Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report:
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) protects and manages 13 sanctuaries and one marine national monument. Important habitats like breeding and feeding grounds, coral reefs, kelp forests, and historical shipwrecks are represented within the system of marine sanctuaries. ONMS works with the public and federal, state, and local officials to promote conservation while allowing compatible commercial and recreational activities.




Final Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for Fagatele Bay Sanctuary Now Available

Coral reef in Fagatele Bay, American Samoa.

Coral reef in Fagatele Bay, American Samoa.

NOAA released a final management plan and environmental impact statement that guides future activities at Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa and outlines the expansion of the sanctuary to include waters with some of the oldest and largest known corals in the world.

The revised management plan, prepared in conjunction with the American Samoan government, is a result of an extensive review process that involved scientific assessment, public comment, community meetings, and consultation with local village and government leaders. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries co-manages the sanctuary with the American Samoa Government and works closely with communities adjacent to the sanctuary, all within the context of Samoan cultural traditions and practices.

The final management plan, combined with a final environmental impact statement, also updates the site’s original management plan and identifies new regulations for greater resource protection. It also proposes changing the name of the sanctuary to the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. These new regulations and name change are expected to go into effect by the end of 2012.

Faces of Unknown USS Monitor Sailors Reconstructed

Faces of Unknown USS Monitor Sailors Reconstructed

Photos on the left are clay model recreations of the faces of two USS Monitor sailors whose remains were found in the USS Monitor gun turret in 2002. Images on the right are computer enhanced versions showing what the unknown sailors may have looked like while aboard the USS Monitor in 1862. (Image courtesy of Louisiana State University)

At the United States Navy Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary unveiled the faces of two unidentified sailors whose remains were recovered in 2002 from inside the USS Monitor’s turret.

Since their recovery, the remains have resided at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. Ten years later, in an attempt to help solve the mystery of the sailors’ identities, and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Monitor and her crew, the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) lab at Louisiana State University volunteered to put faces on these unknown Monitor sailors. At the lab, scientists and anthropologists using casts of the sailors’ skulls, clay, and computers were able to reconstruct their facial features. By giving these men faces, it is NOAA’s hope that these two sailors will be identified and finally laid to rest.

The unveiling was attended by over 200 invited guests and news media, and the associated story generated more than 2,000 nationwide stories. The skull reconstructions, as well as the facial reconstructions, are currently on display at The Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Va.

The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary protects the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862.

NOAA Releases Final Management Plan for Flower Garden Banks Sanctuary

An abundance of sea life inhabits

An abundance of sea life inhabits the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, located 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

In April 2012, NOAA released the updated Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary management plan, revised regulations, and environmental assessment. The plan, developed through an extensive public process that began in 2006, identifies actions to be undertaken by sanctuary staff within the next five to 10 years to protect and conserve marine resources in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. It includes six action plans, each addressing a specific priority identified during the public scoping process: sanctuary expansion, education and outreach, research and monitoring, resource protection, visitor use, and operations and administration. This is the first revision to the sanctuary’s original management plan published in 1991. The regulations in the updated plan took effect on May 29, 2012.

Sanctuary Exploration Center Opens in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Sanctuary Exploration Center kelp cutting ceremony.

Sanctuary Exploration Center kelp cutting ceremony.

On July 23, 2012 officials from NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS), the City of Santa Cruz, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF) celebrated the opening of the Sanctuary Exploration Center—a state-of-the-art facility full of interpretive and hands-on exhibits highlighting the sanctuary's extraordinary natural and cultural resources. Hundreds attended the Grand Opening ceremony, including Congressman Sam Farr; NOAA, National Marine Sanctuary, and Foundation leadership; and a host of local dignitaries and representatives from the City, MBNMS, and NMSF.

The Center expects around 150,000 visitors a year and saw 1,900 through the doors in the first two days alone. Located just steps from the ocean in Santa Cruz’s famed beach area, the Exploration Center includes interactive exhibits designed to educate visitors about the sanctuary, as well as NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary system, ocean conservation partners, and the vital role citizens play as ocean stewards. Exhibits include the Exploration Theater, a walk through a kelp forest, an intertidal “touch pool,” an open-ocean mini-theater, and a replica deep-sea canyon with a remotely operated vehicle.

MBNMS, the city of Santa Cruz, and NMSF collaborated in a public-private partnership to design, construct, and furnish the Sanctuary Exploration Center. NOAA and the City of Santa Cruz specified the project to be a model for sustainable, environmentally sensitive design, construction, and operation. The center was built with the highest of green standards and is currently pursuing certification for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.


NOAA Supports “Sanctuary Classic” Sustainable Recreational Fishing Tournament

Young anglers primed for sustainable recreational fishing in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Young anglers primed for sustainable recreational fishing in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

This past summer, families and experienced anglers gathered at the Channel Islands, Florida Keys, Gray's Reef, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries to participate in the Sanctuary Classic, a summer-long fishing and photo contest highlighting sustainable recreational fishing.

Sponsored and coordinated by the Sportfishing Conservancy, the Sanctuary Classic aims to support conservation and fishing, show the value of balancing resource management and recreation, foster environmental stewardship through a family-friendly activity, and reach a broad spectrum of recreational fishing enthusiasts. Most of the waters protected by NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries are open to recreational fishing and provide an incredible outdoor experience. The Sanctuary Classic ran from June 9 through Sept. 3, 2012.