National Marine Sanctuary System

Source: NMS
caption Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

The National Marine Sanctuary System in the United States consists of 14 marine protected areas that encompass nearly 300,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington State to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The system includes 13 national marine sanctuaries:

National marine sanctuaries range in size from one-quarter square mile in Fagatele Bay to 140,00 square miles in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. The special habitats of the sanctuaries include deep ocean and near-shore coral reefs, live-bottom, whale migration corridors, deep sea canyons, areas of deep water upwelling, submerged banks that rise close to the ocean surface, kelp forests, and seagrass beds.

The National Marine Sanctuary Program was created by the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972. This authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to designate and manage areas of the marine environment with special national significance due to their conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archeological, educational, or esthetic qualities as national marine sanctuaries. The Act also directs the Secretary to facilitate all public and private uses of those resources that are compatible with the primary objective of resource protection. Amendments to the Act in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000 have modified the process of how sites are designated, and have given the Secretary the authority to issue special use permits and enhance enforcement activities.

Sanctuary advisory councils were formed to better involve and develop a stronger stewardship ethic among sanctuary communities. A sanctuary advisory council is a community-based advisory group consisting of representatives from various user groups, government agencies and the public at large. The role of the council is to provide advice to the sanctuary manager on the designation and/or operation of a national marine sanctuary. There are currently eleven operational sanctuary advisory councils with members of the councils serving as a broad cross-section of the communities that lie adjacent to sanctuaries.

Home pages for individual sanctuaries:

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the National Marine Sanctuaries. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the National Marine Sanctuaries should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



(2008). National Marine Sanctuary System. Retrieved from


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