On October 23, 1972, in response to several environmental disasters, Congress passed the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act which, among other things, established the National Marine Sanctuary System. Three years later, the underwater resting place of the shipwrecked Civil War ironclad USS Monitor became the first national marine sanctuary in the United States.
Today, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for a network of ocean parks encompassing more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters, an area nearly the size of Alaska. The network includes a system of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments, that conserve areas with special ecological, cultural, and historical significance.
The National Marine Sanctuary System supports coastal communities and drives local economies by providing jobs and opportunities for people to discover, recreate, and form lifelong connections with these spectacular places.
Sanctuaries connect people and communities through science, education, and stewardship. We rely on these networks to inspire community-based solutions that help us understand and protect our nation’s most spectacular underwater habitats, wildlife, archaeological wonders, and cultural seascapes.
Managed by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1975 to protect the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, which sank during a storm 16 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in 1862.