NOAA Regulated Overflight Zones

a small aircraft in flight

Flying motorized aircraft below the minimum altitude limits of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) regulated overflight zones (NROZ) is immediately presumed to disturb marine mammals and seabirds and is subject to NOAA enforcement action. For more information about the overflight zones, see "Pilots: Know before you go!"

National Marine Sanctuary Flights Prohibited Below Location
Channel Islands 1000 feet Within one nautical mile of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara Islands and offshore rocks [see 15 CFR Part 922.72(a)(7)]
Greater Farallones 1000 feet Within seven prescribed zones as defined in sanctuary regulations at 15 CFR Part 922.82(a)(11)
Monterey Bay 1000 feet Within four prescribed zones as defined in sanctuary regulations at 15 CFR Part 922.132(a)(6)
Olympic Coast 2000 feet Within one nautical mile of the coast and offshore rocks and islands [see 15 CFR Part 922.152(a)(7)]

For marine research and other purposes, sanctuary superintendents can issue permits authorizing flights below minimum altitude thresholds within NOAA regulated overflight zones. Application instructions are provided below.

In addition to the requirements found in Instructions for Submitting Applications for National Marine Sanctuary Permits and Authorizations, any permit application submitted requesting overflight of aircraft in the Channel Islands, Greater Farallones, Monterey Bay, or Olympic Coast national marine sanctuaries (NMS) must include the following additional information:

In Section E of the permit application, include the following:

  • A description of why it is preferable that the low-altitude overflight occur within a NOAA regulated overflight zone(s);
  • The intended start date, frequency, anticipated duration, and hours of flight operations;
  • The number and type of aircraft to be used (make and model), including aircraft markings and tail numbers;
  • The lowest planned flight altitude;
  • The flight plan and schedule, including detailed flight patterns (repeat transects, circling, hovering, diving, etc.), refueling plan, and landing/takeoff locations;
  • Any special equipment that will be mounted on, lowered, or towed from the aircraft, and any object planned for release from the aircraft;
  • A communications plan that identifies call signs and frequencies for all aircraft and project participants.

In addition, the applicant must provide a copy of a current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot's license and FAA medical certificate for each pilot proposed to operate aircraft within the sanctuary.

All other guidance for NMS permit applications, including procedures, timelines, and points of contact, apply to aircraft overflight requests.