A U.S. national marine sanctuary is an area within United States waters where the marine environment enjoys special protection. It’s a federally designated area chosen for it’s historical, cultural, archeological, scientific, educational, recreational, ecological, or aesthetic qualities. As of this writing, the national marine sanctuary system consists of 14 marine protected areas that encompass more than 600,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. From Olympic Coast in the state of Washington to the Florida Keys there are National Marine Sanctuaries all across the country.
With that much area to take care of, marine stewards are an extremely important aspect of these conservation efforts. Every year, thousands of volunteers devote their time, and dedication to protecting national marine sanctuaries for future generations. In 2020, it was estimated that national marine sanctuary volunteers contributed over 118,946 hours to these efforts. That work makes a big difference for these sanctuaires, but as any marine steward could tell you, these protected habitats could always use more volunteers on the local, state and national level.
So if you've ever wanted to explore a shipwreck or get up close and personal with a sea cucumber getting involved with the U.S. national marine sanctuaries might give you that opportunity! As you'll discover, there are so many different reasons to get involved and volunteer your time. In this Into the Outdoors @Home topic, we meet one young marine steward just starting on her journey to a lifetime of conservation. You’ll see that there are many routes someone can take to become a marine steward, but a love for the environment and the passion to protect coastal waters is a thread that connects them all. For more information and resources related to national marine sanctuaries and monuments, head to Sanctuaries.NOAA.gov and marinesanctuary.org!