopus hopped aboard Nautilus Live's ROV Hercules last week to get a better look. Hercules was exploring a whale fall in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuarythat was being scavenged by octopuses, fish, and other animals. The octopus crawled along Hercules' sampling vessels before presumably going back to eat some more. A whale fall – the carcass of a whale that has sunk to the seafloor – can feed communities of organisms for months or years.

Photo: OET/NOAA

Four black birds taking off from a large rock formation

Lift off into the weekend like these beautiful cormorants in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary!

Photo: Dan Evans Jr.

A white sea star attempting to eat an orange fish.

This isn't exactly how this rockfish imagined starting off its weekend. Last week, researchers with Nautilus Live got a surprise when exploring NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. This sea star was attempting to eat a rockfish – sushi dinner?

Photo: OET/NOAA

Octopuses and other animals on a whale skeleton on the seafloor

Scientists aboard the E/V Nautilus got a treat yesterday when they came across a whale fall in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! When whales die at sea, they sink to the seafloor where they can feed other organisms for years. There, the whale carcass or skeleton is known as a whale fall. The Nautilus Live team found this whale fall at a depth of 10,623 feet while exploring Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain. The whale skeleton is lying on its back and is an estimated 13 to 16 feet in length. The team is working to identify the species, but it is confirmed to be a baleen whale. Look closely and you can see Muusoctopus octopuses and other marine animals!

Photo: OET/NOAA

A gray seal swimming at the water's surface

Loch Ness Monster? Not at all – it's a gray seal in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! While gray seals may appear approachable in the wild, human interference is a major threat to these marine mammals. Fishing entanglements, watercraft strikes, and interactions with humans put them at risk. Help protect gray seals by keeping a safe distance and not approaching them too close on land or on water.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

An orange octopus and a rockfish right next to each other

Finding new friends in unlikely places! This flapjack octopus and rockfish were spotted cozying up in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary during a recent Nautilus Live dive.

Photo: OET/NOAA

 A sea lion leaping out of the water with a slightly-alarmed look on its face

We don't know about you, but we're pretty sure this sea lion in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary just realized it's Monday.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A grumpy-looking blob sculpin on the seafloor

Grumpy that you missed last week's Nautilus Live expedition in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary? We've got you covered – this week we'll be exploring the deep waters of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Tune in at nautiluslive.org.

Photo: OET/NOAA

A bright orange sunrise in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

There's nothing quite like a sunrise at sea. Where are you finding beauty this weekend?

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

An orange octopus disguising itself to look like part of the coral reef

Octopus, or coral? This day octopus (he‘e in Hawaiian) in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is showing off its excellent camouflage skills. Octopuses and other cephalopods have specialized cells called chromatophores that allow them to change their colors; plus, they can change the texture of their skin to mimic the environment around them! This camouflage helps them go unseen by both predators and prey.

Photo: James Watt/NOAA

A purple-ish octopus on the seafloor

This octopus wants to know: have you been following the E/V Nautilus expedition in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary? We're exploring the deep waters of these national marine sanctuaries with Nautilus Live, and you can watch the expedition in real time at nautiluslive.org! Tune in for the chance to see adorable octopuses and more.

Photo: OET/NOAA

A red and pink squid in dark water.

We're not squidding around when we say we love cephalopods! Photographer Alexander Neufeld describes his encounter with this beautiful reef squid in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary this way: "A reef squid in the black waters off of Key Largo during a night dive. Several squid joined us during a portion of the dive, hovering just below the surface, which allowed for the reflection of the squid's body in the final image. Once the squid had enough of us, it took off in a cloud of ink."

Photo: Alexander Neufeld

A breaching humpback whale.

We have some whale-y good news: the first humpback whale of the season has been spotted in Hawai‘i! Thousands of humpback whales return to Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary each year to breed, give birth, and nurse their young. If you're in Hawai‘i – or anywhere else near the ocean – always make sure to give whales and other marine life plenty of space.

While this photo isn't this year's first whale, but rather a past visitor to the sanctuary, we hope to have photos soon!

Photo: NOAA, under NOAA Permit #782-1438

Hundreds of silver fish swimming above colorful invertebrates.

Cordell Bank rises from deep, dark waters off the coast of California – and is home to a technicolor array of marine life! Here, hundreds of widow rockfish swim through NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary above bright invertebrates. Can you name the pink anemones growing on the bank?

Photo: Robert Lee/BAUE

 An orange, black, and white fish swimming over sea anemones and coralline algae

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument rests within the waters of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. It's known for its striking rosy reefs, which get their hue from pink coralline algae. These beautiful reefs are home to more than 100 species of coral, as well as large populations of giant clam, reef fish, and more.

Photo: Mark Manuel/NOAA

Sea lions resting on a buoy

Sometimes even sea lions need to kick back and soak up some sun with their buddies. These sea lions found a buoy in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to hang out on. Where are you relaxing this weekend?

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A school of silver and black striped fish.

“Hey everybody, party at NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary tonight! Tell the whole school!” Hoping your Friday night plans are as fun as these Atlantic spadefish's.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Phillips

An orca breaches.

10/10 points for orca acrobatics! This breaching orca is showing off its black and white patterning in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. An orca's high-contrast patterning helps obscure the outline of its body underwater so it's harder for prey to recognize it.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A diver looking at a shipwreck illuminated by a flashlight.

Take a deep dive into history with NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! The first national marine sanctuary ever designated in the U.S., this small sanctuary protects the wreck of the USS Monitor. Monitor is distinguished by being the first ironclad war vessel to fight for the United States – during the Civil War, it faced off with the Confederate CSS Virginia. It later sank in a storm off the coast of North Carolina, and today it rests on the seafloor, a memorial to those who were lost and a haven for sea life.

Photo: NOAA

A bright yellow fish nestled in among seaweed.

Blenny for your thoughts! What do you think this seaweed blenny in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is thinking?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

 A paddleboarder lying down while floating over a shipwreck. The wreck is clearly visible through the water.

Monday morning's got us dreaming of our adventures from this weekend! Plan your next paddle or swim.

Photo: Bryan Dort

A giant clam with a striped purple mantle

Meet the giant clam, also known as faisua in Samoan! These beautiful clams can be spotted in the coral reefs of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Once nestled into a location on the reef, a giant clam will remain stationary throughout its life. Like corals, giant clams have developed symbiotic partnerships with algae called zooxanthellae. In return for shelter, zooxanthellae provide giant clams with nutrients they've photosynthesized – and help give the clam's mantle its pretty colors.

Photo: NPS

A sea otter and an elephant seal in a kelp forest. The sea otter is smaller than the seal's head

So, uh, was anyone going to tell us that northern elephant seals are WAY bigger than sea otters, or were we supposed to find that out ourselves?

Photo: Phil Arnold

 A breaching humpback whale

Whale, whale, whale – it's World Tourism Day! Your national marine sanctuaries are the perfect place for ocean adventures. Whether you're a fan of whale watching in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary or tide pooling in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, there's something for everyone. Find your adventure.

Photo: K. Grosskruetz/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240

Sunlight shining on a coral reef

Today is World Environmental Health Day. The environments of the ocean – from coral reefs to kelp forests – depend on us to help keep them healthy. We can all do our part, whether it's through reducing our use of plastics or working with our communities to reduce our carbon footprints. What will you do today, tomorrow, and the next day to help protect our blue planet?

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A view of a lighthouse from within Lake Huron: the bottom half of the photo is below water while the top half is above it

Happy anniversary to NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! This jewel of the Great Lakes protects the wrecks of more than 100 vessels that have been claimed by fire, ice, collisions, and storms. The sanctuary serves as a museum of the Great Lakes' maritime history. You can explore the many shipwrecks by diving, snorkeling, and paddling – and if you'd rather not get your feet wet, you can experience history at the many lighthouses that dot the sanctuary's shores.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A sea otter holding a large orange egg mass

You otter believe this sea otter is having an otterly delicious snack! Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Jessie 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.

Photo: Jessie Hale

Two sea otters resting at the ocean surface

It's Sea Otter Awareness Week, and these sea otters in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary want to know if you're aware of them! When you're exploring your national marine sanctuaries, make sure to keep an eye on your distance from wildlife like sea otters. Though they are otterly adorable, they'll be safer and healthier if you give them plenty of space.

Douglas Croft

Giant kelp underwater

Happy anniversary to NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! This southern California sanctuary encompasses 1,470 square miles off of Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa islands. It protects everything from deep-sea coral communities to lush kelp forest. Nearshore, giant kelp helps support immense biodiversity – visitors can see sea lions, giant sea bass, and more!

Photo: Brett Seymour/NPS

Two women in a kayak piled high with marine debris

Today is the International Coastal Cleanup! Whether you're participating in an official clean-up event or just picking up trash in your neighborhood, let us know how you're helping keep the ocean clean today. Here, two volunteers from Blue Kahuna Surf help remove marine debris from NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Jessica Hogan

Five American white pelicans searching for food

These American white pelicans are celebrating Estuaries Week in style! Estuaries are locations where rivers meet the sea. Located in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Elkhorn Slough is one of California's great estuaries. Flushed by ocean tides in the heart of Monterey Bay, its waterways, mudflats, and marsh support a huge diversity of wildlife. Estuaries like Elkhorn Slough provide food, shelter, migration stopovers, and places to breed for many animals. However, they're also quite delicate and need our help to ensure they remain thriving ecosystems. Learn more about estuaries and how you can support them.

Photo: Douglas Croft

 A mass of nets, rope, and marine debris in shallow water, with a man working to remove them

What happens to trash after it flows down a creek or falls off a vessel at sea? Usually, it stays in the ocean for a long, long time. There, it can choke animals who mistake it for food, or entangle animals and drown them. This huge conglomeration of fishing nets and other trash was removed from French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument by NOAA Marine Debris and partners. Since 1996, they have removed 1017 tons of debris the remote expanses of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which is about the same weight as nine blue whales! You can help keep debris out of the sea by participating in a cleanup this weekend for the International Coastal Cleanup, or any other day of the year.

Photo: Koa Matsuoka

A humpback whale lunge feeding, with seabirds flying around it

This humpback whale is lunging out of the ocean to wish NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary a very happy birthday! 🐋🎂 And also, of course, to get a mouthful of fish, because what's a celebration without snacks? This iconic sanctuary protects 36 species of marine mammals, more than 180 species of seabirds and shorebirds, 525 species of fish, and a multitude of invertebrates and algae. How many can you name?

Photo: Douglas Croft

A close-up of a stocky hawkfish.

Eyes of a hawk, and ears of a...fish?
Stocky hawkfish are known as po‘opa‘a in Hawaiian. In the coral reefs of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, they linger atop corals and survey their surroundings for prey, much like their terrestrial namesake. As an added level of protection, a stocky hawkfish’s pectoral fins are resistant to the stinging cells of fire corals, which normally harm other organisms upon contact. Well played, hawkfish. Well played.

Photo: James Watt/NOAA

Two divers installing a buoy near a seagrass bed

Oh buoy! This drill team is hard at work installing new mooring buoys in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Buoys allow boaters to enjoy their time out on the water without damaging the coral reef and seagrass bed ecosystems that lie beneath them. Buoys serve as as an alternative to anchoring, which is prohibited in waters less than 40 feet deep, and can also be used as markers relaying specific information about the area.

Photo: NOAA

A sea star sitting on top of a white sea urchin

This sea star traveling on a sea urchin in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary would like to share an underwater hitchhiking pro-tip: if it moves, it's transportation!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A gray orca calf swimming alongside an adult orca

Whale, whale, whale, what do we have here?
Whale watchers in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary got a surprise visit from a gray newborn orca calf traveling with 10 members of the transient orca pod known as the CA216 family. While most orcas are black and white, little is known about the uncommon gray pigment of this youngster. The science is clear on one thing – this newborn is 100% adorable!

Photo: Douglas Croft

Orange and white sea anemones clustered together.

In addition to being markers of our maritime past, shipwrecks are home to a vast number of marine species – like these frilled anemones on the wreck of the Portland in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Next week, researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Marine Imaging Technologies will be visiting Portland and other shipwrecks to assess the state of the wrecks. They'll be livestreaming their expedition, and you can tune in while they journey deep beneath the ocean's surface! Leran more abouth this expedition.

Photo: NOAA

Sea otter wrapped in kelp, with two tags on its flippers.

Some days you just have to lie down, wrap yourself in kelp, and nap the day away. It's all part of that pawsitive self care.

Photo: Douglas Croft

Two sharks and several fish swim past a shipwreck covered in invertebrates.

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 NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The wreck is largely intact and is now a popular dive site.

Photo: NOAA

 A leather star on a rock underwater.

Strange but true: leather sea stars, like this one in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, smell like garlic! That's why they're also sometimes known as garlic stars. Have you ever gotten a whiff of one in your national marine sanctuaries?

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A diver swimming over a large shipwreck.

Mondays are for maritime history, and NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary has got lots of it! D.M. Wilson, pictured here, is one of the many wrecks sitting at the bottom of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. In 1894, the wooden ship was headed for Milwaukee with its usual shipment of coal when a leak stopped it in its tracks. Despite attempts to tow it to safety, the ship sank near Thunder Bay Island. Today, divers can see most of the Wilson’s hull, which remains largely intact!

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A close-up of a gray seal

Us: Hey, wanna hear a joke?
Gray seal in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: sure
Us: Why do seals swim in salt water?
Gray seal: …
Us: …
Because pepper water makes them sneeze!
Gray seal: *face palm*

Don’t tell gray seals sealy jokes. Instead, earn your seal of approval by keeping a safe distance from them to protect them from human disturbances.

Photo: Anne Smrcina/NOAA

 A pair of seabirds on a beach, with one of the birds biting the beak of the other.

How would you caption this photo of a pair of masked boobies in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument?

Photo: Lindsey Kramer/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A group of people doing yoga on a beach.

Seas the day with our National Marine Sanctuary System! Like this group of visitors enjoying a morning yoga session on the shores of Second Beach in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary there is an opportunity for everyone to experience our sanctuaries.

Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA

A close-up of a marine organism’s eye.

