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Protected Areas


The ocean is not just one uniform expanse of water, there are many diverse and unique places in the ocean that are different than any other place in the world. There are forests where algae grow as tall as redwood trees, deep sea coral reefs live hundreds of years, and seamounts provide foraging hotspots for whales, turtles and fishes. Many places in US waters rival the beauty and diversity of some of our cherished national parks on land, such as Yellowstone, the Everglades, and the Grand Canyon. These parks are held in trust and set aside for the greater good so that their beauty and wonder can be experienced by anyone who wishes to see them for generations yet to come. The concept of protecting areas in the sea is relatively new to scientists and policy makers alike, and we are still learning how to best manage these areas to balance human use and maintain healthy ecosystems. Research from protected areas throughout the world, notably the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, has clearly demonstrated the value of protected areas to enhancing marine life as the protection that was put in place years ao is now resulting in thriving ecosystems.



Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Dry Tortugas
Aleutian Islands
Channel Islands



National Marine Sanctuaries
Explore Our Nation’s Deepest Treasures
NOAA Marine Protected Areas Center
Protected Areas in State Waters
Ocean Literacy


Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Photo: NOAA - CINMS

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: NOAA, Page Gill

National Park of American Samoa. Photo: NPS