NOAA uses a socioecological approach to protect and improve resources and societal wellbeing in national marine sanctuaries. Sanctuary staff and partners in academia, the non-profit sector, business, and private citizens use a host of observing technologies and approaches to estimate the condition of natural and archaeological resources and the economic benefits of sanctuaries. Sanctuary condition reports combine the latest environmental and socioeconomic data with extensive expert input to provide the public, particularly stakeholders, with periodic updates of the status and trends for driving forces, pressures, natural and archaeological resource conditions, and ecosystem services in national marine sanctuaries. The reports go on to describe the links between current management activities and the driving forces and pressures of concern, and the benefits of those actions to resources and the people who depend on them. With that information, not only are sanctuaries better prepared to respond to changing conditions with proactive management and sensible regulations, but the public is better equipped to make practical recommendations as participants in the management plan review process for their national marine sanctuaries.
Links are provided below to access the National Condition Report and each sanctuary's condition report. In addition, a Guidance Document, titled Guide for Developing National Marine Sanctuary Condition Reports, is available that introduces and describes what the condition reports are, their framework, and how they are used. More importantly, the Guidance Document also includes a "How To Guide" that details a successful method for completing a condition report. In addition, frequently asked questions about the ONMS Condition Reports have been answered.
In the National Marine Sanctuary System Condition Report the status and trends of resource condition are evaluated across the system. Among the many pressures on the natural and archaeological resources in the system, a number stand out: marine debris entanglement, trapping and ingestion, loss of biodiversity, wildlife disturbance, ship strikes and water quality, to name a few. In the face of these pressures, sanctuaries are making important strides in resource protection through progressive, science-based management, targeted resource protection programs and engaging education and outreach activities.
In 2018, Volume I of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report was released. It provides an assessment of the status and trends of water quality, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources, as well as the human activities affecting them. Resource status is rated on a scale from good to poor, and trends are generally based on observed changes in status since the last CINMS condition report (2009-2016). Overall, this updated assessment indicates that the sanctuary is doing quite well in comparison to other parts of the world's ocean. The sanctuary's remote, isolated position at the confluence of two major ocean currents supports one of the most productive and biologically diverse marine ecosystems in the world. The abundance and diversity of wildlife seen in Channel Islands is remarkable compared to many parts of the world, and many sanctuary resources are showing relative stability or improvement. However, pressures such as vessel traffic, non-indigenous species, ocean noise, commercial and recreational fishing, marine debris, harmful algal blooms, and changing ocean conditions are impacting sanctuary resources.
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is an extremely productive marine area off the west coast of United States in northern California. With its southern-most boundary located 42 miles (68 km) north of San Francisco, the sanctuary is entirely offshore, with the eastern boundary six miles from shore and the western boundary 30 miles (48 km) offshore at the 1000 fathom (1829 m) depth contour.
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary is an isolated national marine sanctuary contained within a small, flooded volcanic crater on the southern coast of Tutuila, American Samoa. The site is uniquely rich in both natural resources and cultural heritage. Fagatele Bay and its fringing coral reef have experienced severe disruptions from cyclones, crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, and more recently from coral bleaching and diseases (the causes of these are not fully understood).
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is one of the largest marine protected areas in the United States, encompassing 2,896 square nautical miles (9,933 square kilometers). It was designated by Congress and exists under federal law, and became effective in state waters with the consent of the state of Florida.
Located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary includes three separate areas, known as East Flower Garden, West Flower Garden and Stetson Banks. The banks range in depth from 55 to nearly 500 feet.
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary protects particularly dense and nearshore patches of productive “live-bottom habitat” that are sparsely distributed from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Cape Canaveral, Fla., on the inner- and mid-shelf of the South Atlantic Bight.
Located off the Central California coast and encompassing 966 square nautical miles, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects a diversity of highly productive marine habitats and supports an abundance of species. It is a complex system of bays, estuaries, mudflats, marsh and intertidal, coastal and oceanic waters, and is influenced by the highly urbanized San Francisco Bay area populated by nearly 8 million people.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is currently a single-species sanctuary whose primary mission is the protection of humpback whales and their habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands. Each winter, the sanctuary is home to more than half of the North Pacific humpback whale population. The sanctuary works with community members and agency representatives to protect one of the most important humpback whale breeding calving, and nursing grounds in the world.
In an effort to preserve one of the most famous shipwrecks in U.S. history, the wreck of the USS Monitor was designated our first national marine sanctuary on Jan. 30, 1975. The sanctuary comprises a column of water one nautical mile in diameter extending from the ocean’s surface to the seabed around the wreck of the Civil War ironclad, which lies 16 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C.
In 2015 the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report was partially updated. The 2009 Monterey Bay condition report provided a summary of resources in the sanctuary, pressures on those resources, current conditions and trends, and management responses to reduce or mitigate human pressures. The 2015 report provides an update to the State of the Sanctuary Resources section, which assesses the health of the sanctuary. Sanctuary staff, with input from regional scientific experts, re-evaluated status and trend ratings for 16 standardized questions. Each question was re-evaluated for accuracy and completeness, given new data sets, published literature and expert opinion that have become available since 2009. For most questions, new information and updated narratives are provided, and many include new status and trend ratings. Trend ratings are generally based on trends since 2009. This re-evaluation was completed for three sanctuary environments: (1.) estuarine, (2.) nearshore and (3.) offshore. A fourth environment, seamount, was evaluated for the first time in this update due to the addition of Davidson Seamount Management Zone to the sanctuary in November 2008.
Designated in 1994, the sanctuary's mission is to protect the Olympic Coast's natural and cultural resources through responsible stewardship, to conduct and apply research to preserve the area's ecological integrity and maritime heritage, and to promote understanding through public outreach and education.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is the single largest conservation area under the U.S. flag, encompassing 137,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean - an area larger than all the country's national parks combined. Thanks to their isolation and past management efforts, the reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are considered to be in nearly pristine condition.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary contains one of the richest and most productive marine habitats in the U.S. It is home to a diverse fish community and serves as one of the most important feeding grounds in the North Atlantic for a number of migratory endangered whale species as well as some apex fish predators such as bluefin tuna and sharks.
Designated in 2000, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects a nationally significant collection of historic shipwrecks and related maritime cultural resources in northern Lake Huron. Through research, resource protection and education, the sanctuary works to ensure that these important historic, archaeological and recreational sites are preserved for current and future generations.