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Press Releases

July 24, 2006

Becky Shortland
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
(912) 598-2381


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release the final management plan for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary on July 25. The plan will be presented to the public at a meeting of the sanctuary’s advisory council in Midway, Ga.

The plan will facilitate improvements to the sanctuary’s research, monitoring, enforcement and administration programs, and will develop education and outreach efforts to address marine debris and other issues. Regulatory changes contemplated in the final management plan, and analyzed in the accompanying final environmental impact statement, would afford better protection to the nationally significant marine resources and habitats at Gray’s Reef while supporting the sanctuary’s conservation, protection and compatible-use goals. The preferred regulatory changes would prohibit anchoring in the sanctuary, allow fishing only by rod and reel, handline, and spearfishing gear without powerheads. Sanctuary managers will gather additional socioeconomic information on spearfishing activity and review spearfishing again in two years.

In accordance with the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and National Environmental Policy Act, final regulations will be issued 30-days following the release of the final management plan and environmental impact statement, likely to be in late August or early September.

The plan also includes several non-regulatory actions. Sanctuary managers will make improvements to the sanctuary’s research, monitoring, enforcement and administration programs, and will develop education and outreach efforts to address marine debris issues.

The final management plan was developed with extensive input from the public and stakeholders in the management of sanctuary resources. Over the past seven years, sanctuary managers held eight public meetings and received 1,800 comments from the public. In addition, six specialized public workshops were held to get additional input from anglers, educators, scientists and others. The Gray’s Reef National Marine sanctuary advisory council, which represents a variety of stakeholder groups, played a major role in the development of the plan. During the course of the plan review period, the advisory council was expanded to include more stakeholder representatives.

Designated in 1981, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 23 square miles. The sanctuary consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to 10 feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live bottom and ledge habitat support an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community. Loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, also use Gray’s Reef year-round for foraging and resting, and the reef is near the known winter calving ground for the highly endangered Northern Right Whale. The sanctuary is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program, which manages the Gray’s Reef sanctuary, seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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