Sanctuary Nomination Process

Communities around the country are ready for new national marine sanctuaries, and on June 10, 2014, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) responded.

For the first time in 20 years, the door is open

The public process is a critical component of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, but the formal process for identifying and evaluating sites for consideration - the Site Evaluation List (SEL) - has been inactive since 1995. On June 10, 2014, during his opening keynote address at Capitol Hill Ocean Week, Counselor to the President John Podesta announced that this is about to change.

In recognition of widespread community-based interest and implementation actions under the national ocean policy, NOAA is reopening the public process to nominate new sites in the ocean and Great Lakes for consideration as national marine sanctuaries.

Click here to learn how the process works

Re-opening this public process strengthens the ability of communities and other interested stakeholders to actively participate in the nomination process. Once published to the Federal Register, NOAA will begin accepting nominations for potential sites that are consistent with the nomination criteria, ensuring widespread community support.

Read the Press Release

Watch the CHOW 2014 opening keynote The sanctuary nominations announcement begins at 24:50

Check it out! The latest Sanctuary Watch published by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is all about the sanctuary nomination process.

Download it now


The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation strongly supports this action

See the group comments submitted to NOAA by NMSF with 153 organizational and individual signatories.

See NMSF's comments submitted to NOAA.


Support on Capitol Hill

NMSF works to ensure that our leaders in Congress know the vital role that national marine sanctuaries play for a healthy ocean as well as a healthy economy. In October, twenty-six members of Congress voiced their support for the proposed rule to allow nominations for new sanctuaries.

Read the Congressional Letter of Support for new sanctuary site nomination.


Working with Community Leaders

NMSF is working with local leaders across the country interested in developing sanctuary nominations through extensive community engagement, workshops, and our Hollings grants. NMSF held a workshop on September 6th, 2014 in Alpena, Mich., home to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, that brought together local leaders from communities across the Great Lakes region. The workshop was attended by 47 local leaders, NOAA officials, and political representatives who gathered to discuss the benefits of a network of community-based national marine sanctuaries in the Great Lakes.

Learn more about the Great Lakes Nomination Workshop


Learn more about why national marine sanctuaries work:

1. A new article published in the November edition of the Environmental Law Reporter (ELR) concludes that the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA), enacted into law in 1972, offers the most effective and comprehensive approach to governing the ocean taken by Congress to date.

A rulemaking announced in June 2014 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opens the door, for the first time in 20 years, to the possibility of new sanctuary designations. The new process allows communities to take the lead in identifying and nominating places for consideration as national marine sanctuaries. With this bottom-up, community-led process, the national marine sanctuary system once again is poised to lead the way in sustainable ocean governance.

Read the report here


2. A legal analysis shows that the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) is the best existing mechanism available for preserving ocean ecosystems.

A comparative analysis published by the National Sea Grant Law Center shows that the National Marine Sanctuaries Act offers one of the most effective approaches available for comprehensive protection of specific areas in the ocean and Great Lakes – and the statute is the only existing federal law structured with this end firmly in mind.

Read the report here


3. Sanctuary management is good for the ocean and people.

In the face of both natural and man-made pressures, national marine sanctuaries are making important strides in resource protection through progressive, science-based management that has benefits in the water and on the shore.

Read the 2013 National Marine Sanctuary System Condition Report


4. Sanctuaries have a long legacy of support.

Though they've faced challenges, sanctuaries have been considered a good idea for place-based marine conservation and ocean management since the concept first appeared in 1966. Numerous external reviews have concluded that NOAA’s sanctuary program is fundamentally well-conceived, covers gaps in other federal laws, and that existing sanctuaries are making progress towards long-term protection of marine ecosystems and cultural resources.

See the presentation here

Click here for details and links to original documents


5. The difference between National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments

National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments in our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes are used to conserve and protect areas of national significance, including both natural and cultural resources. While they work toward similar goals, they do so in different ways.

Learn more about Sanctuaries and Monuments with this Side-by-Side Comparison

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Help protect our national marine sanctuaries. Your support helps our mission to enhance national marine sanctuaries in their goal to protect essential U.S. marine areas and to ensure a healthy ocean.

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