National Marine Sanctuaries

Marine Conservation Institute works to support and improve the National Marine Sanctuary Program’s effectiveness.  The National Marine Sanctuary Program oversees 14 marine protected areas that encompass more than 150,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters in the United States.  Marine Conservation Institute envisions a Sanctuary program with strong conservation objectives and effective management. In order to achieve these goals we are actively engaged in building a coalition to assist with re-authorization of a strong Sanctuaries act, designation of new sanctuaries and sufficient resources to provide effective management.

What is a Sanctuary?

While some people who hear the word “sanctuary” think that these areas are fully protected from all extractive uses, the reality is quite different. Under The National Marine Sanctuary Act, sanctuaries are managed for multiple uses provided the uses are deemed compatible with resource protection by the Secretary of Commerce. The National Marine Sanctuary Act does not prohibit any type of use, but leaves it up to the Secretary to determine through a public process which activities will be allowed and what regulations will apply to various uses. Under this process a secretary may exempt extractive uses from regulation, such as bottom trawl fishing.

In order to facilitate understanding of what is or isn’t protected in a sanctuary near you, Marine Conservation Institute has prepared fact sheets on each of the 14 sanctuaries, with information on when they were designated, how large they are, what research is conducted, what endangered and threatened species are present, and what activities are allowed. These are not meant to be comprehensive lists used to determine whether you can go fishing, for example, in a sanctuary, but to give the reader a sense of the completeness, or incompleteness, of the protections provided by individual sanctuaries.

Fact sheets [PDF]: