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NOAA R06-032
March 28, 2006

David Hall
NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program
(301) 713-3125, ext. 248


National marine sanctuaries played a key role last year in whale rescues, the discovery of new marine species, and the exploration of historic shipwrecks, according to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The 2005 State of the Sanctuaries report details efforts by NOAA, partner organizations and communities to protect, manage and explore 14 special underwater areas off the nation’s shores.

“National marine sanctuaries are America’s ocean and Great Lakes treasures,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.  “NOAA is proud that national marine sanctuaries continued in 2005 to serve as major scientific research, conservation and education hubs while providing opportunities for Americans to enjoy these special places.”

Working in partnership with universities, oceanographic institutions and federal and state agencies, NOAA conducted more than a dozen scientific expeditions in the 13 national marine sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2005, yielding invaluable new information about marine life and the nation’s maritime heritage.

Researchers discovered a new species of coral in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in California; found the remains of two early 19th century whaling ships in the NWHI reserve; and deployed a system in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington state to detect biotoxins in the marine environment. 

Also in 2005, NOAA teams at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary in Georgia and Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary helped rescue whales found entangled in fishing gear.

In addition to serving as living laboratories, national marine sanctuaries also serve as outdoor classrooms where students, teachers and the public can learn first-hand about the marine environment, ocean exploration science and technology, and the nation’s maritime heritage.  Last year, NOAA and partners sponsored numerous field studies, workshops, film festivals and other activities to connect America’s youth to the oceans.

In a continuing effort to enhance public awareness, understanding and appreciation of the marine environment, NOAA also launched an online field guide, available at, offering hundreds of photos, video and important biological information about marine species found within national marine sanctuaries.

NOAA manages national marine sanctuaries by working cooperatively with states, other federal agencies and the public to protect sanctuary resources while allowing compatible recreational and commercial activities. 

Citizen involvement in the management of national marine sanctuaries was enhanced in 2005 with the formation of three new advisory councils at Fagatele Bay, Flower Garden Banks and Monitor national marine sanctuaries.  Composed of representatives from the scientific, conservation, fishing and business communities, as well as government agencies and the public at large, sanctuary advisory councils provide input to sanctuary managers on a variety of issues.  There are 14 advisory councils in all, one for each sanctuary and also a reserve advisory council for the NWHI reserve.

“National marine sanctuaries serve as major catalysts for ocean science, conservation and literacy,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program.  “The 2005 State of the Sanctuaries report reflects the leadership, hard work and dedication of the many people who came together to make national marine sanctuaries jewels in the crown of conservation, science, education and management.”

The first national marine sanctuary was designated in 1975 to protect the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, which sank of North Carolina in 1862.  Today, the 13 national marine sanctuaries and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve encompass more than 150,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters. The NWHI reserve is currently being considered for sanctuary status.

The 2005 State of the Sanctuaries report, which includes accomplishments and highlights from each sanctuary and the NWHI reserve, is available at 2005. Hard copies may be obtained by sending requests to

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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