What bottom dwelling marine critter found in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary does this suspicious eye belong to? Leave a comment below with your guess, and we'll have the answer for you later today!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

Reef fishes cleaning two sea turtles.

Happy National Wildlife Day! Not only are we celebrating our sanctuary wildlife, but also the partnerships that exist between many of them. In Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, sea turtles like these two get routine clean-ups from grazing reef fish at “cleaning stations” found along the reefs. The fish keep the sea turtles free of algae and other organisms that live on them, while the reef fish get a snack! A win-win situation if you ask us.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

A shark swimming over a shipwreck.

My, what big teeth you have! Sand tiger sharks like this one can often be spotted on the wrecks of the Graveyard of the Atlantic, near NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But never fear – though their teeth make them look fearsome, sand tiger sharks are typically docile near divers.

Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA

A bright orange sunset over the ocean and an island.

Like the sun setting over Southeast Farallon Island in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, our photo contest is coming to a close. The Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest closes at the end of the day, so now's the time to submit those last few photos!

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

A bright purple nudibranch with orange fringe.

Seen any cool nudibranchs lately, like this Spanish shawl nudibranch in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary? Now's the perfect time to submit your photos to the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest!

Photo: Cindy Shaw

 A close up on a whale shark's head.

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 sharks travel to NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico to find this favorite food.

Photo: Kevin Lino/NOAA

Two volunteers cleaning up a beach.

Going on a coastal getaway this Labor Day weekend? Show our ocean and Great Lakes some love by leaving no trace when visiting, and helping out with a beach clean up if you can! Collective efforts to keep our water bodies a cleaner, better place, like these two volunteers are doing in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, is shore to be a crowd pleaser!

Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA

A sea otter napping on the water.

Nothing hits the spot like a midday nap, especially for sea otters! Due to their high metabolism, sea otters – like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – have to eat and rest a lot as part of their daily routine. As otterly adorable as they are, it’s important to keep a safe viewing distance when coming across a sea otter in the wild so you don't interrupt the time they need to take care of themselves. Keep sea otters safe and undisturbed by respecting their space, and their naps!

Photo: Cat Harper

A close-up of a small purple fish poking its head out of a sea sponge.

We're o-fish-ally in the last week of the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! Remember to submit your best photos of sanctuary wildlife, scenery, and recreation by September 2nd.

Photo: Steve Miller

 A humpback whale breaching.

Witnessing the spectacular wildlife of our national marine sanctuaries – like this humpback whale in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary – is always whaley exciting! It’s important to keep a safe viewing distance to make sure the wildlife aren’t disturbed by our admiration. In Hawai’i, whales cannot be approached closer than 100 yards, which protects humpback whales and whale watchers alike.

Photo: NOAA, under NOAA Fisheries Permit #782-1438

A brown pelican diving toward the water.

Incoming!
Brown pelicans like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are master divers. A brown pelican can plunge into the water from as high as 60 feet above the surface.. Then it's able to scoop up surprised fish into its throat pouch – a handy meal!

Photo: Douglas Croft

Two Spanish hogfish side-to-side with their mouths open.

Hear ye, hear ye! Calling photographers of all skill levels – submit your best photos of our National Marine Sanctuary System’s scenery, wildlife, and recreation to the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! Submissions are open until September 2nd.

Photo: Daryl Duda

A colorful deep coral reef including feathery and coiled soft corals.

Animal or plant? Both the feathery object and the coils in this photo may look like plants (or something otherworldly) but they're actually animals! Researchers from the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration and NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary witnessed this reef at Alderdice Bank in the Gulf of Mexico. The feathery creature is a feather black coral, while the coils are known as sea whip corals. Both feed on plankton that is swept by in the current!

This photo is from an ongoing expedition that is livestreaming dives from areas in and around Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Tune in and learn more.

Photo: GFOE/NOAA

A brightly colored sea anemone

Keep your friends close, and your anemones further away! Sea anemones – like this one found in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – are close relatives of coral and jellyfish. While their brightly colored tentacles are a beautiful sight, they are actually venomous and are used for capturing prey. Most species are benign to humans, but keeping your hands to yourself protects both you and the animal. Don't make an enemy of a sea anemone!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A sea lion midair above the water

Sea lion in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary once it realizes it’s not supposed to be flying: ...AAAHHH!

Photo: Dru Devlin/NOAA

An aerial view of boats in the Florida Keys.

NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects one of the most iconic ocean places in the world. But these important ocean habitats are in jeopardy of being “loved to death.” To survive for future generations, the Keys need to change, and there’s no time to lose. The sanctuary is proposing a new Restoration Blueprint, and we want to hear from you.

Photo: Shawn Verne

A pink coral reef.

Now presenting the rosy palace of Rose Atoll, located in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! The reef at Rose Atoll gets its pink hues from crustose coralline algae, an unassuming friend of the coral reef ecosystem. While corals lay down their own stony skeleton, crustose coralline algae crust over and between the structures to help cement them together, forming a reef. Can you name a more iconic duo?

Photo: J. Kenyon/NOAA

An orange and white sea slug, or nudibranch, sitting atop a reef structure

We have an announcement: we've decided that this Facebook account will now be a succulent appreciation account.

Just kidding! This isn't a plant – it's a white-lined nudibranch. Nudibranchs, like this one found in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, are sea slugs that often come in striking colors and forms. While they may look like they're making a fashion statement, nudibranchs often depend on their brilliant colors as defense from predators.

Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA

A pink sea fan with fish swimming around it

We’re a big fan of deep-sea fans! This fan coral and its fish friends were found at a depth of about 100 meters in the Santa Cruz Canyon, part of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Unlike their shallow-water relatives, deep sea corals don’t need sunlight to thrive; instead, they obtain energy and nutrients by trapping tiny organisms that pass through the water. Pretty fan-tastic if you ask us!

Photo: Marine Applied Research and Technology

A brown flounder blending into a brown algal background.

Winter flounder in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: “How does my new cloak of invisibility look?”
Us: You tried.

Photo: Deborah Marx/NOAA

A crew of women rowing a Mackinaw boat.

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the...lake? That’s right! Sailing, kayaking, or even paddling a traditional Mackinaw boat are among the many ways you can explore the maritime history and natural wonder of NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, located in Lake Huron. There are recreational activities available for visitors of all skill levels! So, water you waiting for?

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A reddish-orange octopus nestled in among lobe coral.

A day octopus – or he’e mauli in Hawaiian – sits pretty at French Frigate Shoals 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 metridium anemone backlit by a diver's flashlight.

Let your photography skills glow like this anemone in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by submitting to the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! Just a few more weeks to send in your photos.

Photo: Nathan Coyle

Two ochre stars, one orange and the other purple, nestled together on a rocky wall.

Just two sea star friends hanging out in an NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary tide pool. Tag your favorite tide pool buddy!

Photo: Shawn Sheltren/NPS

Several students gather around an instructor and a fishtank.

Have you heard the news? There's a brand new national marine sanctuary! Located in the tidal Potomac River, Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary protects a historic collection of shipwrecks. These shipwrecks in turn serve as habitat for many different animals, museums of our maritime past, and classrooms for students of all ages.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

A lionfish swimming near a coral reef.

For World Lion Day, we're bringing you the lions of the sea: Indo Pacific lionfish. As their name suggests, these fish are native to the Indo Pacific region, and are part of the food web in coral reefs in that area. In recent decades, though, these fish have been found in coral reefs throughout the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean – including in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Experts speculate that people have been dumping unwanted lionfish into the ocean for the last 25 years or more.

In their newfound habitats, lionfish don't have natural predators – plus, they have voracious appetites and reproduce quickly. This may spell trouble for biodiversity in coral reefs. a group of 1,000 lionfish can consume 5 million prey fish in a single year! NOAA and our partners are working to understand and control this invasive species with new traps, lionfish derbies, and more. You can help by asking restaurants near you to serve lionfish, and learn more here.

Photo: Bess Bright

 A breaching humpback whale.

Are you spending your summer exploring your national marine sanctuaries? Don't forget to submit your photos to the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! We're accepting photos in three categories – Sanctuary Life, Sanctuary Views, and Sanctuary Recreation – through Labor Day weekend.

Photo: Douglas Croft

Sunset over cliffs and the ocean.

Are you spending your summer exploring your national marine sanctuaries? Don't forget to submit your photos to the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! We're accepting photos in three categories – Sanctuary Life, Sanctuary Views, and Sanctuary Recreation – through Labor Day weekend.

Photo: Michael Beattie

Two divers near a shipwreck with many fish surrounding them.

Sometimes it can be hard for maritime archaeologists to document shipwrecks because of all the fish! Here, NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary archaeologist Will Sassorossi and NOAA Ship Nancy Foster's navigation officer ENS Sara Thompson explore the shipwreck of the USS Schurz, which sank during World War I off the coast of North Carolina. Shipwrecks like the USS Schurz have a second life beneath the waves as artificial reefs. Invertebrates like anemones and corals may attach to the wreck surface, while fish like the many seen here shelter and feed around the wreck.

Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA

 Invertebrates on the seafloor.

If the moon and the stars became part of the deep-sea of NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, this is what they would look like. *Cue Twilight Zone music.*

Photo: NOAA

Three volunteers assessing water quality.

How important is water quality to our marine and freshwater ecosystems? Important enough that we dedicate a month to celebrate it! August is National Water Quality Month. Our national marine sanctuaries depend on clean water to ensure that biological diversity, coastal scenery, and recreational and commercial opportunities thrive. During “Snapshot Day” in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, hundreds of citizen science volunteers aid in water quality efforts, assessing rivers, streams, and other coastal California watersheds.

Photo: Christina Muegge

The view of a boat on the water from inside a cave.

Gain a new perspective by visiting a national marine sanctuary near you! In NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, you can explore the mysterious sea caves that line the sanctuary or catch a whale watching tour. As we wrap up Get Into Your Sanctuary weekend, be sure to enter any sanctuary photos you love into the 2019 “Get into Your Sanctuary” photo contest

Photo: Sarah Raskin

A snorkeler swimming over a shipwreck.

Dive into our nation's maritime history and marine wonders with one of the many events taking place this weekend for Get Into Your Sanctuary!

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A man and girl running alongside waves

Are you joining us this weekend for Get Into Your Sanctuary days? Starting today through the weekend, we'll be holding events all across the country to celebrate the National Marine Sanctuary System. You don't have to be a scuba diver or a surfer to dive into the wonders of your national marine sanctuaries!

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

A hammerhead shark swimming.

Ever wonder what it might be like to have a sixth sense? Sharks have that covered! Specialized organs called ampullae of Lorenzini help these stealthy hunters detect small electrical fields released by other animals. That way, sharks can sense their prey even if it's buried in the sand or in murky water. Hammerhead sharks – like this one in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary – have an especially large number of these ampullae on their broad head.

Photo: Mitchell Tartt/NOAA

A nurse shark lying on the sea floor alongside a lobster

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the sleepiest shark of them all?
Nurse sharks! These nocturnal bottom dwellers prefer to take it easy during daylight hours in caves and dark crevices. At night, nurse sharks scout the seafloor for crustaceans, mollusks, and other low-lying prey. This one was spotted in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Bonus points if you can spot the eel hanging out near this shark!

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

A small shark lying on the seafloor

Meow!
This filetail catshark – found at a depth of 470 meters in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – is indeed 100 percent shark. However, it has light-sensitive eyes similar to that of cats, which helps it hunt for fish and squid in the deep, dark waters that it lives in.

Photo: Kevin L. Stierhoff/NOAA

A tiger shark going in for a bite of an unsuspecting Laysan albatross.

*Cue Jaws music*
This Laysan albatross, or mōlī, in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is in for a surprise. Tiger sharks like this one are voracious predators, much like their terrestrial namesake, and are known to take a bite out of just about anything that catches their attention. Though they can be frightening, sharks like the tiger shark are incredibly important animals in ocean environments. Sharks help remove dead or decaying debris from the ocean, and thereby help keep our ocean clean, while also helping to keep ecosystems in balance.

Photo: Ilana Nimz/NOAA

A Caribbean reef shark swimming

Hey...hey you…you know what week it is? It’s Shark Week! 🦈🦈🦈
For the next few days we’ll be sinking our teeth into the importance of sharks in our National Marine Sanctuary System. Caribbean reef sharks in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary play an important role as apex predators of smaller reef fish, and help maintain a healthy balance in the marine food web. What shark species are you looking forward to learning about this week?

Photo: Alexander Neufeld

A surfer that fell off their surfboard riding a wave.

No one said riding the waves in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary was going to be easy! The important thing is to try, and get back up after you get knocked down. 😊 Check out some of the best surf spots in the National Marine Sanctuary System

Photo: Kate Thompson/NOAA

A small shrimp riding on a jellyfish.

Ride into the weekend like this shrimp hitching a ride on a jelly in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary!

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A humpback whale swimming away from the camera

Just how big are humpback whales? Consider the humpback whale tail, or flukes. From tip to tip, it can be 18 feet across!

Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240

A mottled orange octopus resting on a coral head.

Cephalopods octopi our hearts! This Caribbean two-spot octopus was spotted hanging around the coral cap in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. 🐙💙

Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA

A white and yellow jellyfish underwater

Jelly of this amazing photo? There's still time to submit your photos to the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! We're accepting photos in three categories – Sanctuary Life, Sanctuary Views, and Sanctuary Recreation – through September 2. We can't wait to see the National Marine Sanctuary System through your eyes!

Photo: Michael Alyono

A tide pool with bright green sea anemones

Happy birthday to NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary! This amazing Pacific Northwest spot protects everything from shoreline tide pools to deep-sea canyons. Today, the sanctuary turns 25 years old!

Photo: The Ocean Agency

An over/under shot of the water's surface.

"I spend so much time outdoors and am always very careful to leave it as I found it, or better than I found it. I also became dive certified a few years ago so I could not only explore 'beneath the surface' but also help with clean-up efforts." – Jackie Krawczak, NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary volunteer

What inspires you about the ocean and Great Lakes?

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

An elephant seal sleeping on a rocky beach

Saturday afternoon nap? Don't mind if we do! Are you taking inspiration from this northern elephant seal in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary?

Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

An osprey in flight

Take wing to the newest national marine sanctuary: Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary! Located on the tidal Potomac River, this brand-new addition to the National Marine Sanctuary System protects a series of shipwrecks, which in turn serve as habitat for animals like this osprey.

Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Two divers swimming above a shipwreck.

We're considering a new national marine sanctuary in Lake Ontario, and we want to hear what you think! There are two more weeks to submit a comment about the proposed national marine sanctuary, which would protect historically-significant shipwrecks. Learn more about the proposal and how to comment.

Photo: NOAA

A silhouetted stand-up paddleboarder.

Looking for an adventure this summer? Join us for Get Into Your Sanctuary Days! From August 2 through 4, sites across the National Marine Sanctuary System will be holding events for our fifth national "Get Into Your Sanctuary" celebration.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

An adult western gull regurgitating fish for its chick.

Overheard in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:
Western gull chick: Feed me! Feed me! Feed me!
Adult gull:

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A colorful underwater reef.

Can you spot the octopus? 🐙 Look closely and you might spot a little cephalopod among the many invertebrates of NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary!

Photo: Clinton Bauder/BAUE

Close-up on a whale shark's head

Happy Shark Awareness Day! Whale sharks are the biggest shark – and the biggest fish – in the ocean. These massive sharks are filter feeders, consuming tiny zooplankton. Like many shark species, whale sharks have hundreds of teeth, but theirs are tiny, pointed backwards, and thought to have no role at all in feeding. Lucky divers can spot these gentle giants in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo: Sam Farkas

A close-up on a bright orange fish.

"Uh oh. Did I leave the stove on?" This Garibaldi in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is pretty sure it forgot something important...

Photo: Beata Lerman

Waves washing up on a rocky shoreline.

Ride the waves into the weekend in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary! Which beach are you visiting this weekend?

Photo: Jennifer Stock/NOAA

An aerial view of kayakers paddling over a kelp forest.

You don’t have to be a scuba diver to enjoy the kelp forests of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! Kayak tours are one way to adventure around the sanctuary, where you can paddle around sea caves and above the giant kelp forests with a birds-eye view of the underwater world beneath you.

Photo: Anna Jacobson/Channel Islands Adventure Company

A coral reef with mostly staghorn corals.

Don’t you just love a healthy coral reef? NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa protects critical reef-building coral species, like these staghorn corals. Healthy coral reefs provide habitat for a wide variety of marine organisms, all the while protecting shorelines from large waves and storms.

Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA

An orange and white sea slug on algae.

Do you have some glamour shots of your National Marine Sanctuary System? Consider sending in your best shots for the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest! This opalescent nudibranch found in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was submitted in last year’s contest. Photos will be accepted through September 2.

Photo: Arial Bauman

An osprey landing on a shipwreck

BIG NEWS: Today, along with the state of Maryland and Charles County, we're announcing the designation of a new national marine sanctuary to protect the remains of more than 100 abandoned steamships and vessels built as part of America’s engagement in World War I. Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., is the first national marine sanctuary designated since 2000.

Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

A person removing fishing nets from a juvenile albatross.

Each year, literal tons of garbage washes up on the shores of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. There, it threatens animals including juvenile Laysan albatross, who may eat plastic pieces or get entangled in derelict fishing nets. NOAA works to clean up this trash to keep wildlife safe – since 1996, the marine debris team has removed 1.9 million pounds of derelict fishing gear and other garbage from the monument!

Photo: Ryan Tabata/NOAA

A green moray eel with its mouth slightly open

Overheard at NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary open mic:
“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s *gasps*...a moray.”
Caption the reaction of the fish hiding behind the sea fan.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A close-up of a group of colorful sea stars in a tide pool.

Trash and animals don't mix well! Do you know what to do if you spot a marine mammal in distress?

First off, don't try to approach or disentangle the animal yourself. Wild animals – especially scared ones – can be volatile, and may injure you or themselves. Instead, contact your local stranding network so that trained professionals can safely help the animal in distress. If you're in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where this fur seal was spotted, contact The Marine Mammal Center hotline (San Francisco Bay Area: 415-289-7325; Monterey or Santa Cruz Counties: 831-633-6298; San Luis Obispo County: 805-771-8300).

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A close-up of a group of colorful sea stars in a tide pool.

We’re celebrating stars (and stripes) today! #IndependenceDay is one of the most popular beach days of the year, but litter also follows large crowds onto our shores. Luckily, you can enjoy the salt, sand, and sun while being a steward of your local marine environment. By reducing your use of single-use plastics and leaving no trace when packing up for the day, you can help preserve our beaches and ocean for marine life, and make your visit a more enjoyable one! Bonus points if you set aside some time to clean up other parts of the beach.

What beach are you visiting today?

Photo: Nancy Sefton

A coastal view of the ocean

Ever wondered what paradise looks like? Well look no further! The beaches and coasts of NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa are truly a sight to sea. However, marine debris not only threatens the diverse wildlife protected by the sanctuary, but it can also be an eyesore for those who admire these beautiful and culturally-significant landscapes. When celebrating Independence Day, keep in mind that trash travels! You can help preserve our national marine sanctuaries by cleaning up after yourself and encouraging those around you to do the same.

Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA

A brightly colored reef with fish.

Bereef it or not, every year around 8 million metric tons of plastic make their way into our ocean! Trash that is left behind on shores and beaches are often swept into the ocean by high tides and wind, and can travel thousands of miles once it enters the water. Even deep ecosystems far from shore, like this one in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, can be impacted plastic pollution. If you're visiting a beach this week for the Fourth of July, help keep our ocean clean and reefs healthy by joining a beach clean up, or take the lead and organize one!

Photo: Robert Lee/BAUE

A breaching humpback whale

Don’t be in breach of ocean etiquette! This week, we’ll be celebrating the red, white, and blue with Clean Beaches Week to protect and preserve our ocean and Great Lakes and all of their inhabitants, such as the humpback whales of NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Due to their feeding methods, whales and other cetaceans are vulnerable to encounters with marine plastic floating through their habitats. By keeping our beaches trash free and leaving no trace behind when we enjoy our shores, we’re also helping protect marine life down the line!

Photo: Anne Smrcina/NOAA

A few Baird's beaked whales swimming with their heads above the water's surface.

Whale you know what they say, the best things in life come when you’re not looking for them! That’s exactly what happened with whale watchers in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary recently when they had some surprise visitors. A pod of rare Baird’s beaked whales were spotted swimming in the area, including some calves. The elusive whales are usually found far out at sea, and likely traveled to Monterey Bay following food, like squid and fish.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A close-up of a fuzzy, white fairy tern chick.

A fairy is among us! A fairy tern chick, that is. Known as manu-o-kū in Hawaiian, fairy terns are native to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Unlike most seabirds, fairy terns lay their eggs directly onto a surface like a tree branch or cliff ledge, rather than building a traditional nest! When the chicks hatch, they use their sturdy claws to grip onto the surface, which helps them weather even the strongest winds and storms.

Photo: Koa Matsuoka

A close-up of a reddish-brown fish with large eyes and lips.

Introducing the red Irish lord of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary: a master of disguise, professional ambush predator, and in desperate need of some lip balm.

Photo: Katy Laveck Foster

A shipwreck underwater, covered in marine

Sink into some maritime history with NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! The USS Monitor, pictured here, was the first ironclad warship in the Union army. In 1862 in the throes of the Civil War, Monitor led the Union into battle against the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads. While the battle ultimately resulted in a draw, it marked the end of an era for wooden warships! Later that year, the USS Monitor met its fateful end off the coast of North Carolina during a treacherous storm, along with 16 brave members of its crew. Over a century later when the shipwreck was discovered, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was designated as the first national marine sanctuary in the United States to protect our maritime heritage.

Photo: NOAA

 A surfer riding a large wave.

Humpback whales aren’t the only ones that enjoy the waters of Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! The sanctuary is also the perfect spot for responsible recreation. This surfer is riding the famous “Pipeline,” or “Pipe,” wave break on O’ahu’s North Shore, one of the most powerful (and dangerous) surf spots in the world. Have you surfed in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary or other sanctuaries?

Photo: Walker Langley

An orca swimming away from the camera.

A visitor from the north! Photographer Douglas Croft snapped this photo of transient orca T165 in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary back in April. T165 and his family usually range in the waters of British Columbia and Alaska, and this was their first recorded visit to Monterey Bay.

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

A bird sticking up above a tree.

"Did someone say it's snack time?" This black-crowned night heron was spotted resting in a tree on the coast of NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, possibly wondering if it's time for to go eat yet. These herons typically feed between evening and early morning, which helps them avoid competition with other heron species.

Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA

A gray seal with its head above the water.

When gray seals and other seals hang out in the water upright like this one, they're said to be "bottling." Gray seals are often spotted within NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, where – between rests – they feed on fish, crustaceans, squid, and sometimes even small seabirds. While gray seals may appear approachable in the wild, human interference is a major threat to these marine mammals. Fishing entanglements, watercraft strikes, and interactions with humans put them at risk. Help protect gray seals by keeping a safe distance and not approaching them too close on land or on water.

Photo: Anne Smrcina/NOAA

A breaching humpback whale

10/10 points for acrobatics and style for this humpback whale in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!

Photo: Douglas Croft Images

Aerial view of a woman lying down on a paddleboard over a shipwreck.

While you're relaxing and having fun in your national marine sanctuaries this summer, don't forget to snap some photos and send them into the Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest! This photo of a paddleboarder relaxing over the shipwreck Albany in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary was a 2018 "Sanctuary Portraits" submission. What photos will you send in?

Photo: Bryan Dort

A diver holds a bag of rope collected during a cleanup.

In September of 2017, Hurricane Irma tore through NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, carrying large amounts of marine debris into the ocean. In response, the sanctuary and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation launched Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys to help professional dive shops lead underwater cleanup efforts in the sanctuary. In its first year, the initiative removed more than 18,000 pounds of marine debris from sanctuary waters!

Photo: Jack Fishman

Two women kayaking through a kelp forest.

Looking for adventure this summer? Look no further than your national marine sanctuaries! Whether you prefer kayaking in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary or tide pooling in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, we have something for everyone.

Photo: Sienna Streamfellow

A small, light pink octopus on the ocean floor.

Octopus in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, who has places to be, other cephalopods to see: "Hey, do you mind? I’m a little octopied here!"

Every summer in recent years, we've teamed up with Nautilus Live to explore and map areas of our national marine sanctuaries. This octopus was one of many curious and exciting marine critters that we spotted in Cordell Bank in 2017!

Photo: OET/NOAA

A purple crinoid with feather-like protrusions attached to a coral reef surface.

Is it a plant? A coral? An extraterrestrial life form?

If you said none of the above, you’re correct! This crinoid in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is a marine animal related to sea stars and sea urchins. Many crinoids can attach themselves to a hard surface, and use their feathery pinnules to catch plankton from the water.

(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
An angler returning a fish to the water.

Wisdom might get all the attention for being the world’s oldest known banded bird that has raised around 35 chicks in her lifetime (and counting!), but have you met her equally dedicated mate, Akeakamai?

Each year since 2006, Akeakamai, a Laysan albatross, has returned to Midway Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with his mate Wisdom to raise a chick. Over the course of several months, both parents take turns incubating the egg. When they’re not on parenting duty, they forage for food. Once the egg hatches, both parents spend another 5 to 6 months raising the chick before it leaves the island. Happy Father's Day to Akeakamai and all the dedicated dads out there!

Photo: Bob Peyton/USFWS

A Hawaiian monk seal laying its head atop a green sea turtle on a sandy shore.
Happy birthday to Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! The monument is of great importance to Native Hawaiians, with significant cultural sites found on the islands of Nihoa and Mokumanamana. It also protects an incredible diversity of marine life, including marine mammals, sea turtles, and 14 million seabirds. Thanks to the protection of the monument, the inhabitants of Papahānaumokuākea – like this Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle – can rest a little easier each night (and day)! Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA, under permit #848-1695
A loggerhead sea turtle underwater.
We're totally at loggerheads over which sea turtle species is our favorite! This loggerhead sea turtle was spotted in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Loggerheads' powerful jaws enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey, such as whelks and conch. Adults can reach up to 250 pounds! Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA
A leatherback sea turtle poking its head above the water with a jellyfish in its mouth.
Did you know that leatherback sea turtles – like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – are the largest living turtle species? Leatherbacks swim thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean to reach Monterey Bay to feast on jellyfish. This one is slurping up a brown sea nettle. Sometimes, though, what looks like a tasty jelly snack turns out to be a plastic bag. Since leatherbacks aren’t able to regurgitate plastics if they mistakenly eat them, it’s critical that we keep our ocean plastic-free and leatherback-friendly! Photo: Douglas Croft Images
A person holding a juvenile sea turtle on a boat.
Be free, little one! During a research expedition to document shipwrecks off North Carolina in 2017, researchers from NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary got to release two rehabilitated sea turtles. This cutie is Puck, a juvenile hawksbill turtle rehabilitated by the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project. The researchers were excited to shellebrate his return to the wild! Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA
A sea turtle in shallow water.
We’re turtley stoked because it's Sea Turtle Week! Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is a hotspot for green sea turtles, called honu in Hawaiian. Here in these shallow coastal waters, they enjoy chowing down on marine algae and seagrasses. Which species of sea turtle is your favorite? (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA)
Two divers near a shipwreck
You can weigh in on future national marine sanctuaries! We're proposing a new national marine sanctuary in Lake Ontario. We're asking for feedback on this proposal to protect historically-significant shipwrecks and other maritime heritage resources. We have public meetings in Sterling, Oswego, Lyons, and Watertown, New York, coming up THIS WEEK. Not in New York? You can weigh in online, too. (Photo: Phil Hartmeyer/NOAA)
Dr. Michelle Johnston diving with fish around her.
Each year for World Oceans Day, we celebrate the lifegiving force that is our ocean. The ocean provides the oxygen we breathe, sustains an amazing array of animals and plants, and more. This year, we're especially celebrating the critical role that gender equality plays in ocean conservation! From the scientists conducting important marine research – like NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary ecologist Dr. Michelle Johnston, pictured here – to the educators teaching the next generation about the ocean, our ocean (and all of us!) is indebted to the women and people of all genders who protect it. (Photo: John Embesi/NOAA)
A fly-fisher standing knee deep in water.
Our ocean and Great Lakes are known for reeling people in with their natural beauty and wonder. Anglers – like this fly fisher in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – have the opportunity to get especially close to nature and can help preserve it for generations to come. Fishers can practice marine stewardship by knowing the regulations of their fishing sites, avoiding areas with sensitive wildlife, and leaving no trace behind to protect aquatic life. Learn more (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A heart shape made with someone’s hands over a body of water.
We 💙 our ocean and Great Lakes! National marine sanctuaries provide unique opportunities – like fishing, boating, and other outdoor adventures – to connect you to these special areas. You can be a steward of your marine environment while enjoying all the wonders that sanctuaries have to offer. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter)
A group of small forage fish being eaten by a whale, with a seabird flying overhead.
Happy World Environment Day! Our National Marine Sanctuary System supports and protects wildlife from across the food chain, from seabirds to whales to forage fish, and keeps their habitats safe and healthy for future generations. How are you celebrating the environment today? (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Fishermen on a boat holding a pole.
Many anglers in national marine sanctuaries like NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary serve as the first eyes on the ocean: they're knowledgeable about the complex workings of tides, waves, and the ocean, and also familiar with the cycles and abundance of local fish species. Anglers also serve important roles as stewards, working with sanctuaries to clean up trash, remove invasive lionfish, and monitor water quality. Learn about fishing in your national marine sanctuaries. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A sailboat on the water at dusk.
Sailing under the moonlight is one of the many ways to seas the day in your national marine sanctuaries, including NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Many of our national marine sanctuaries offer opportunities for boaters to responsibly sail, boat, and fish while being stewards of our marine environments. When you're out on the water, practice responsible recreation by keeping trash out of the water and keeping a safe distance from marine wildlife! (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
An angler returning a fish to the water.
It's National Fishing and Boating Week! Did you know that your national marine sanctuaries are open to responsible recreational fishing? It's true! Fishing in places like NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary – pictured here – provides the opportunity to connect with the ocean and nature. What's your favorite sanctuary to fish in? (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
An orca jumping out of the water.

