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National Marine Sanctuaries

NOAA's system of marine protected areas protect marine ecosystems around the world.

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.

Resources and Education

humpback whale in NOAA Hawaiian Islands NMS
a view of the Coastal Inundation Dashboard
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
educator showing a starfish to students
a hawksbill sea turtle at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
diver exploring a coral reef
diver swimming over a wreck

Get Involved

boats on the water
graphic sanctuary nomination
a diver in a national marine sanctuary
photo of volunteers with binoculars
Earth is Blue

Sanctuaries in Focus

View our special series on five select national marine sanctuaries within NOAA's vast system of marine protected areas.

school of fish in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
visitors looking out at California's historic Point Arena Lighthouse
a humpback whale and its calf in NOAA's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
a humpback whale in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
a diver exploring a shipwreck in Thunder Bay