Sanctuary Sentinel Site Program
Detecting Changes, Building Understanding

Why do we call national marine sanctuaries "sentinel sites"?

National marine sanctuaries are where monitoring and research take place to enhance our understanding of natural and historical resources and how they are changing. They also provide an early warning capability to detect changes to ecosystem processes and conditions.

Marine sanctuaries are located across the country, and thus they offer the opportunity to monitor, observe and investigate the ocean on a local, regional and national scale. Ecosystem resources and their conditions are diverse, offering limitless research and monitoring opportunities. Sanctuaries provide a sense of place that stimulates interest, curiosity and investment about the world and its diverse inhabitants and habitats.

Marine sanctuaries are places where government, academic and citizen scientists work collectively and share information on sanctuary conditions and emerging threats. Work within sentinel sites provides early warning capabilities that give us an advantage over threats by allowing us to respond quickly and efficiently. Thus they are instrumental in helping us achieve our collective goal of protecting the nation’s most cherished ocean treasures.

We believe that identifying sanctuaries as sentinel sites, and developing a “Sentinel Site Program” not only recognizes the purposeful vigilance of our efforts, but also helps NOAA attract collaborators, improve information flow, interpret science to the public and advance conservation science through our collective assets and efforts.

ONMS Sentinel Site Program FAQs


Notes from the field


Sanctuary Sentinel Site National Issues