Let’s orcastrate some extra love for our ocean because June is National Ocean Month!

In NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, seeing orcas like this one is a special treat. Transient orcas feed on marine mammals in the sanctuary. By rising above the waterline they can survey their surroundings and gain new perspective.

(Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A humpback whale and a sea lion swimming side-by-side.
On your marks...get set...go!
Who do you think will win in this NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary race: the humpback whale, or the sea lion?
(Photo: Peter Flood)
A school of salmon swimming upstream.
Incoming! The streams and rivers of Olympic National Park, adjacent to NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, are important spawning grounds for coho salmon. Salmon spend much of their lives at sea, then make their way up rivers to lay eggs. By protecting both ocean and river ecosystems, we help ensure species like these salmon can thrive! (Photo: Adam Baus)
A sea lion sitting on a buoy and holding one flipper under its chin
Diva sea lion in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary: “Don’t I just look fabulous today?”
(Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA
A blue and yellow sea slug.
Nudibranch alert! This little beauty in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is a regal sea goddess. 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. What is your favorite kind to spot? (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Several people tugging a pile of fishing nets and other marine debris off a beach

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction." - Rachel Carson

Happy birthday to "the mother of the age of ecology," Rachel Carson! Rachel Carson believed we are all responsible for caring for our natural world, and her dedication to environmental preservation has inspired generations. We can all do our part to carry on Carson's legacy and become better stewards of our blue planet, whether it's through removing marine debris or reducing our carbon footprints. What will you do? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo: Ryan Tabata/NOAA)
A diver hovering over a shipwreck.
"Each dive is a story in itself. Every visit to a shipwreck, reef, and underwater community tells a new story of loss and love. The environment in which a shipwreck rests, exists, and thrives also adds to the story, creating new chapters that only the diver will witness firsthand. Hopefully the diver can bring this story to the surface to be told to the public and inspire a new generation of adventure seekers to don the gear and bring a new story for generations to come. In most cases the treasures within these sanctuaries can, should, and will hopefully outlive us all." – Jeremy Bannister, NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary volunteer and diver
What inspires you about the ocean and Great Lakes?
(Photo: NOAA)
A brain coral releasing small, circular gametes into the water column
Do you ever feel a little spawntaneous? Corals sure do! Corals can reproduce in a variety of ways, but mass spawning events like this one in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are one of the most enchanting to witness, and most perplexing for scientists and researchers. Cues from the lunar cycle or water temperature stimulate entire coral reef colonies to release their tiny eggs and sperm, called gametes, at the same time into the ocean. Once these gametes are fertilized, they may form a coral larvae, or planula, which will swim freely until it settles down to grow into the adult coral that it was always meant to become! (Photo: GP Schmahl/NOAA)
 A coral reef with fish swimming around it and two divers in the background.
Happy 30-year anniversary to NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary! You might not expect such brilliant colors deep in the ocean off Northern California, but Cordell Bank is here to surprise you. Surrounded by soft sediments of the continental shelf seafloor, Cordell Bank's towering rock ledges provide homes to colorful and abundant invertebrates, algae, and fishes. For three decades now, the sanctuary has been protecting the bank and surrounding areas. Please join us in wishing Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary a very happy birthday! (Photo: Joe Hoyt/NOAA)
Two masked boobies standing atop two green sea turtles on a beach in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
These chatty seabirds standing atop green sea turtles obviously didn't get the memo that today is World Turtle Day! How would you caption this image? (Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA)
 A common murre feeding its chick.
Happy World Biodiversity Day! NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is a hub for biodiversity, and its seabird population is no exception. More than a quarter million seabirds gather in this sanctuary to feed and nest. Thirteen species, including common murres like this one, have breeding colonies on the Farallon Islands. Seabirds share the sanctuary with a variety of marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates, which collectively maintain the health of the Greater Farallones ecosystem.(Photo: Ron LeValley)
A snowy egret wading nearshore.
It's National Safe Boating Week, and safe boating can protect both you AND wildlife like this snowy egret. If you live near or are visiting NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, we've got you covered with a brand new online boater education course! The course is free, and includes strategies for responsible boating and stewardship of the precious marine ecosystem. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A brown albatross with a small green band on its leg taking off from the ocean surface.

Aaaand lift-off! Albatrosses like this black-footed albatross are long-distance travelers, migrating between their feeding and nesting grounds. This particular albatross was spotted in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary by Robert Schwemmer, our West Coast Region maritime heritage coordinator, and is special because of that little bit of green you see on its leg. That's a bird band, a small tag used to identify individual birds. Thanks to Schwemmer's zoom lens, we were able to read the number on this one and match it in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) database.

This particular albatross was originally banded May 30, 2002 – nearly 17 years ago – when it was too young to fly. It was banded in French Frigate Shoals in what is now part of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, more than 2,700 miles away from where it was spotted in Monterey Bay! Its band can help researchers track its journey and better understand the life cycle and ecological needs of black-footed albatrosses.

If you observe a banded bird in the wild, you can report it. Learn more about this albatross sighting

(Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
Two people standing on a boat, one of whom is casting a fishing line.
We're proposing a new national marine sanctuary in Lake Ontario, and we need your help! We're asking for feedback on this proposal to protect historically-significant shipwrecks and related maritime heritage resources. You can comment online. Plus, we're holding public meetings in Sterling, Oswego, Lyons, and Watertown, New York, in June. Get the details about the proposal and public meetings. (Photo courtesy of Jill Heinerth)
An octopus on the seafloor.
Overheard at an open mic in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary: Why is it a bad idea to threaten an octopus?

