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What is a national marine sanctuary?

National marine sanctuaries are protected waters that include habitats such as rocky reefs, kelp forests, deep-sea canyons, and underwater archaeological sites.

Humpback whales feeding in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Humpback whales feeding in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, located off the northern and central California coast.

Within their protected waters, giant humpback whales breed and calve their young, temperate reefs flourish, and shipwrecks tell stories of our maritime history. Similar to national parks on the land, these underwater preserves provide a safe habitat for species close to extinction or protect historically significant shipwrecks.

Each sanctuary site is a unique place needing special protections. Marine sanctuaries are natural classrooms, cherished recreational spots, and valuable commercial industries. They form part of a larger network called the National Marine Sanctuary System, which consists of protected areas that encompass marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington State to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa.