Frequently Asked Questions

  1. NOAA's sanctuary nomination process is a public, community-based process by which a collection of interested individuals or groups can identify and recommend special areas of the marine or Great Lakes environment for possible designation as a national marine sanctuary.
  1. A nomination should be submitted when a community believes that a marine or Great Lakes area meets the national significance criteria and management considerations, and would benefit from becoming a national marine sanctuary.
  1. There are no deadlines for submissions. Nominations will be reviewed as they are received by NOAA.
  1. The final rule establishing the Sanctuary Nomination Process provides more information on the community-based sanctuary nomination process, including what to include in a nomination. You may also use the Sanctuary Nomination Process Guide that includes a Nomination Check List to help prepare a nomination.
  1. Communities can submit nominations to NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) via email at sanctuary.nominations@noaa.gov or via postal mail to:

    Director
    Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
    1305 East-West Highway
    11th Floor
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
  1. For general questions regarding the sanctuary nomination process, please contact:

    Matt Brookhart
    Chief, Policy & Planning Division
    NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
    1305 East-West Highway
    11th floor
    Silver Spring, MD 20910
    matt.brookhart@noaa.gov

For specific interest in nominating areas:

Maine to North Carolina, or the Great Lakes

Reed Bohne
Northeast and Great Lakes Regional Director
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
10 Ocean Science Circle
Savannah, GA 31411
reed.bohne@noaa.gov

South Carolina to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Caribbean

Reed Bohne
Northeast and Great Lakes Regional Director
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
10 Ocean Science Circle
Savannah, GA 31411
reed.bohne@noaa.gov

California to Alaska

William Douros
West Coast Regional Director
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries,
99 Pacific Street
Suite 100F
Monterey, CA 93940
william.douros@noaa.gov