Because it’s well armed! *crickets*
(Photo: NOAA/MARE)
Two blue whales swimming side by side.
Today is Endangered Species Day, so we’re honoring the largest animal to have ever lived on our planet: the blue whale! At up to 110 feet long, blue whales are truly giants of the seas, and can be seen in national marine sanctuaries like NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Still, blue whales are threatened by human activity, including being struck by ships, habitat degradation, and entanglement with fishing gear. Blue whales are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and you can help further them by keeping a safe distance if you’re lucky enough to spot one in the wild! (Photo: NOAA)
A North Atlantic right whale's tail flukes above the water.
Raise your flukes if you love whales! This North Atlantic right whale is one of many whale visitors to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which is full of some of the foods whales love best. You might even say it's whaley popular, so much so that we find it over-whale-ming! North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, and the sanctuary works closely with NOAA Fisheries and other partners to reduce human impacts, like collisions with vessels and entanglement in fishing gear. You can help protect right whales, too, by supporting your regional stranding network and helping raise awareness about protecting whales! (Photo: Peter Flood)
 A diver pointing a flashlight at the steering wheel, or helm, of an old shipwreck.
Check out Captain Hook’s old pirate ship! Just kidding; while the fictional character never had the chance to sail in real life, many others have passed through the waters of what is now NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The wreck of the two-masted schooner F.T. Barney is just one out of nearly 200 wrecks from times past, from wooden schooners to early steel-hulled steamers, that are preserved in the sanctuary's cold, fresh water. (Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
A great frigatebird with its throat pouch inflated.
Built in headrest for a tired frigatebird? Not quite! Great frigatebirds – or ‘iwa in Hawaiian – like this one nest throughout Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. During courtship, males inflate a red pouch on their throat to attract a mate. It would probably make a nice pillow for them too, though. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
The moon
National marine sanctuaries aren't just amazing places to see the ocean and marine life – they're also awesome viewing spots for the moon and stars! This photo of the moon was taken in the remote NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A harbor seal mother and pup touching noses.
Happy Mother's Day from your National Marine Sanctuary System! This harbor seal mom is checking in on her pup in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. If you see a harbor seal pup alone on a beach, it's not abandoned – its mother is just out feeding so she can continue to sustain her pup.Stay back 100 yards if possible, and keep any dogs on a leash. If you approach the pup, you may spook its mother and she may not come back – keeping your distance helps keep mother and pup safe! (Photo: Clarice Soleil)
A snowy plover
Somebody call Pixar – one of their characters escaped! Just kidding; this little cutie is a real life snowy plover. These adorable birds are just one of many migratory shorebirds found in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where they forage for small invertebrates. Today, we're celebrating birds like snowy plovers for World Migratory Bird Day – which species is your favorite? (Photo: Allison Formica)
A young person watching as a whale surfaces.
Have you ever had the transcendent experience of seeing a humpback whale in the wild? Whale watching season has returned in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, just off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Every summer, humpback whales flock to the sanctuary to feed on krill and small fish, making this ocean spot one of the world's premiere whale watching locations. Come join us for a whale watching tour guided by trained naturalists this summer! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A basking shark swimming at the ocean surface.
What's a basking shark? Oh, y'know, just ONE OF THE COOLEST ocean creatures out there, and, no big deal, the second-biggest shark in the world. They can grow to about the length of a school bus, and use their gaping mouths to feed on tiny crustaceans the size of a grain of rice. They can be found in many of your national marine sanctuaries – this one was photographed in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary – but in the eastern Pacific, they were sighted less frequently beginning in the latter half of the 20th century.Recently, though, they've been spotted more often in and around NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and two sharks were tagged by sanctuary researchers! Learn more about the tagging project and why this is such a big deal
(Photo: Carolyn O'Connor)
Two surfers in wetsuits standing on a beach at sunset.
Whether you're a surfer or a lover of spectacular sunsets, your national marine sanctuaries have something for everyone! Want to understand why it’s so important to preserve these places for future generations? There's no better way to learn than through first-hand experience: sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit.
(Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A Laysan albatross leaning over a tray of plastic lighters, with a juvenile albatross in the background.
How can YOU help birds today and every day? Clean up your trash, and join with others to remove litter from your local streets, parks, creeks, and beaches! Trash travels: even small pieces of litter dropped far inland can make their way into the ocean, where they threaten animals like this Laysan albatross in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Over 90 percent of the Laysan albatross chicks that hatch each year in the monument contain plastic in their stomachs, and many of them die from it. By refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling, and repurposing plastic, you can help protect these young birds! Learn more about how you can help
(Photo: David Slater/NOAA)
Two people standing on a boat, one of whom is casting a fishing line.
Where better to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week than in your national marine sanctuaries? These treasures of the ocean and Great Lakes provide an essential connection to the benefits of the outdoors for people of all ages and abilities. Whether you prefer fishing in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary or tide pooling in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, your National Marine Sanctuary System has something for everyone. Where will you go next?
(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A double-crested cormorant taking off from the water's surface.
We're flying into Bird Week like this double-crested cormorant! These seabirds can be found in many of your national marine sanctuaries. Unlike other seabirds, though, cormorants aren't waterproof, and must dry their features after hunting. That's why you often see them sunning themselves on shore and on rocks with their wings outstretched.
(Photo: Richard Formica)
Several red, orange, and purple sea stars clustered around a jellyfish.
Sea stars? More like Death Stars! These bat stars are chowing down on a moon jelly in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Happy Star Wars Day, and May the Fourth be with you!
(Photo: Chad King/NOAA)
 A diver above a shipwreck.
The Outer Banks contain some of the most dramatic barrier islands and most dangerous shoals and currents on Earth. The area is often referred to as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because these waters have entombed thousands of vessels and countless mariners who lost a desperate struggle against the forces of war, piracy, and nature. Recently, NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary archaeologists and their partners have been working to document these wrecks; several could be included in an expanded sanctuary. Here, a Monitor diver swims over the wreck of U-352, a German U-boat sunk by the USCGC Icarus in 1942.
(Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
a humpback whale upside down underwater.
Stressful week? Kick back and relax like this humpback whale in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary!
(Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #774-1714)
The backs of three humpback whales over the water.
How do humpback whales get their name? It's easy to see in this photo of humpback whales in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary!
(Photo: Peter Flood)
A fish nestled in a pink sponge
Taco Tuesday, anyone? This juvenile black sea bass and vase sponge make for a deliciously colorful photo from NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Georgia. Here, a series of underwater rocky ledges are covered with such dense marine life that they're known as "live-bottom" reefs!
(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
 A coral reef
Thirty-three years ago today, a tiny national marine sanctuary was designated to protect Fagatele Bay in American Samoa. The bay harbors incredible biodiversity – in just a quarter of a square mile, you can find at least 271 species of fishes, 186 species of coral, and at least 1,400 species of algae and invertebrates. In 2012, the sanctuary expanded to become one of the largest: NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. Happy birthday to this ocean treasure!
(Photo: The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey)
The shipwreck Loretta.
"I am an avid wreck diver and having the opportunity to dive some of the amazing wrecks of the Great Lakes is incredible. Having been wreck diving for over 25 years, I have not been so excited in years until I started exploring these impeccably preserved wrecks in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. All the artifacts are still untouched. This is why I am so impressed with the National Marine Sanctuary System. Divers are embraced and encouraged to enjoy the wrecks in all their glory." – Pete Mesley, professional diver What inspires you about the ocean and Great Lakes?
(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A moray eel poking out from a coral reef
When some teeth catch your eye and an eel wriggles by, that's a moray! This purplemouth moray eel in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is popping out to say hello. Purplemouths are one of many types of moray eels spotted in the sanctuary.
(Photo: NOAA)
 A student looks at screens that allow him to pilot an ROV, while other students look on and take notes.
National marine sanctuaries are some of the coolest classrooms out there! Recently, students from Santa Barbara City College got the opportunity to pilot a Sofar Ocean remotely operated vehicle in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary aboard the R/V Shearwater. With this technology, they got to explore the undersea world of the sanctuary's seagrass meadow. Plus, the students had the opportunity to identify phytoplankton from a plankton tow. What's the best outdoor classroom you've ever experienced?
(Photo: Boxuan Zhan)
A painting of a mother and calf humpback whale pair.
Whale, what do we have here? This painting of a humpback whale mother and her calf was submitted by student artist Ayaan Patel to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary’s annual youth art contest. The contest highlights the importance of environmental education beyond the classroom by encouraging youth to engage creatively with marine ecosystems. Learn more
(Image: Ayaan Patel)
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How would you caption this sea lion in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary?
(Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A group of students looking at a clipboard.
This week, we’re celebrating National Environmental Education Week! Environmental education programs, like our Ocean Guardian School program, promote ocean and watershed conservation and inspire young people to practice environmental stewardship. The Ocean Guardian program gives K-12 students hands-on experience with watershed and marine conservation and provides educators with the resources to teach marine conservation projects.
(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A breaching humpback whale.
Happy Earth Day from your National Marine Sanctuary System! Our blue planet is truly one of a kind. Our ocean connects people, and sustains everything from magnificent breaching humpback whales to vibrant coral reefs. Let’s show Earth some love today (and every day) 💙.
How are you celebrating Earth Day?
(Photo:Douglas Croft Images)
A diver exploring the wreck of Grecian
Most people think of our Great Lakes as just another muddy old lake, but that is very much not the case. I have a special love for the beautiful blue of Lake Huron and diving on the shipwrecks in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. I’ll never forget a particularly magical day diving on Grecian. It was a beautiful blue-skies, no-wind day and the visibility seemed endless. Nearly 100 feet underwater I could see the surface and the golden sun rays shimmering down to me on that exciting shipwreck. " – James Mott, NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary community member
What inspires you about the ocean and Great Lakes?
(Photo: NOAA)
Cormorants lined up in a row
Single file, everyone. We'll all get to the weekend eventually.
(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A sea lion poking up above the water beside feeding humpback whales.
Sea lion: I can’t baleen how big these whales are.
Humpback whales (typically 45 feet long): Baleen it.
A little perspective from NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for your Friday.
(Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
An orange sea star lying on a reef structure
We’re batty about bat stars! While they don’t have webbed wings like their terrestrial namesake, bat stars like this one in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary instead have webbing between their short, triangular arms. They usually have five arms, but can have as many as nine! When two of these sea stars come into contact with each other, they start an “arm wrestle” without batting an eyelid. P.S. Sorry for all the bat, er, bad, jokes.
(Photo: Tony Knight)
 diver investigates the bow of the suspected steamer Homer Warren.
BIG NEWS: We're proposing a new national marine sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario. The proposed 1,700-square-mile would be adjacent to four counties in New York, and would protect 21 known shipwrecks and one military aircraft representing events spanning more than 200 years of our nation's history. We want to hear what you think! Visit sanctuaries.noaa.gov/lake-ontario/ to learn more about the proposal and how you can submit an official comment online or by mail. We'll also be holding public meetings in Sterling, Lyons, Oswego, and Watertown, New York, throughout June.
(Photo courtesy of Jill Heinerth)
Image Description: A close-up of a reef with fish swimming around it.
Reefs are a great place to make frenemones! The rocky reefs of NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary make a comfortable home for sedentary invertebrates to coexist, like strawberry anemones and orange hydroids. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
An aerial view of Fagatele Bay.
NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is a hotspot for marine biodiversity! The sanctuary was originally established just to protect the reefs of Fagatele Bay, seen here. It has since expanded to become the largest of the 13 sanctuaries in the National Marine Sanctuary System. The sanctuary protects shallow and deep water coral reefs, rare marine archaeological resources, and a plethora of fish, marine mammals, and other ocean dwellers. NOAA co-manages the sanctuary with the government of American Samoa and works closely with local communities to preserve the ecological wonders and cultural traditions that are supported by the sanctuary. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A humpback whale underwater
"There is nothing like being 60 feet down and hearing whale communication all around you." – Dr. Robyn Walters, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary volunteer What inspires you about the ocean? (Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary offers amazing opportunities for lucky divers to hear whalesong while they're underwater. Please note, though, that while you may hear whalesong from afar, it is illegal – and dangerous – to approach a whale within 100 yards.) (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #774-1714)
A great shearwater flying close to the ocean surface.
It's Citizen Science Day! Thousands of citizen scientists dedicate their time across the National Marine Sanctuary System each year. By collaborating with sanctuary researchers, they help us better understand the condition of our sanctuaries and the organisms that live there. In NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the citizen scientists of Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards conduct year-round, systematic seabird surveys. Their efforts have helped reveal previously unknown details about these avian world-travelers and how they can serve as barometers of change in the marine environment. (Photo: Peter Flood)
Two volunteers picking up trash from a beach.
Have you ever come across trash strewn on your favorite beach or in your local park and wondered, “What’s that doing here?!” Trash travels, and plastic debris, aluminum cans, fishing gear, and more can end up in the ocean. But we’re here to tell you that you can help prevent it! Alongside the NOAA Marine Debris Program, our national marine sanctuaries provide opportunities for community members to volunteer their time in clean-up efforts, like these two volunteers in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit https://marinedebris.noaa.gov/discover-issue/solutions. (Photo: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA)
A partially-submerged yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine! Well, not really, but it’s National Submarine Day and we couldn't help ourselves! This brightly colored submersible, called Delta, has performed more than 7,000 deep-water dives, many of which were in and around NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. It’s also nicknamed “the Jeep of the Seas”! (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
An orca spyhopping.]
NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary hosted some surprise Spring Break visitors last week! The L pod of southern resident orcas traveled far from their usual feeding grounds near NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, likely in search of Chinook salmon, their primary food source. The L pod is led by an older female believed to be 90 years old, and is composed mostly of related females and their offspring. Even a three-month-old calf was spotted with the group! They are well studied in the Pacific Northwest, and are known to be highly social with unique vocalizations. (Photo © J. Flowers/Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies www.marinelifestudies.org
A burrowing owl
Ocean stewardship is open to all ages! NOAA’s Ocean Guardian School program – coordinated by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries -– gives K-12 schools the opportunity to develop ocean, watershed, and national marine sanctuaries conservation projects. Students and volunteers with the Ocean Guardian School program help remove invasive plants, eliminate plastic waste from beaches and neighborhoods, and plant native plants that help coastal ecosystems thrive. Thanks to one Ocean Guardian School program, burrowing owls recently returned to one beach along NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Learn more about the project
(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A breaching humpback whale.
It's National Volunteer Week, and we're recognizing the 12,000+ volunteers who help the National Marine Sanctuary System thrive. Volunteers can get involved with diving, beach cleanups, marine animal identifications, and much more! In Hawai‘i, volunteers monitor humpback whales in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary as part of the annual Sanctuary Ocean Count. Learn how you can get involved in your national marine sanctuaries.
(Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #15240)
A diver above the wreck of the ship Dunnottar Castle in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
"Of all the variety of reasons to engage in the discovery and characterization of our maritime heritage (education, history, archaeology, impact assessments, preservation), there is one consistent prerequisite: curiosity." – Hans Van Tilburg, ONMS maritime heritage coordinator What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: NOAA)
Image description: A green moray eel looking directly at the camera.
"Halt! What's the password to enter NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary?" (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Image Description: The tail of a whale sticking out of the water.
We’re here to tell you a tail about the blue whale. Baleen it or not, blue whales are the largest known animal to have ever existed on Earth! Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant, and their hearts are as large as a small car. In the summer and fall feeding seasons, blue whales travel to the California coast, including NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, to gulp down shrimp-like krill (about four tons a day, to be exact!). (Photo: Peter Flood)
Parasitic jaeger flying right behind a laughing gull.
