In June, John Podesta, President Obama’s counselor on climate change and environmental affairs, announced that the American public can now nominate nationally significant marine and Great Lakes areas as potential new national marine sanctuaries. The announcement came during his keynote address at Capitol Hill Ocean Week. He said “we have the opportunity to galvanize people to protect their local areas.” This community based nomination process was caused by more than 18,000 requests from both communities and stakeholders in recent years. The former nomination process was discontinued in 1995.
National marine sanctuaries are protected waters that include habitats such as rocky reefs, kelp forests, deep sea canyons, and underwater archaeological sites. The primary objective of a sanctuary is to protect its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy the ocean and Great Lakes in a sustainable way. These marine sanctuaries provide a safe habitat for species close to extinction, serve as natural classrooms for school children and researchers, recreational spots for sport fishing and diving and valuable commercial industries such as tourism and fishing.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries oversees the network of 14 marine protected areas covering 170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington state to the Florida Keys and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. It includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and the PapahanaumokuakeaMarineNational Monument.
The steps needed to be taken by communities and stakeholders interested in making a nomination include gathering information about the area, building community support and answering questions about the ecological, cultural and recreational significance of the area to show how important it is to protect.
NOAA may designate new sanctuaries and implement their associated regulations only after a nominated site has gone through a separate, public process that generally takes several years to complete.
“Our national marine sanctuaries not only protect special places in America’s oceans and Great Lakes, but they promote responsible and sustainable ocean uses to protect the health of our oceans for future generations,” said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator. “This new process increases the public’s involvement in the stewardship of our oceans, which is central to NOAA’s overall mission. We look forward to hearing from the public about places in the marine and Great Lakes environment they feel deserve special status and protection as national marine sanctuaries.”
To learn how to get the new sanctuary nomination process started, visit