Marine Protected Areas

Proposed Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary in eastern Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario National Marine Sanctuary proposed

NOAA invites the public to comment on this proposed rulemaking and will consider all submitted comments when preparing final regulations in the last phase of the sanctuary designation process.

The public comment period is open until March 20, 2023.

The national significance of the area within and around the proposed sanctuary will benefit from long-term protection, management and interpretation.

White shark at Guadalupe
White shark at Guadalupe. Are they now going to be poached?

Closure of Guadalupe Island for divers cause of great concern for the sharks

This action expands on the 2022 closure of the Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), the federal agency tasked with managing Mexico’s protected natural areas.

They also closed the island to cage diving in 2021 and the pandemic closed down operations in 2020.

Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) hovering over the reef. Georgia, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
Black sea bass (Centropristis striata) hovering over the reef. Georgia, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

National Marine Sanctuary system celebrates 50th anniversary

Fifty years ago, the United States Congress, prompted by the Santa Barbara oil spill off the coast of California, three years earlier, passed the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act which allowed for the creation of marine sanctuaries. Since October 1972, the National Marine Sanctuary System has grown into a nationwide network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments that conserve more than 620,000 square miles of ocean and great lakes waters.

An octopus, sea star, bivalves and dozens of cup coral all share the same overhang in an area adjacent to the Hudson Canyon off the coast of New York and New Jersey.

Underwater Canyon Could Become America’s Newest Marine Sanctuary

Hudson Canyon is the largest underwater canyon along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and is about 100 miles off the coast of New York and New Jersey. The canyon¬†‚Ā†‚ÄĒ about 2 to 2.5 miles deep and up to 7.5 miles wide¬†‚Ā†‚ÄĒ provides habitat for a range of protected and sensitive species, including sperm whales, sea turtles and deep sea corals.

The canyon’s rich biodiversity is integral to the region’s economy, underpinning commercial and recreational fisheries, recreational diving, whale-watching and birding. 

NOAA designates new national marine sanctuary in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan

An exciting recreational opportunity: a diver swims over the two-masted schooner, Walter B. Allen, which sank in 1880. (Tamara Thomsen, Wisconsin Historical Society)

‚ÄúPreserving this region furthers the Biden-Harris Administration‚Äôs vision of locally-led, collaborative conservation,‚ÄĚ said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. ‚ÄúThis designation is also an exciting opportunity for the public to celebrate and help protect this piece of our nation‚Äôs rich maritime history.‚ÄĚ

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Triples in Size

Photo credit: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA

Moving forward, this expansion means increased protections for important species and habitats. The expansion areas will be home to future conservation work and support resource protection, recreation and stewardship for local communities and the country. In particular, the sanctuary’s expansion provides an excellent opportunity to: 

The staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) is a branching, stony coral with cylindrical branches ranging from a few centimetres to over two metres in length and height.

Coral restoration projects show promise in Florida Keys

Reef-building staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) was abundant and widespread throughout the Caribbean and Florida until the late 1970s.  The fast-growing coral formed dense thickets in forereef, backreef, and patch-reef environments to depths over 20 m.