Piracy on the open ocean! Parasitic jaegers get their name from their habit of pursuing other birds and forcing them to drop their catch so the jaeger can take it. Also known as Arctic skuas, these birds breed in the Arctic then migrate south along coastlines. Here, a parasitic jaeger is pursuing a laughing gull near NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Peter Flood)
White, claw-like barnacles
Those aren't dragon claws – they're gooseneck barnacles! These filter feeders are found in the rocky tide pools of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Their shells are made up of multiple white plates that help protect them from predation and desiccation.(Photo: Jenny Waddell/NOAA)
Diver behind an invertebrate-encrusted outcropping.
Week off to a rough start? Take a deep breath, relax, and picture yourself diving on this gorgeous reef in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A white sea slug.
What's a nudibranch, anyway? These soft-bodied mollusks are also sometimes referred to as sea slugs. The word "nudibranch" means "naked gills," describing the feathery gills they wear on their backs. This white-knight dorid, a type of nudibranch, was spotted in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Hannah (left) and a second person snorkel down to a shipwreck.
"At the age of 14, I became open water dive certified. I had spent summers before snorkeling the shipwrecks of NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and couldn't wait to be fully submerged in scuba gear on one of the historical wrecks. My first dive in the Great Lakes was on a shipwreck in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary called Joseph S. Fay. My dad was my dive buddy and will never forget the bliss I had while exploring a shipwreck underwater without having to stay at the surface. Six years later, I returned to Joseph S. Fay at sunrise with a group of women divers completing a feat of diving all five of the Great Lakes in 24 hours. This time, my dad and scuba instructor cheered on the shore as the sun rose over Lake Huron. The sense of place, community, and desire for exploration that the National Marine Sanctuary System has instilled in me motivates me everyday. " – Hannah MacDonald, education specialist at NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries What inspires you about the ocean and Great Lakes? (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A dolphin leaping out of the water.
It's Dolphin Awareness Month! Many different species of dolphin can be found in your national marine sanctuaries – including common dolphins. Known for their incredible energy and acrobatic skills, common dolphins are gregarious, sometimes gathering in groups of hundreds or thousands. They're frequently spotted bowriding, or surfing in the waves created by boats. Have you seen them while visiting your West Coast sanctuaries? (Photo: Peter Flood)
An albatross sitting on a nest.
We have a celebrity in our midst! Meet Wisdom, the approximately 68 year-old Laysan albatross who has been returning to her nesting site in Midway Atoll National Wildlife Reguge– within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument – annually to lay her eggs and rear her chicks. She's the oldest known wild bird in the world! Her yearly return to the monument ignites hope in the continued effort to preserve our ocean ecosystems for all the species that depend on it. (Photo: Madalyn Riley/USFWS)
A top-down view of a diver swimming over parts of a shipwreck.
We wreckon that documenting submerged artifacts and shipwrecks is no easy feat! That’s why we've been collaborating with Diving With A Purpose, or DWP, for over a decade to collect underwater artifacts, create site maps, and educate the public about maritime archaeology and the history of our national marine sanctuaries. Founded with support from the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, DWP helps educate, train, and provide field experiences to youth and adults interested in maritime archaeology and marine conservation, with a special focus on documenting African-American submerged artifacts, slave trade shipwrecks, and coral reef restoration. You can find NOAA and DWP divers working in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Check out some of their recent work. (Photo: Brenda Altmeier/NOAA)
A diver taking a photo beneath a large school of fish.
When you can’t find protection in the open ocean, you bring the protection to you! That’s exactly what these small fish in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are doing. In need of a shelter from predators, the fish gather tightly together to form a round “bait ball.” By hiding close to one another, most of them can be protected. As the old adage goes, teamwork makes the dream work...except for those unlucky fish on the edges. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A pair of orcas swimming in the ocean.
“Hey, I have a whaley funny joke for ya. What do you call a pod of musical orcas?" ... “An orca-stra! *buh dum tss!*” When they aren’t splashing around dad jokes, orcas can be sighted sporadically along North America’s West Coast, including in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The best time to spot an orca in this sanctuary is from April until June, when they feed on migrating gray whales. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A close-up of an orange branching coral.
Staghorn coral were once a dominant species on Caribbean reefs, including those of NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Beginning in the 1980’s, pressure from disease, climate change, pollution, and overfishing began to take a toll on the reef-building corals, and populations declined by around 97 percent. However all is not doom and gloom! Researchers at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Fisheries are working hard to protect and manage the sanctuary’s corals through staghorn coral nurseries, protective activities, zoning and channel markings, and other restoration efforts. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A silhouette of kayakers paddling through a rock arch.
"I recently took a group of 27 elementary school students kayaking in the Santa Barbara Harbor. For many of these Ocean Guardian Ambassadors and their parents, it was their first hands-on experience with the ocean and they had never been on a kayak before. It was amazing to see the transformation of one young student on my kayak, who started out terrified and severely uncomfortable to eventually becoming an future ocean lover. An hour and a half into the experience, she was running her hand through the water, taking a turn paddling and asking when we would get to kayak again." – Claire Fackler, ONMS national volunteer coordinator What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
A pelican diving toward the water.
How would you score this pelican's dive? Brown pelicans – like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – plunge into the water to catch fish with their heads pointed straight down and their wings folded back. Their sharp eyesight helps them spot a meal from heights of 20 to 60 feet! It’s no wonder they are called pelicans and not pelican’ts. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Sunrise over Lake Huron.
Today is World Water Day! The Great Lakes contain about 21 percent of the world's supply of surface fresh water, and provide water for drinking, agriculture, transportation, power, recreation and a host of other uses. In NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron, you'll also find history: the sanctuary protects some 200 shipwrecks that hold stories of our nation's maritime past. What body of water are you grateful for today? (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
Closeup on giant kelp underwater.
Today is the International Day of Forests – and did you know that the ocean has forests too? Towering kelp fronds like these form the basis for kelp forests throughout national marine sanctuaries on the West Coast. These forests are important habitats for marine life from juvenile fish to sea otters! What's your favorite kelp forest dweller? (Photo: Brett Seymour/NPS)
A close up of a worm with fan-like gills.
It's the first day of spring – so who's ready for some spring cleaning? This split-crown feather duster worm is taking care of springtime errands in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Day to day, the feather duster worm lives in a tube it builds itself from sand. When it emerges from the tube, the worm’s gills spread open like a housekeeping feather duster, helping it sweep the sea for a dinner of microscopic plankton. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A humpback whale underwater trailing fishing gear
This is some whale-ly exciting news! On March 6, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary coordinated an effort to free a young humpback whale off Maui. The whale was entangled in heavy gauge line through its mouth that trailed several hundred feet behind it. The disentanglement team managed to remove all but a small amount of the line – 400 feet of line was removed in all! The recovered gear has been identified as pot gear set off Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is more than 2,500 miles from the sanctuary. We're so glad this whale now has a better chance of surviving and thriving! Learn more about the disentanglement effort. If you see a whale in distress, please DO NOT attempt to aid it yourself – that can be extremely dangerous for both you and the whale. Instead, maintain 100 yards distance and call the NOAA 24-hour Hotline at 1-888 256-9840. If you're unable to call, please radio the U.S. Coast Guard on VHF CH. 16 and they will relay the report. (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under MMHSRP Permit #18786-03)
Many species of marine algae competing for space.
Algae the first to say there's a lot of seaweed growing here! Low tides during the summer revealed a diverse array of algae species competing for space on tidal rocks in the Makah Reservation. Researchers from NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary monitor seawater temperatures and intertidal organisms like algae, sea stars, and mussels here each year. It's part of a collaborative effort with the Makah Tribe and the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), which monitors dozens of intertidal sites spanning the U.S. West Coast. What can you spot here? (Photo: Jenny Waddell/NOAA)
A green moray eel emerging from a reef.
Happy St. Patrick's Day from this green moray eel in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary! Green moray eels are actually brownish, but they don green in celebration of holiday – or, rather, to protect themselves from parasites and disease. That is, these eels secrete a yellowish mucus that covers their skin, giving them a greenish tinge. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
The tail of a whale sticking out of the water.
Nile, seen here tail breaching, is a fintastic fan favorite for whale watchers in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary thanks to her curious and friendly personality. Born in 1987, Nile is one of several humpback whales that return regularly to the sanctuary to feed. She's also been spotted in the past with her newborn calves! Learn more about Nile’s life journey. (Photo: Mackenzie Meier)
 A red day octopus sticking out above a coral reef.
*Peeks out of coral den in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument* “Is it the weekend yet?!” (Photo: Paola Ayotte/NOAA)
A close up of a brightly colored anemone
It’s Pi Day, Pi Day, gotta get down on Pi Day! Our national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments are teeming with organisms that display radial symmetry; they are symmetrical in any direction around their center point, just like a pie! While this anemone in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary might not be as tasty as key lime pie, it is one example of a radially symmetrical creature in the deep blue sea. Can you name any other radially symmetrical marine organisms? (Photo: Evan Barba)
A colorful illustration of a comb jelly on a black background
March is Youth Art Month! Students who participate in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Massachusetts Marine Educators' art contest turn marine education into creative works of art one brush stroke at a time. Student participating in the contest illustrate Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary species, like this comb jelly. Their art can inspire interest in local marine ecosystems and offers an alternative classroom tool for science educators. Last year, Linda Palominos, a 12th-grader at Rio Hondo High School in Texas, placed first in the high school category with this drawing of a comb jelly! Are you interested in submitting an illustration for this year’s competition? (Image: Linda Palominos)
A close-up of a pufferfish resting among seagrass
NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is a coral-lover's dream. In the tiny Fagatele Bay, for example, you can find nearly 170 species of coral! What can you spot here? (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A yellow fish with white spots.
Something fishy is happening here! The golden smooth trunkfish is a rarity found only in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and the Bay Islands of Honduras. It's not a separate species from the smooth trunkfish that can be seen throughout the rest of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, but rather a different color morph. We don't yet know what causes the color difference! (Photo: Steve Miller)
A diver on a shipwreck in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
The first time I dove a wreck in the Great Lakes, my breath was taken away, more from the vision than the cold. The wreck that had sunk over 150 years ago lay clearly below me. It was a time capsule. The cold, fresh waters of Lake Huron had perfectly preserved the ship. Rigging was still threaded through wooden dead-eyes. The deck forward still held the anchors in place ready to be deployed. Great Lakes diving is my favorite. The preservation and history are unprecedented." – Michael Moulton, public school teacher and scuba instructor What inspires you about the ocean and Great Lakes? (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
A close-up of a pufferfish resting among seagrass
This month, we celebrate one of our favorite marine photosynthesizers: seagrasses! Seagrasses are flowering plants that grow on the ocean floor, particularly in shallow waters. Seagrass beds – such as those in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – provide shelter and food for many organisms, like this pufferfish! These lush marine meadows also help filter nutrients from stormwater runoff and trap sediments that would otherwise float to sensitive nearby coral reefs. Boat propellers can dislodge seagrasses from the ocean floor, damaging this critical habitat. You can help seagrasses and pufferfish alike by avoiding boating in shallow waters that are home to seagrasses. (Photo: NOAA)
Research scientists riding on a small boat.
Happy International Women’s Day! Our national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments are indebted to the hard work and research conducted by women scientists and resource managers. Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Andrea Kealoha is one such scientist. For her Ph.D. research, Andrea studies water chemistry and coral reefs, aiming to understand how coral reefs like those of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary will respond to a changing ocean. In 2016, Andrea and a rapid-response team assessed water and reef invertebrate health at East Flower Garden Bank after a localized mortality event hit. Learn more about her research and what she found. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Kealoha)
A pink coral with cloud-like material floating above it.
Like many of us, corals like to be spawn-taneous! The "cloud" above this cauliflower coral in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is actually reproductive material, or gametes, being ejected out into the water. Spawning like this helps ensure genetic diversity, because coral larvae may travel long distances and settle on distant reefs. In many coral species, these spawning events only occur once a year and may last for only 10 minutes, making them pretty special for researchers to witness. Studying coral spawning can help scientists assess the impact of environmental disturbances on coral reproductive health. (Photo: Lindsey Kramer/USFWS)
A mother and calf gray whale swimming side by side.
Whale, what do we have here! This gray whale and her calf are embarking on a great migration north along the California coast en route to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic. On their way, they may travel through several national marine sanctuaries, including NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Gray whales have the longest recorded annual migration of any mammal, traveling about 10,000 miles round-trip between their breeding and feeding grounds. Next stop, Arctic buffet! (Photo: NOAA)
Scientist pointing, sitting beside another scientist.
During the month of March, we’ll be celebrating Women’s History Month! Today, we’re highlighting a talented woman in science, Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Carina Fish! For her Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, Carina is working with researchers at NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary to reconstruct past ocean conditions using deep-sea corals. By uncovering records kept by deep-sea coral skeletons, Carina aims to unearth the conditions of the past environment. NOAA’s Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program encourages independent graduate level research – particularly by female and minority students – in NOAA mission-related sciences. Learn more about the scholarship. (Photo: NOAA/OET)
A dolphin backflipping above water.
We’re backflipping into Dolphin Awareness Month with this Pacific white-sided dolphin in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! Pacific white-sided dolphins are highly social animals that can be seen traveling in schools of up to a thousand individuals. They are also very playful, and can be spotted “bow riding,” or swimming near the front part of a ship, jumping, somersaulting, and spinning in the air! Pacific white-sided dolphins are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but they still face threats from fishing gear entanglement and underwater noise pollution. You can help by keeping a distance from the dolphins, and reporting dolphins that are in distress. Learn more about how you can help these charismatic whales. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Sea otter on its back eating a crab
Happy World Wildlife Day! Humans all over the world depend on healthy ocean wildlife. For example, sea otters – like this otter chowing down on a crab – help keep kelp forest ecosystems in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and elsewhere healthy. In turn, healthy kelp forests serve as a nursery for fish; they also absorb wave action, reducing coastal erosion. What's your favorite kind of ocean wildlife? (Photo: Jenni Peters)
A shipwreck propeller covered in mussels.
Shipwrecks and submerged archaeological resources in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary have become a popular home for invasive quagga and zebra mussels. Mussel colonization can deteriorate these archaeological time capsules, making it more difficult for archaeologists, historians, and resource managers to document the wrecks. Zebra and quagga mussels also pose a threat to their local ecosystem; as consumptive filter feeders, each mussel can filter a liter of water per day! This depletes the food supply for many native fish and invertebrate species. And that’s a wrap for Invasive Species Week! Learn more about invasive species in our national marine sanctuaries. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
Close-up on Asian kelp
Asian kelp, or "wakame," is an invasive species of kelp native to Japan that has colonized harbors along the California coastline, including in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Wakame colonizes ecosystems rapidly and densely. That can alter the habitat of native species by reducing the amount of light cover and and restricting water movement. Thanks to a little kelp from national marine sanctuary scientists and volunteers, wakame removal and research efforts are well underway! Studying wakame will help improve management practices of the invasive species while improving understanding of how it impacts local ecosystems. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
A diver using a spear and net to catch a lionfish
Invasive lionfish can have seriously negative impacts on ecosystems in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Sanctuary researchers are working to better understand and remove this species, and you can help, too! For one thing, recreational divers and snorkelers can participate in lionfish derbies. Lionfish are pretty tasty, too, so by encouraging local grocery stores and restaurants to carry them, you help control their populations. Learn more about lionfish and how you can get in on the action. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
Two opalescent nudibranchs crawling over a red invasive bryozoan.
These opalescent nudibranchs seem unfazed that the rust-colored bryozoan they are crawling over is an invasive species that’s taken up residence in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Watersipora subtorquata is a filter-feeding invertebrate that grows on hard surfaces like rocks, pier pilings, and ship hulls. It's a problem along the West Coast, where it can harm native invertebrate species by smothering them or outcompeting them for space. Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary researchers continue to study Watersipora to understand how it is impacting the health of the sanctuary. Learn more about invasive species!. (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
