Strengthening our national network of marine sanctuaries

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Half a century agoCongress created the National Marine Sanctuary System to designate and safeguard marine areas of special ecological, cultural and historical significance as national marine sanctuaries. Today the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitors more than 620,000 square miles of ocean and Great Lakes waters in a diverse system of 15 shrines and two national monuments. From Florida Keys at Stellwagen Bank at Monterey Baythe National Marine Sanctuary System celebrates America aquatic and oceanic inheritance.

However, our sanctuary system is struggling. Sanctuary vsstatus reports reveal many shrine resourcesincluding wildlife, habitat and water qualityare in poor condition or in decline. Recent scan of available status reports for 14 national marine sanctuaries found that 37% of sanctuary resource conditions were rated as fair, fair/poor or poor, indicating they were do the experience “either measurable, widespread, persistent, and/or severe impacts” and that 41% of the sanctuary condition reporting trends were “declining”.

Environmental organizations from across the United States, collectively representing millions of members, are appeal to the administration revive the failing health of our national marine sanctuaries. In front of twin crises of biodiversity and climate, we must modernize the sanctuary program to address the increased severity of threats facing our oceans and the habitats and wildlife of the Great Lakes. We need these special marine areas to really be sanctuaries and prosper far into the future.

A kelp forest in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. NRDC’s analysis of reports on the state of California’s national marine sanctuaries found that more than two-thirds of sanctuary habitats and wildlife-related conditions were rated poor, fair/poor or fair, indicating measurable, severe or widespread impacts. Photo credit: Jon Anderson/ https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/photo-contest-winners-2020.html

As estates held in trust for the American people, NOAA must act now to to register our shrines. NOTnational regulations on marine sanctuaries should be strengthened at:

  • REquire rregular reports on the state of the sanctuary so we can stay consistent watch over the sanctuary health.
  • Require this ssanctuary management plans meaningfully address the status reports identified threats at the sanctuary heale.
  • Empower sanctuary managers to manage activities in shrines that jeopardize the health of the shrine’s resources.
  • Take a whole-of-NOAA approach and demand effective coordination with other agencies impacting sanctuary resources so that all of government helps support, protect, and restore sanctuaries.

Improvements to the sanctuary program must also ensure the dismantling discriminatory borders who prevented underrepresented communities and tribes of significantly engaging in the designation and management of sanctuaries. Many actions – from funding and technical assistance to improving access of all kinds (physical, cultural, linguistic barriers))should be made available so that these privileged places are really appreciated by everything.

With climate change is rapidly altering marine ecosystemsshrines can also serve as living laboratories for understanding impacts arising from climate change and human activity. NOAA should consider designating parts of shrines also scientific reservations when developing or revising the management plan. Establishment sanctuary zones free from all extractive and destructive activities would allow scientists to better assess the repercussions of climate and ocean Activitiesas well as resilience advantages what highly protected sites offer.

There is support for strong shrine protections. Recent survey shows e80% of Americans support of protect marine areas with environmental, educational or cultural importance. americans want marine protected areas to conserve wildlife and ocean habitats, and massively foster exclusion from oil and gas drilling (70%), commercial fishing (69%) or mining (65%) of these places.

Stronger protections for our national system of marine sanctuaries are vital to reach the administration america the beautiful Goals combat biodiversity loss, mitigate the impacts of climate change and increase equitable access to nature. The Biden administration should address the challenges of the moment by taking action to build a stronger and more resilient national marine sanctuary program who has protected these areas for generations.

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