Pacific Islands

Allen Tom
Pacific Islands Regional Director
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
726 South Kihei Road
Kihei (Maui), HI 96753
allen.tom@noaa.gov
  1. More information about NOAA's national marine sanctuary system can be found at sanctuaries.noaa.gov
  1. Communities, in this context, are defined as a collection of interested individuals or groups (e.g. , a "friends of" group, a chamber of commerce); local, tribal, state, or national agencies; elected officials; or topic-based stakeholder groups, at the local, regional or national level (e.g. , a local chapter of an environmental organization, a regionally-based fishing group, a national-level recreation or tourism organization, academia or science-based group, or an industry association). Through this nomination process, NOAA is seeking to give communities an opportunity to identify special marine and Great Lakes areas they believe would benefit from designation as a national marine sanctuary. There is no requirement for who may nominate an area for consideration. However, nominations should demonstrate broad support from a variety of stakeholders and interested parties.
  1. NOAA will evaluate the strength of a nomination based on the information provided for the national significance criteria and management considerations, as listed and described in the final rule. The nomination should demonstrate broad support from a variety of stakeholders and interested parties, and also identify the specific goal or intent for nominating a national marine sanctuary.
  1. NOAA anticipates its review of a nomination will take between three to six months, although additional time may be required for review of more complex nominations.
  1. If a nomination requires supplementary information, NOAA staff will contact the nominator and identify what additional information is needed.
  1. If the ONMS Director deems a nomination meets the national significance criteria and management considerations, the nomination will be added to a standing inventory of areas NOAA could consider for national marine sanctuary designation. NOAA will send a letter of notification to the nominator, and then publish a Federal Register notice when an area has been added to the inventory. The inventory and notification letters will also be posted on NOAA's sanctuary system website. Addition to the inventory is the last step in the nomination process.
  1. NOAA's decision to place a nomination into the inventory means that the nominators successfully addressed the national significance criteria and management considerations most relevant to their nominated area. Once a nominated area is placed in to the inventory it could be considered for designation. However, being in the inventory does not guarantee NOAA will begin the sanctuary designation process for that area, nor that it will take any management actions in that area, such as establishing regulations or restricting any existing uses. Regulations would only be considered once an area has begun the designation process as a national marine sanctuary. Any regulations ultimately implemented as part of new national marine sanctuary will be determined with public input and review.
  1. Once NOAA reviews a nomination and decides to place it in the inventory, the nomination process is finished. NOAA may decide to begin the separate national marine sanctuary designation process. However all nominations in the inventory are not guaranteed consideration for the designation process. NOAA must weigh several factors, including the availability of resources from both within and outside the agency, other management priorities, and public support, before deciding to begin the designation process for an area in the inventory. If NOAA determines sanctuary designation should be considered for a specific area, the agency will follow the procedures for designation identified in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, a process that is highly public and participatory, and which typically takes years to complete. Areas that begin pre-designation work may ultimately not be designated as a national marine sanctuary.
  1. If NOAA determines sanctuary designation should be considered for a specific area, the agency will follow the highly public and participatory procedures for designation identified in the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. How long the process takes will depend on a range of factors including the complexity of the area being considered for designation, input from current user groups gathered during the initial scoping process, and availability of NOAA resources. In the past designations have taken about 3 to 5 years.
  1. If NOAA takes no designation action on a nomination in the inventory, the nomination will expire after five years. Nominations that expire can be resubmitted and reviewed again for possible placement back in the inventory.
  1. NOAA is re-establishing the process in response to numerous requests from communities and stakeholders, political leaders, and other interests from across the country. These requests often reference the many and diverse benefits communities realize from a national marine sanctuary. This action also helps fulfill NOAA's mandate under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act to identify marine and Great Lakes areas of special national significance and supports NOAA's goals of ensuring healthy coastal communities and economies.
  1. NOAA last updated sites on the Site Evaluation List (SEL) in 1989 and national marine sanctuary designation may no longer be of interest to the relevant communities for those areas. Furthermore, the area may no longer meet NOAA's criteria and considerations for sanctuary designation. However, communities may nominate sites from the SEL as part of the new sanctuary nomination process, as long as those nominations adequately address the relevant national significance criteria and management considerations.
  1. All the nomination packages submitted to NOAA will be posted on the Sanctuary Nomination Process website. After each nomination has been reviewed, NOAA will also post its letter of acceptance or decline regarding inclusion of a nomination in the inventory. NOAA will not be conducting public hearings or taking public comment on specific nominations.
  1. Re-establishing the sanctuary nomination process conveys no direct regulatory protections, nor does it establish any new national marine sanctuaries. NOAA would implement regulations only after a nominated area has gone through the sanctuary designation process-a separate activity that is highly public and participatory and typically takes years to complete.
  1. We don't know how many sanctuaries will be added to the system. Because the nominations will come from communities, not from within NOAA, we don't know how many areas will be nominated or when those nominations would be submitted. All nominations would have to successfully complete the review process to be added to the inventory of sites that NOAA may consider for designation. NOAA would then have to decide whether or not to move forward with designation activities including a successful completion of the designation process that includes public scoping and the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). At each of these steps NOAA expects some nominations will not be successful in moving to the next step for a range of possible reasons, including limited resources.
  1. The National System of Marine Protected Areas includes MPA sites, networks and systems established and managed by federal, state, tribal, and/or local governments that have chosen to work together on shared conservation priorities. National System MPAs are managed independently, but work together at the regional and national levels to achieve common objectives. NOAA's national marine sanctuaries are members of the National System of Marine Protected Areas. The sanctuary nomination process is a community-based process for the American public to nominate nationally significant marine and Great Lakes areas as potential new national marine sanctuaries. For more information on the National System of MPAs please see their website at marineprotectedareas.noaa.gov.
  1. Nominating communities may elect to include an existing protected area, such as marine reserve designated under state authority, as part of its nomination for a national marine sanctuary. However, nominators should consider that the nomination criteria and considerations may be different from the criteria applied to protected areas managed under other authorities. Nominators should also consider the management scheme most appropriate for an area prior to submitting a nomination for a national marine sanctuary. While the National Marine Sanctuaries Act is a robust and adaptive management tool that offers many tools for marine protection and conservation, it may not be suitable for all areas or all resources.
  1. Both national marine sanctuaries and monuments can be established to protect and manage special marine areas. New national marine sanctuaries can be designated by NOAA or Congress and are managed by NOAA using the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Marine national monuments are designated by the President using the Antiquities Act and can be managed by NOAA together with other Federal and State partners.