Conservation Science in NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries: Description and Recent Accomplishments


Stephen R. Gittings, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Sanctuary Program

This report describes cases relating to the management of national marine sanctuaries in which certain scientific information was required so managers could make decisions that effectively protected trust resources. The cases presented represent only a fraction of difficult issues that marine sanctuary managers deal with daily. They include, among others, problems related to wildlife disturbance, vessel routing, marine reserve placement, watershed management, oil spill response, and habitat restoration. Scientific approaches to address these problems vary significantly, and include literature surveys, data mining, field studies (monitoring, mapping, observations, and measurement), geospatial and biogeographic analysis, and modeling.

In most cases there is also an element of expert consultation and collaboration among multiple partners, agencies with resource protection responsibilities, and other users and stakeholders. The resulting management responses may involve direct intervention (e.g., for spill response or habitat restoration issues), proposal of boundary alternatives for marine sanctuaries or reserves, changes in agency policy or regulations, making recommendations to other agencies with resource protection responsibilities, proposing changes to international or domestic shipping rules, or development of new education or outreach programs.

Key Words:

Conservation science, national marine sanctuaries, resource management, marine reserves, biogeography, watersheds, emergency response, seagrass restoration, dispersants, wildlife disturbance, marine mammals, seamounts, database management, vessel routing, deep coral