photo of an enforcement plane

Section 307 of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act authorizes NOAA to assess civil penalties for violations of sanctuary regulations. The National Marine Sanctuary Program supports an enforcement philosophy that fosters voluntary compliance through educating sanctuary users and promoting a sense of stewardship toward the living and cultural resources of the sanctuary. The Program’s goal is to provide a law enforcement presence in order to deter and detect violations.

The Program conducts its enforcement efforts through cooperative partnerships with other agencies, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Various state marine and wildlife enforcement agencies in the states where the sanctuaries are located also are cross-deputized to support sanctuary enforcement. Enforcement case documentation is processed through the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement, and violations are prosecuted by NOAA General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation.

Strategy for Clarifying Enforcement Needs and Testing Enforcement Measures (25 MB)
This document was developed jointly by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Office of Law Enforcement. It discusses the approach to the various enforcement functions within the national marine sanctuary system. The report focuses on an assessment of surveillance, patrol and response capabilities in terms of personnel, vessel and aircraft for NOAA, USCG and state partners. The document analyzes existing capabilities across the system as well as potential options for enforcement monitoring technologies.

A snapshot of what resource managers and our enforcement partners believe to be the most significant enforcement challenges to be in each of our sites and across the system as a whole is also provided. Traffic routing and anchoring violations are of significant concern in 15 sites within the system in varying degrees of intensity. Other top challenges include fishing gear, spills of unknown origin, marine debris and entanglement, recreational traffic and large commercial vessel traffic.

The document is a three-year strategy designed to address the requirements identified in an assessment of the enforcement challenges and needs within the National Marine Sanctuary System. It provides a suggested framework for the build-up of enforcement capabilities, the testing of technologies and the refinement of need. It is not an outline for a long-term comprehensive enforcement program, but will provide the necessary information to facilitate the development of comprehensive 10-year enforcement requirements document.