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May 14, 2008

Contact: Lou Cafiero, 240-205-0400
David Hall, 301-713-3066

Monitor Sanctuary in Good Health Overall, but Historic Shipwreck Still Faces Threats

The natural resources of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary off the North Carolina coast are in good condition overall, but the wreck of the Civil War ironclad encompassed by the site is at risk from human activity and natural deterioration, according to a new NOAA report.

The first-of-its-kind assessment of the sanctuary’s archaeological and living marine resources indicates that corrosion, strong currents, hurricanes, high water temperatures and highly salty water threaten the long-term stability of the Monitor wreck. Discarded fishing gear, which can become entangled on the wreck, and other forms of marine debris also pose a danger to the historic site.

Although not a major problem currently, looting of the wreck, vessel anchoring, bottom trawling and other activities prohibited in sanctuary waters are of concern due to significant diving, boating and fishing activity in the area.

including black seabass, oyster toadfish and great barracuda,he Monitor has also become a productive artificial reef

Prepared by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the peer-reviewed report provides a baseline for monitoring changes to sanctuary resources and identifying research and management priorities. The full report is available online at

The wreck of the USS Monitor was designated the first national marine sanctuary in 1975. Located 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C., the sanctuary includes a column of water one nautical mile in diameter that extends from the ocean’s surface down 240 feet to the seabed around the wreck.

NOAA and the U.S. Navy recovered major portions of the Monitor, including its propeller, steam engine and revolving gun turret, between 1998 and 2002. The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., is the primary repository of Monitor artifacts and documents. NOAA monitors the sanctuary through regular site visits and a NOAA buoy that collects real-time water temperature, current and wind speed data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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On the Web:


NOAA National Ocean Service:

NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries:

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary:




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