National marine sanctuaries are special areas that protect important marine ecosystems around the nation. Some sanctuaries are breeding and feeding grounds for endangered whales, others contain thriving coral reefs or kelp forests, and many are home to historic shipwrecks and other archaeological treasures. NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages a national network of such places, encompassing more than 1,553,993 square kilometers (600,000 square miles) of U.S. ocean and Great Lakes waters. The goal of the sanctuary system is to protect important natural and cultural places, while still allowing people to enjoy and use the ocean.
View our special series on five select national marine sanctuaries within NOAA's vast system of marine protected areas.