management title graphic
Building a Seamless Network
of the Nation's Ocean and Coastal Refuges, Reserves,
Parks and Sanctuaries

The Ocean Action Plan (Plan) was developed in response to the United States Commission on Ocean Policy's report, "An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century." The Plan addresses responsible use and stewardship of ocean and coastal resources. The seamless network of refuges, reserves, parks and sanctuaries responds to the Ocean Action Plan recommendation to better integrate the management of existing national parks, national wildlife refuges, national estuarine research reserves, and national marine sanctuaries in ocean and coastal areas.

Waters and Adjacent Coastal Lands managed by Seamless Network Programs

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
waters: 7 million acres (2,832,800 hectares)
coastal lands: 20 million coastal acres (8,093,713 hectares)

National Park Service
waters: 3 million acres (1,214,056 hectares)
coastal lands: 31 million acres (12,545,255 hectares)

The National Estuarine Research Reserve
coastal lands and waters: 1, 323, 554 acres
(535,623 hectares)

National Marine Sanctuaries
waters: 11,849,008 acres
(4,795,123 hectares)

Marine National Monument

(jointly managed by NOAA, FWS and the State of Hawaii)
88,187,234 acres
(35,688,107 hectares)
These areas are crucial to the conservation of coral reefs, estuaries, kelp forests, marine mammal habitats and other valuable ocean, insular, coastal and Great Lakes resources. Marine-managed areas include 169 national wildlife refuges, 13 national marine sanctuaries, 74 national parks and 27 national estuarine research reserves. In August 2006, an Interagency General Agreement, signed by the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management established a formal relationship among these organizations, which oversee the marine protected areas. This agreement requires more effective interagency coordination and cooperation.

Total area managed in Seamless Network -
162,359,796 acres
(65,704,768 hectares)
Implementation of this agreement supports a higher level of scientific understanding and conservation of these unique areas. Partnerships will strengthen and expand in areas that overlap or adjoin each other and where conservation and management issues are shared.

Key elements of the agreement include:

  • Improving management and operational efficiencies through coordinating administrative and budget activities.

  • Increasing understanding of important natural and cultural resources by sharing technical expertise and knowledge.

  • Increasing the effectiveness of joint resource planning including reducing duplication of effort, increasing efficiency, conserving fiscal and personnel resources, and improving the coastal and marine resource conservation.

  • Enhancing public awareness and education through informing and educating visitors, interested parties, constituents, media, and the general public concerning their shared ocean, coastal and Great Lakes stewardship responsibilities.
  • Improving law enforcement and rescue capabilities such as working together to coordinate search and rescue activities where managed areas lie near, adjacent to, or overlap each other.
Seamless Network Examples:

California - The Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary protect five northern Channel Islands located south of Santa Barbara with their rich ocean environments and diverse assemblages of marine life. The park manages the islands and marine waters out to one nautical mile, while the Sanctuary manages marine waters from mean high tide to six nautical miles offshore. Their boundaries overlap the nearshore area surrounding these islands out to one nautical mile. The park and sanctuary collaborate on kelp forest, seabird, and intertidal monitoring programs, naturalist training, marine enforcement and response, and education and outreach. Marine enforcement is principally carried out by the National Park Service, California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Coast Guard, with the Sanctuary prosecuting resource damage and sanctuary violations, and providing support to the partners.

National - NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program, in the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and the National Park Service's Submerged Resources Center are joining forces to document where historic seaplanes and submarines rest on the ocean floor.

Maine - The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge collaborate to conserve over 10,000 acres of coastal habitats along 50 miles of coastline. They have worked together to improve tidal exchange to a 77- acre marsh, assess tidal restoration sites in southern Maine for inclusion in an atlas of restoration opportunities, and restore New England cottontail habitat.

Alaska - The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve share the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor in Homer, Alaska. Both staffs work together on numerous public events and visitors programs, and they coordinate kindergarten through 12th grade educational activities. They also collaborate on seminars, workshops, and training that contributes to professional growth of the staff of both agencies.

Additional Resources
Ocean Action Plan FY 07
General Agreement
Building a Seamless Network

For Further Information Contact:
US Fish and Wildlife Service - Andrew Gude
National Estuarine Research Reserve System - Laurie McGilvary
National Park Service - Cliff McCreedy
National Marine Sanctuary Program - Brad Barr

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Revised July 31, 2017 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
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