The protected waters of the National Marine Sanctuary System provide safe haven for many endangered species, including manatees. In the winter months, manatees are often found in shallow, quiet waters of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary where seagrass beds or vegetation flourish. Because they are slow-moving, manatees are often struck by boats, which can injure or kill them. But protections offered by the sanctuary and other locations on the Florida coast have been a boon to these gentle creatures. Since 1991, the number of manatees in Florida has grown from 1,200 to more than 6,300, prompting their reclassification from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
An estimated 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals live in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, but this population is still at risk due to limited food availability, entanglement in marine debris, and habitat disturbance. Since 2007, Papahānaumokuākea, with help from grants from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, has funded the removal of more than 50 tons of abandoned fishing gear annually from coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in order to help this highly endangered species survive. By helping create safer habitats, the National Marine Sanctuary System gives endangered species the opportunities they need to regain a foothold.