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A U.S. National Marine Sanctuary is a federally-designated area within U.S. waters that protects areas of the marine environment with special conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, cultural, archeolgical, scientific, educational, or esthetic qualities. The National Marine Sanctuary System consists of 14 marine protected areas that encompass more than 150,000 square miles.[1] Currently there are 13 national marine sanctuaries, which are administered by the National Marine Sanctuaries Program (NMSP), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument is a marine protected area but not a U.S. national marine sanctuary.[1] The program began after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill off the coast of California brought the plight of marine ecosystems to national attention. The United States Congress responded in 1972 with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act which allowed for the creation of marine sanctuaries. The resources protected by U.S. national marine sanctuaries range from coral reef ecosystems in Florida, Hawaii, and Samoa to shipwrecks in Lake Huron and the wreck of the USS Monitor. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, while not a U.S. national marine sanctuary, is also jointly also administered by the NMSP, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii.

List of U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries

Global view of NOAA Marine Sanctuaries.
Diagram illustrating the orientation of the 3 marine sanctuaries of Central California: Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay.

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