By Matt Brookhart, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Our nation’s system of national marine sanctuaries protect some of America’s most significant marine and Great Lakes assets – from vibrant coral reefs and kelp forests to historic shipwrecks and extraordinarily productive fishing grounds. In doing so, NOAA economists estimate that across all our sanctuaries, about $6 billion is generated each year in local coastal and ocean-dependent activities, such as diving, tourism, commercial and recreational fishing, and research. This demonstrates that sanctuaries are an essential component of our coastal economies, as well as the long-term conservation of our oceans.
Throughout the 1990s, several new national marine sanctuaries were designated either by NOAA or by Congress; so many, in fact, that NOAA decided to put a hold on the consideration of new sanctuaries so that we could focus on best managing the growing sanctuary system within our limited resources.