Two New Proposed National Marine Sanctuaries Under Review

A map of the US National Marine Sanctuaries system
A map of the US National Marine Sanctuaries system

The National Marine Sanctuary System currently consists of 14 sanctuaries with two more on the way.

Representatives from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries were at DEMA Show 2015 to get the word out and also to engage those in the dive industry and the public at large to participate in the process of nominating and creating new marine sanctuaries.

There are four steps in the process to create a new sanctuary: Scoping, Sanctuary Proposal, Public Review and Sanctuary Designation, and the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries would like your participation in this process.

Presently two new locations are going through the process: Approximately 14 square miles of tidal area near Mallows Bay in the Potomac River, and an area off the coast of Wisconsin spanning from Port Washington to Two Rivers and running about 20 miles out into Lake Michigan and containing 39 known shipwrecks, 15 of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once these locations join the ranks of the other 14 marine sanctuaries, they will each receive at least one scientist on staff from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. These scientists will coordinate research with other government scientists, university researchers and private research interests. Their goal is to make these resources available to the public and maximize access and enjoyment while protecting them for future use.

The established sanctuaries are the Olympic Coast, Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, Papahanaumokuakea, Hawaiian islands humpback Whale, Monterey Bay, Channel Islands, American Samoa (US), Thunder Bay, Stellwagen Bank, the USS Monitor shipwreck site, Grey’s Reef, Florida Keys and Flower Garden Banks. In total, these sanctuaries encompass 179,106 square miles of protected area.

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries operates on an annual budget of about $40 million to $45 million out the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That money is largely used to fund the people, boats and facilities that make the research done in these sanctuaries possible.

For more information, or to make your opinions known to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, visit http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov.

By Ron Smith

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