NEW NOAA REPORT SHOWS NATION'S MARINE SANCTUARIES MADE SIGNIFICANT GAINS IN 2006
March 13, 2007 — Leading the effort to establish the world's largest area of marine protection in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, increasing marine life in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and moving shipping lanes to help protect whales off New England, are some of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program's top accomplishments for 2006, according to a new NOAA report. (Click NOAA image for larger view of humpback whale breaching in the NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which is one of the acrobatic behaviors that whale watchers enjoy seeing. Whale watching is a major ecotourism industry in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)
The 2006 State of the Sanctuaries Report details efforts by NOAA, partner organizations and communities to protect, manage and explore 14 special underwater areas near the nation's shores.
"Every day, NOAA's mission touches the lives of nearly every American, and I am proud the marine sanctuaries continued to serve as major scientific research, conservation and education hubs while providing opportunities for Americans to enjoy these special places," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Our successes would not have been possible without the strong support from President Bush, Congress and the invaluable work of our many partners in the public and private sectors."
The year featured a landmark presidential proclamation designating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, thereby creating the largest marine protected area in the world—covering almost 140,000 square miles.
NOAA's research into means of reducing ship collisions with endangered whales in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary led to the decision by the International Maritime Organization to shift shipping lanes in the region away from critical whale feeding grounds. The move will greatly reduce the risks of strikes to critically endangered right whales, as well as humpback and fin whales.
Five years after establishing a no-take area in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve within the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, new research has shown a dramatic increase in the numbers and sizes of important fish species and other marine life within that protected area.
"Our 2006 accomplishments reflect the significant and ongoing progress being made by dedicated sanctuary program staff to develop results-oriented resource protection, science, management and educational programs," said Daniel J. Basta, director of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program.
Other significant accomplishments include initiating a major California-based public awareness campaign called "Thank You Ocean," discovering new colonies of corals in frigid Pacific waters, facilitating the addition of two shipwrecks to the National Register of Historic Places, launching a new marine education Web portal that allows students to experience doing field work from their computers, and implementing new protections for marine life in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
As living laboratories, national marine sanctuaries serve as outdoor classrooms where students, teachers and the public can learn first-hand about the marine environment, ocean exploration science and technology, and the nation's maritime heritage. Last year, NOAA and partners sponsored numerous field studies, workshops, film festivals and other activities to connect America's youth to the oceans.
The 2006 State of the Sanctuaries Report, which includes accomplishments and highlights from each sanctuary, is available online.
The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.
NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.
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