 Bright orange coral.
This orange cup coral may be beautiful, but it's an invasive species in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This Indo-Pacific hard coral has established itself throughout the tropical western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Scientists believe it may have made the journey attached to ship hulls or within ship ballast water. Orange cup coral displaces native corals and sponges, taking up space in which native species would normally establish themselves. Also, because these corals reproduce at a young age and larvae may float on the current for up to 14 days before settling, they are able to spread far and wide. In Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, sanctuary staff have worked to remove orange cup coral from the reef to keep it from getting too established. (Photo: NOAA)
A lionfish swimming over a coral reef.
Invasive Species Week is upon us, and what better way to kick off the week than with the infamous *drumroll please* lionfish! In recent years, Indo-Pacific lionfish have been found in coral reefs throughout the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean – including in sanctuaries like NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Because of their voracious appetites, rapid reproduction rate, and lack of natural predators, these invasive lionfish post a serious threat to coral reefs, with potential long-term consequences for native fish communities, habitats, and entire ecosystems. Learn more about this invasive species. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Two surfers walk along a beach at sunset.
"What I love about our National Marine Sanctuary System is how it is designed to protect nationally-significant places while engaging local communities across our country. It can be messy and complicated, but it also inspires and connects us to one another and to places we hold dear. I've been really proud of the work our Diversity and Inclusion Committee has taken on the past couple of years. We tackle difficult subjects with the same dedication we have for protecting our sanctuaries, and it's an honor to work with colleagues who are committed to making our office a great place to work." – Hélène S., program analyst with NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. What inspires you about the ocean? (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A black and white photo of Lt. Frank H. Moody.
During World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen served as the first African-American fighter pilots for the U.S. military. Some of airmen trained over the Great Lakes, including over Lake Michigan and Lake Huron – and some of them tragically lost their lives during those training exercises. This Tuskegee Airman, Lieutenant Frank H. Moody, crashed into Lake Huron and was killed on April 11, 1944. Researchers from NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary have been working to recover lost Tuskegee aircraft and honor these airmen's legacy. Recently, Moody's airplane was discovered resting in 30 feet of water.
A close-up of a yawning elephant seal.
This sleepy seal needs a power nap! Elephant seals – like this one in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – use lots of energy diving deep underwater to find food while avoiding predators, like white sharks. An elephant seal can dive for up to 30 minutes at a time for months on end, only spending a couple minutes at the surface for a quick breather. Between months of searching for food, breeding, defending their territory, and raising their pups, it’s only fair that elephant seal catch a few Z’s now and again! (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A crowd of sea lions hauled out on shore.
California sea lions are highly social animals, but a mother can locate her pup even in a crowd like this one in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary! A mother sea lion can recognize her pup through its smell and vocalizations, and her pup can do the same with her. (Photo: Jeff Harris/NOAA)
 A school of bright red and white striped fish.
Say hello to the Hawaiian squirrelfish! Known as ‘ala‘ihi in Hawaiian, these bright fish are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, meaning they're found nowhere else in the world. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument have an exceptionally high rate of endemism. In some parts of the monument, over 50% of the population might only be found in this region! (Photo: James Watt/NOAA)
A close up of a pinkish-white squid in dark waters.
Reef squid – like this one spotted on a night dive in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – are social cephalopods. One way they communicate with each other is by changing the pigments in their skin, flashing colorful spots and patterns to indicate danger or readiness to mate. If they feel really threatened, reef squid will eject a cloud of black ink to confuse their predators, signaling that they are not squidding around! (Photo: Alexander Neufeld)
Multiple sea otters hauled out on shore.
We now present all of our Monday moods in sea otter form. Tag yourself: which sea otter chilling on the shores of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are you? (Photo: Lilian Carswell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A remotely operated vehicle in Thunder Bay's diving tank.
Our family moved to Alpena from Metro Detroit about three years ago. It was a rough transition, but the opportunities at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary helped ease us into life here. My husband volunteered with different events, in my job capacity I was able to connect with staff the sanctuary, my youngest daughter became very involved in microplastics awareness and prevention, as well as the underwater ROV program, and our oldest daughter now works for the sanctuary. We love how much the organization connects with the community and in doing so connects the community to the magnificent natural resource out our front door in so many accessible ways. " – Jessica L., NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary volunteer What inspires you about the ocean & Great Lakes? (Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
A school of tropical fish swimming across a coral reef.
Coral reefs are a popular pit stop for lots of marine critters, such as these manini, or convict tang, in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The fish graze on algae that covers the corals, meanwhile the corals get a free cleaning. Not a bad deal! (Photo: Lindsey Kramer/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A close-up of the wavy ridges of a maze coral
In today's example of life imitating art, we present the ah-mazing maze coral! Maze corals, like this one found in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, have meandering ridges of calcium carbonate secreted by their individual polyps. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle cuddled on a beach.
Green sea turtle: *sees Hawaiian monk seal alone in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument* Green sea turtle: “You shell be my valentine.” Happy Valentine's Day from your National Marine Sanctuary System! We hope your day is filled with cuddles and love! (Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA, under NMFS Research Permit #848-1695)
3 orcas
Behold, a magnificent orcastration of killer whales in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: Dayna Rignanese/NOAA)
A diver investigates underwater wreckage.
Nearly 200 military aircraft crashed while training over the Great Lakes during World War II. Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps, trained over Lake Huron, including over what is now NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Six Tuskegee Airmen and their aircraft were lost in the Great Lakes. Researchers from Thunder Bay are working to locate and map the missing aircraft. Here, Michigan state maritime archaeologists Wayne Lusardi investigates the only aircraft found so far, a practice target that was towed behind an airplane.(Photo: John Bright/NOAA)
Jessica Hale looks through a spotting scope.
Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science! Here, Nancy Foster Scholar Jessica Hale searches for sea otters in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary as part of her graduate research on otter feeding habits. The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship recognizes outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate-level research – particularly by female and minority students – in the ocean sciences. Learn more about the scholarship at fosterscholars.noaa.gov.(Photo: Elizabeth Weinberg/NOAA)
James and a dog stand on a beach. James is holding two garbage bags.
"I am fortunate enough to work with volunteers almost on a daily basis. A lot of my volunteers travel hundreds of miles just to come out and clean Washington's beaches, including the numerous ones along NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Each year, our volunteers help remove nearly 120,000 pounds of household plastics, lost fishing gear, and other marine debris from the coastal environment. As a collective whole, our efforts are stronger, and our volunteers prove that every time they participate in our cleanups." – James Roubal, program coordinator at Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Washington CoastSavers What inspires you about the ocean?(Photo courtesy of James Roubal)
An anemone beginning to eat a crab.
As the saying goes, keep your friends close, and your anemones closer...unless you're a crab. Despite their colorful and flowery appearance, sea anemones – like this one in a NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary tide pool – are carnivorous predators! A sea anemone’s tentacles can sense even the slightest touch, triggering a rapid sting that paralyzes its prey. Sea anemones commonly snatch up small fish or crustaceans that cross their path. It's been a crabby day for this unlucky crustacean.(Photo: Sarah Heintzelman/NOAA)
A breaching whale.
Whale would you look at that breach? Scientists still aren't quite sure why humpback whales and other species breach, but one hypothesis is that breaching helps whales remove parasites from their skin – similar to the way some land animals scratch their backs against trees. It's also possible that noise levels might impact breaching behavior. When noise levels from rough seas or boats impact a whale's ability to communicate, they may use the sound of their bodies crashing against the water's surface as an alternate method of communication – and use visual cues from above the water's surface to help them direct communication.(Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A fish looks out from under a barnacle-encrusted ledge at a cowrie.
Contemplating a midday snack? You're not the only one – this oyster toadfish in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary looks like it's considering making a snack out of this deer cowrie! (Photo: Allison Scott)
 A Hawaiian monk seal mother and pup nap on a beach.
Anyone else in the mood for some beach time? Hawaiian monk seals – found in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument – know how to make the most of a sunny day. Though these seals are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world, protection efforts by NOAA and our partners have led populations to increase in the past few years. Today, about 1,100 live in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with an additional 300 residing in the Main Hawaiian Islands! It's only fair that occasionally they get to put up their flippers and just take in the sun. 😎 (Photo: Mark Sullivan/NOAA, under NMSF Research Permit #10137)
Ice over a lake at sunrise.
Some icy trivia for you – which national marine sanctuary sometimes freezes over in the winter time? NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary! The ice on this Lake Huron sanctuary is beautiful, but also can be treacherous. In 1875, for example, the schooner Cornelia B. Windiate came to an untimely end during a fall gale. It's thought heavy seas covered the decks in ice, causing the vessel to sink to the bottom of the lake.(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
A humpback whale underwater.
Whale hello there! 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 breaching 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: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #774-1714)
Three people gather up derelict fishing nets from a beach.
Start your week off right by helping to make a difference for the ocean. These three ocean heroes are cleaning up marine debris from Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument – what will you do?(Photo: NOAA)
Hawaiian monk seal mother and pup napping together on a beach.
Taking it easy this weekend? These Hawaiian monk seals are, like, five steps ahead of you.(Photo: Barbara Billand/NOAA)
The Milky Way above a lighthouse.
Ever go outside at night, look up, and realize it's just not dark enough to see all the stars? Many of your national marine sanctuaries offer stellar opportunities for stargazing. This view, for one, is in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park!(Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
 Three sea lions napping in a pile in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Cuddle pile!(Photo: Peter Flood)
A lantern with a red lens.
Today marks the anniversary of our nation's first national marine sanctuary, NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! This small but important sanctuary protects the resting place of the USS Monitor, one of the most famous warships in our nation's history. The ship was regarded as President Abraham Lincoln's "secret weapon" in the Civil War. However, in 1862, Monitor sank while under tow off North Carolina when a fierce storm swamped the low-riding ship. The last anyone saw of Monitor was its red signal lantern rising and falling in the heavy seas. More than a century later, that red lantern was the first artifact recovered by NOAA from the Monitor shipwreck, and it is now on display at The Mariners' Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia.(Photo courtesy of The Mariners' Museum)
A coral reef with a variety of colorful invertebrates and fish.
In the reefs of NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, you'll find amazing biodiversity. What can you spot in this photo?(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Thick clouds over the ocean in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
Of course there's nothing like a bright blue sky over a dazzling azure ocean – but there's a certain beauty in moody gray clouds, too.(Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A diver swims in a kelp forest
Hectic holiday prep got you down? Take in a moment of tranquility with this diver in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. What amazing sea creatures might be waiting just beyond the next stand of kelp?(Photo: Nathan Coy)
Two Hawaiian spinner dolphins swimming together.
Spin into the weekend with these Hawaiian spinner dolphins in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! Hawaiian spinner dolphins exhibit a "fission-fusion society," where they fuse into large pods of hundreds as they move offshore at night to feed, then split into smaller groups to rest and socialize during the day. The tranquil, remote waters of the monument are the perfect place for these charismatic dolphins to rest and feed! (Photo: Kevin Lino/NOAA)
A manta ray swimming over a reef, seen from below.
It's a bird, it's a plane – it's a manta ray! Lucky divers in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary get to see manta rays cruising the reef. Much like our own fingerprints, the spot patterns on a ray's belly are unique to each individual. This helps researchers identify individuals and better understand their habits! (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
A brown and yellow-spotted moray eel looks out from a crevice. This photo was taken in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Who captures fish raw with two sets of jaws? That's a moray! In addition to their "main" set of teeth, moray eels have what are known as pharyngeal jaws. This second set of jaws is within the eel's throat, and helps it swallow its prey. Talk about a predator with serious bite! (Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)
Sunset over rock formations and a wet, sandy beach
What's your favorite place to slow down and take in the sunset? We're pretty fond of Shi Shi Beach in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park. (Photo: Deanna Butcher)
A small white crab with brown stripes in the palm of a person's hand.
Talk about a crab-tivating new friend, and one that fits in the palm of your hand! Just watch out for its claws if it's feeling crabby. This little juvenile red rock crab (Cancer productus) was picked up out of some algae during a research expedition in NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. In adulthood, red rock crabs are, indeed, brick red, but when they're this young they can be a variety of colors and patterns. (Photo: Mojoscoast/ACCESS/NOAA/Pt. Blue/R. Wallen)
Close-up on a loggerhead sea turtle's face.
Loggerheads are turtley awesome! Loggerheads get their name from their relatively large heads, which support powerful jaws and enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey. From hatching to adulthood, a loggerhead increases its weight more than 6,000 times! Marine debris, fishing gear, and development near their nesting areas remain major issues for loggerheads, but by working together we can help reduce these threats. This beautiful loggerhead was spotted in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
A sea otter at the ocean surface holding a crab in its paws.
Cute AND helping the ecosystem: the sea otter story! Sea otters help stabilize kelp forest ecosystems in places like NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. One the sea otter's favorite foods is the purple sea urchin, which is known for eating kelp holdfasts and destroying kelp forests – so by chowing down on urchins, sea otters help protect the kelp. This sea otter is doing double duty, too, by snacking on an invasive green crab, a species that threatens West Coast ecosystems. (Photo: Lilian Carswell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A pink jellyfish floating in the ocean over a coral reef.
Don't be jelly of this moon jelly's gorgeous pink hues! These lovely jellyfish are common in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary from August to October. Their sting tends to be mild, but still best to look and not touch! (Photo: Katy Danca Galli)
Bright pink deep-sea corals and basket stars.
Today is International Mountain Day – and some of the largest mountains in the world occur under the sea. Thanks to the steep slopes of these seamounts, nutrients are carried upwards from the depths of the ocean toward the sunlit surface, providing food for corals, fish, crustaceans, and more. One seamount is Davidson Seamount in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which is 26 miles long, eight miles wide, and 7,480 feet tall! Davidson Seamount supports a lush, biodiverse community of species like the precious coral and basket stars pictured here. (Photo: NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI))
Large male elephant seal resting on grass.
Northern elephant seal, or giant prairie dog? Some of the largest breeding colonies of northern elephant seals occur in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park – but even an elephant seal competing for a mate needs to take a nap sometimes. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A Laysan albatross stands over an egg, with her wings extended.
Wisdom is back! Wisdom, a Laysan albatross and the world's oldest known bird, has returned to Midway Atoll in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. She is at least 68 years old – and biologists have confirmed that she has laid an egg! Albatross often take time off to rest between egg-laying years, but the Wisdom and her mate Akeakamai have met on Midway Atoll to lay and hatch an egg every year since 2006. Wisdom has laid between 30 and 35 eggs in her lifetime. In 2017, the chick that she fledged in 2001 was observed just a few feet away from her current nest, marking the first time a returning chick of hers has been documented.Please join us in welcoming Wisdom home! (Photo: Madalyn Riley/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A reef with large umbrella-like coral atop other corals.
Can you name a more iconic duo than corals and their tiny single-celled algae partners? Called zooxanthellae, these small algal cells provide food for corals by transforming sunlight into nutrients. Coral polyps use food that the algae leak out as an energy source to grow and flourish, like this reef-building community in NOAA National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! The algae also provide corals' brilliant colors. Because the algae are key to healthy coral reefs, this is also why we mostly find reef-building corals in waters that have adequate access to sunlight. (Photo: The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey)
Arms of a red brittle star poking out of a coral and wrapped around tiny eggs.
Each year, the coral colonies of NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary take part in mass spawning events, releasing gametes that can drift on the current, settle elsewhere, and start new coral colonies. These spawning events can be a spectacular sight to see! Other marine creatures, like this brittle star, also partake in the festivities by stealing away some gametes to eat. Since there are billions of these tiny gametes cascading underwater during this annual event, this sneaky brittle star gets a pass 😎 (Photo: Emma Hickerson/NOAA)
