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National Marine Sanctuaries

coral reefsNOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program serves as the trustee for a system of marine protected areas, and works to conserve, protect, and enhance their biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy. Managing this range of goals requires an approach that integrates an understanding of the interrelated patterns of human use, ecology, and geography.

The 13 national marine sanctuaries include breeding and feeding grounds of whales, sea lions, sharks, and sea turtles; significant coral reefs and kelp forest habitats; and the remains of the U.S. Monitor, a Civil War ironclad resting off the coast of North Carolina. These sanctuaries are located in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, off the coast of American Samoa, and in the Great Lakes.

CCMA conducts research in several of these sanctuaries. CCMA's Biogeography Branch has assisted the Channel Islands sanctuary with boundary alternative assessments. The team also helps Grays Reef and Stellwagen Bank with benthic habitat mapping, and the Monterey Bay, Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones sanctuaries with general biogeographic characterizations. The Biogeography Branch has also produced a "Biogeographic Assessment off North/Central California, In Support of Revisions to Sanctuary Management Plans for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries."

CCMA's Coastal Oceanographic Assessment, Status and Trends Team provides scientific support for environmental characterization within the sanctuaries. The team works to understand the occurrence, amounts and sources of contaminants, including excessive nutrients that end up in sanctuary waters. For example, recent CCMA data from sanctuaries off the coast of central California show that DDT and its metabolites exist in high concentrations in canyon sediments off Monterey Bay and at the head of Ascension Canyon. In comparison, DDT concentrations on the continental shelf were uniformly low. Information like this can strengthen and verify sanctuary manager's appeals for improved water quality. In addition, CCMA's Coastal Ocean Assessment Status and Trends Team has also worked with the Florida Keys sanctuary by providing harmful algal bloom bulletins. The team also is conducting satellite climatology within several other sanctuaries.