A round yellow coral with a barren patch that shows the coral skeleton.
In the past few years, something has been targeting the corals in and around NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In 2014, scientists started noticing patches of corals that were white and skeletal, with no living tissue. This disease, termed "stony coral tissue loss disease," has since spread over 150 square miles. Sanctuary scientists and partners are working to understand what is causing this disease and how it can be stopped – right now, they know that it seems to be transmitted by touch and water circulation. If you visit the sanctuary, you can help protect corals by using mooring buoys to avoid anchoring on and damaging corals, using reef-friendly sunscreens, cleaning your dive gear, and never, ever touching corals. Learn more about the disease and other ways you can help. (Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA)
Metallic-colored fish swimming in front of coral reef.
Coral reefs are havens for many marine animals, like this giant trevally, or ulua in Hawaiian! In Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, coral ecosystems are kept relatively isolated from human contact in an effort to keep reef diversity undisturbed. The incredible ecosystems of the monument include species that are found nowhere else in the world. More than 50 percent of the fish species and 30 percent of the corals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are found only in the waters around Hawai‘i!(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Bottom-up perspective of corals and other invertebrates.
The coral ecosystems in our national marine sanctuaries and monuments are unbereefable! Your National Marine Sanctuary System is home to diverse coral ecosystems, ranging from the tropical waters of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument to the deep waters of NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. We’ll be sharing these marvels of the sea all week long, so stay tuned! Here, a towering coral reef assemblage reaches to the surface in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Beata Lerman)
Two orange, black, and white striped fish swim over a large sea anemone.
We found Nemo! A special mucus layer on anemonefish – like these two in NOAA 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 kelp forest with the silhouette of two kayaks floating above the water.
There is much to sea in your national marine sanctuaries! Whether you prefer walking the sandy shores of NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary or kayaking above the kelp forests of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, there's plenty of opportunity for recreation and exploration. Learn more about what you can do at the sanctuary nearest you. (Photo: Nathan Coy)
Close-up of a orange fish with big eyes and spikes on its back, lying on the ocean floor.
Don’t let those adorable eyes fool you, this balloonfish doesn't mess around! Balloonfish, like this one in NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, have highly elastic stomachs that allow them to ingest large volumes of water, making them too big to be eaten by potential predators. Plus, when they expand, those long, sharp spikes stick straight out – not a pleasant mouthful! (Photo: Daryl Duda)
Two yellow birds facing each other atop a green glass sphere-like object, with other glass spheres covering the shore.
Laysan finches are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Lacking substantial predators both on ground and in the skies, these birds have little to fear and readily approach other creatures, including humans! Man-made objects, such as these glass fishing floats washed ashore on Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, also attract their curiosity, but sometimes that curiosity can lead these birds to trouble. Laysan finches have been found trapped in tents, under tarps, and even in pit toilets. Help keep these birds safe by always disposing of your waste properly – trash travels! (Photo: Koa Matsuoka)
Tomol paddlers on the ocean at sunrise.
Each year, members of the Chumash community journey from the California mainland to Limuw, or Santa Cruz Island. Paddlers, or pullers, voyage using a tomol, a traditionally-built redwood plank canoe. It has a six-person crew, and unique abalone inlay designs. Along their way, the pullers travel through NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. They are supported by the sanctuary's Research Vessel Shearwater, which sets course, hosts resting paddlers, and helps protect the tomol and its pullers from vessel traffic. Read one tomol puller's story. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A diver swimming through the water.
Dive into NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, you never know what you might discover! Sometimes, recreational divers and fishers stumble upon pieces of historical shipwrecks and other artifacts on the seafloor. Fisherman Jose Antonio Lopez Ruiz of Homestead, Florida, is credited with finding this wooden wreckage from an unidentified 19th century sailing ship near Alligator Reef near Islamorada. He did the right thing by reporting the find and not disturbing it! Here, volunteer Cassie Qualls returns to the surface after investigating the wreckage. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary encourages anyone who happens across new discoveries to get in touch, so these artifacts can be studied to reveal rich stories about our maritime past! (Photo: Matthew Lawrence/NOAA)
A shark swims toward the camera.
Hey...hey you...why did the shark cross the coral reef? ...To get to the other tide! *buh-dum-tss* Today’s underwater comedian was brought to you by Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! (Photo: Ed Lyman/NOAA)
A person lies on her paddleboard, floating above an underwater shipwreck.
One more day of relaxation before it's back to work! Here, a stand up paddleboarder takes a break above the wreck of the shipwreck Albany. One of the more shallow wrecks in NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (only five feet deep!), Albany is an excellent wreck to explore by paddleboard, kayak, or snorkel. (Photo: Bryan Dort)
Two dolphins swimming at the water's surface.
Atlantic white sided dolphin: "I’m not so sure I can do it..." Also Atlantic white sided dolphin: *leaps out of the water like a magnificent acrobat* Atlantic white sided dolphins are capable of impressive jumps and breaches, even earning the nickname “springer” and “jumper." These marine mammals can be spotted in the temperate waters of NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and across the North Atlantic. (Photo: Mackenzie Maier)
 A dark orange and white striped fish with large fins.
Tired of turkey already? What about the turkeyfish? Also known as the lionfish, its fins resemble the colorful plumage of a turkey. In recent decades, this fish has become an invasive species in Atlantic waters, including in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. With a voracious appetite, rapid reproduction, and no known predators, it is a significant threat to biodiversity and reef health. One management method is to eat them! So, if you’re feeling seafood for a post-Thanksgiving treat, why not give the turkeyfish a try? (Photo: Bess Bright)
Humpback whale tail fin sticking out of water with hills in the background.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for all the people who support the National Marine Sanctuary System, and all the creatures who live in these protected waters! From the photographers who bring the ocean to our fingertips, to humpback whales who majestically swim through these waters, and everyone in between, thanks for making our national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments spectacular! What marine critters are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments! (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Two elephant seals fighting on a beach.
Every winter, the beaches of NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and other sanctuaries along the West Coast transform into a mating ground for elephant seals. Males battle it out for territory in quick clashes that rarely result in lasting damage. Soon after, the females arrive to breed, and will spend a month on land raising their pups before voyaging back to the sea. These elephant seals are lots of fun to watch, but make sure to give them lots of space – an elephant seal selfie is NOT a good idea! These huge seals can be dangerous, and when you get too close you can stress them during a critical time in their life. (Photo: Sara Heintzelman/NOAA)
A young bird with brown plumage, green legs, green around its yellow eyes, and a pink bill leans forward.
Just a liiiiittle farther...What do you think this juvenile green heron is reaching for? One of the simple joys we can all enjoy in national marine sanctuaries is birdwatching! No matter your age, skill, or location on land or sea, we can all enjoy some pretty incredible birding experiences in sanctuaries. In NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, mangrove-fringed islands provide nesting grounds for a number of bird species. Plus, juvenile fish among the mangrove roots give these birds plenty of food to snack on. (Photo: David J. Ruck/NOAA)
Sea turtle resting among invertebrate-covered rocks.
Dive in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, and you might encounter loggerhead sea turtles! These turtles visit the sanctuary to rest and forage. As with all wild animals, always give loggerhead sea turtles plenty of space. Even if you're not near the sanctuary, you can help protect these threatened sea turtles by properly disposing of your trash and recycling when possible – plastic in the ocean can be easily mistaken for food! Learn more about safeguarding sea turtles in Gray’s Reef. (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Historical black and white photo of two officers standing aboard a war vessel.
Before the USS Monitor sank and became protected by NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, it served as a powerful Union vessel during the Civil War. In 1862, the ironclad warship took to the waters of the East Coast for a series of battles against Confederate crews. In the end, though, it was the forces of nature that brought Monitor down to the ocean floor. Learn more about the Monitor's history. (Photo: The Library of Congress)
A close-up of a bat ray swimming across the ocean floor.
Rays like this bat ray in NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are searayiously cool! There are many different types of sea rays, and each are known for their flattened bodies. Their "wings" help them gracefully swim through the water and churn up sand to expose small mollusks to eat. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA)
A close up of a manatee staring directly at the camera.
Why, hello there! Today is the 28th anniversary of NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and what better way to celebrate than with Florida’s state marine mammal, the manatee? These marine grazers can weigh up to 3,000 pounds as fully grown adults, and can consume nearly a tenth of their own weight in water grass, algae, and other vegetation in just a day! If you're visiting the Keys, make sure to slow down in manatee habitat to avoid colliding with these slow-moving animals. (Photo: Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A white and orange sea slug on algae.
Stop clowning around! This little nudibranch, spotted in NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, is none other than the sea-clown triopha. The word "nudibranch" means "naked gills," describing the feathery gills these sea slugs wear on their backs. What's your favorite nudibranch?(Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
A diver hovers over a shipwreck.
Flash back to October 23, 1868: the two-masted schooner F.T. Barney was sailing the waters of the Great Lakes. But en route from Cleveland to Milwaukee, it was hit by the schooner T.J. Bronson. In less than two minutes, Barney sank to the floor of Lake Huron – but miraculously, no lives were lost. Today, the wreck is protected as part of NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and remains one of the most complete wrecks of its kind. (Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
A dark colored dolphin leaping out of the water.
I believe I can fly! *splash* False killer whales like this one in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are very social marine animals. As their name implies, though they look a bit like orcas, they're an entirely separate species of dolphin. They are often spotted in small groups of a few individuals, but when they capture prey they will converge and share the meal. Learn more about false killer whales. (Photo: Jim Cotton/NOAA)
A seal poking its head above the water.
We’re sealriously obsessed with gray seals like this one in NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary! While gray seals may appear approachable in the wild, human interference is a major threat to these marine mammals. Fishing entanglements, watercraft strikes, and interactions with humans put them at risk. Help protect gray seals by keeping a safe distance and not approaching them too close on land or on water. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A veteran pulls a mesh sieve used for collecting plankton out of the ocean.
Happy Veterans Day! This summer, national marine sanctuaries on the West Coast honored the service of our nation’s veterans by dedicating Get Into Your Sanctuary events as “Vet Into Your Sanctuary.” Dozens of veterans enthusiastically participated in activities including ocean film viewing, boating, fishing, kayaking, wildlife viewing, and visitor center activities.(Photo: Lisa Uttal/NOAA)
A bright orange fish swimming through a kelp forest.
Meet the fiery state fish of California: the Garibaldi. This feisty fish is found across the California coast and is a common sight in the kelp forests of NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. In the spring, male Garibaldis are responsible for creating and defending nests that might attract a female garibaldi to lay her eggs in. However, these fathers-to-be are unforgiving to trespassers, chasing out intruders that inch too close, which includes the female garibaldi after she’s laid her eggs! (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
A school of yellow fish swim across a reef.
There’s notang brighter in the sea than the yellow tang! These radiant fish are reef dwellers that thrive in Pacific waters, like those in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Some have been recorded to live for up to 30 years in the wild! (Photo: Claire Fackler/NOAA)
A large shark swims in front of a shipwreck.
With their ragged, protruding teeth, sand tiger sharks may look fearsome, but they're actually quite docile! You can often spot them when diving on shipwrecks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic like the USS Tarpon, pictured here. Wrecks support bountiful populations of small fish and invertebrates, key snacks for the sand tiger shark! The USS Tarpon is one wreck that could be protected by the proposed expansion of NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA)
A humpback whale jumps above the ocean’s surface with water splashing above its head.
Whale, whale, whale, what do we have here? This energetic humpback whale spotted in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is exhibiting a common whale activity known as breaching. There are many possible motivations for these acrobatic leaps above the water’s surface, including communication with other whales, attracting mates, or just being playful. Humpback whales sure know how to make a splash! (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
A school of tuna fish with shiny bodies swim below the sea’s surface.
NOAA's Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is home to a fintastic ocean predator: the Pacific bluefin tuna! Pacific bluefin tuna like to feed on squid and smaller fish such as herring and mackerel. And they’re no stranger to the wide open seas, migrating thousands of miles each year to either feed or spawn. They're one of the most impressive fish in the entire tunaverse!(Photo: NOAA)
A close up of the face of an orange fish with a large mouth.
Oyster toadfish, like this one in NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, have a voice unlike any other marine creature! By vibrating their swim bladder muscles, males from this bottom-dwelling species let out foghorn-like calls to serenade nearby females during mating season. Toadally charming, eh? (Photo: Greg McFall/NOAA)
Two young people watching a whale surface.
Happy birthday to NOAA's Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! Designated on this day in 1992, these national marine sanctuaries were created to protect critical habitat for humpback whales. Humpbacks and other endangered whales flock to Stellwagen Bank off Cape Cod to feed, while Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale shelters humpbacks every winter as they breed and calve their young in the waters of Hawai‘i. (Photo: Matt McIntosh/NOAA)
A close-up of a translucent krill sitting on top of a human finger.
All hail the mighty krill! Despite their tiny size, these shrimp-like crustaceans are powerhouses for ocean ecosystems, serving as a food source for whales, seabirds, fishes, and other marine life. Krill like this one from NOAA's Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary congregate as they swim, making it easy for predators to scoop them up. Occasionally, massive swarms can be viewed from outer space! (Photo: Sophie Webb/NOAA)
Several dark grey whales leaping out of the water.
Dive into the weekend with these melon-headed whales! Spotted here in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, melon-headed whales are characterized by their quick intermittent leaps out of the water as they swim. They like to rest in the morning, socialize in the afternoon, and hunt for fish in the evening. (Photo: Laura Morse/NOAA)
A dark gray manatee in the water with a school of fish swimming underneath it.
It’s Manatee Awareness Month! Frequent visitors to NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, manatees face threats of habitat loss and watercraft collisions. But it’s not all doom and gloom for these gentle sea cows, as manatee populations have been increasing significantly since conservation efforts began. If you're boating in a known manatee habitat, keep them safe and slow down! Learn more about these marine mammals. (Photo: Keith Ramos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A close-up of a silver-ish blue fish with an elongated “nose” in deep blue waters.
You can't have Halloween in the ocean without ghost sharks! Also called chimaera or spook fish, ghost sharks haunt the deep seas below 1500 feet in depth, making it difficult to study them in their natural environment. They also detect electrical stimuli from prey to help them hunt in the dark, a phenomenon known as electroreception. Spooky! What's your favorite ocean creature with Halloween spirit? (Photo: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2017)
Multiple sea lions crowd on top of a red and white ocean buoy.
Tag yourself – which sea lion are you? California sea lions, like this bunch in NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, are highly social marine mammals! They often find refuge on manmade structures such as piers and buoys, with big males like the one on the left using these platforms to keep an eye on their environment. (Photo: Douglas Croft Images)
Close-up of a large fish staring directly at the camera.
Water you lookin’ at?! This giant trevally is facing divers head on at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument! (Photo: John Burns/NOAA)
A humpback whale underwater.
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: Ed Lyman/NOAA, under NOAA Permit #14682)
Purple sea star, lying against sand in tidal pool, surrounded by green sea anemones.
This ochre sea star in NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary might have 99 problems, but they can wait ‘til Monday. 😎 (Photo: NPS)
Two seals on a shore facing each other. The left seal is larger and grey; the right seal is small and black.
This mother and pup Hawaiian monk seal pair in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is sure to make your heart melt! However, these seals are one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world. Hawaiian monk seals face threats of habitat loss, fishing gear entanglement, human disturbance, and more. If you come across a monk seal on shore, give it plenty of space so not to disturb it. Learn more about how you can help Hawaiian monk seals. (Photo: NOAA)
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 – See all the Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest winners and submissions. (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! See all the photo contest winners(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. See all the photo contest winners. (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! See all the photo contest winners. (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! See all the photo contest winners. (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! See all the photo contest winners. (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. (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. (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! Check them all out. 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? Learn more and find an event near you at . 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. (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.(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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