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National Marine Sanctuaries Program - The First Fifty Years, and the Next Fifty Years


NOAA’s ONMS has contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration to conduct:

  • An evaluation of the impact and major achievements of the National Marine Sanctuaries program over the past five decades.
  • An assessment of potential high-level directions for the program over the next 20-50 years.
  • An assessment of the major opportunities and challenges facing the program over the next 20-50 years.

The Academy has assembled a three-member Panel of Fellows to oversee and guide the work of the study team.

View Study Report

Click the button below to view the Project Overview.

Project Overview


Since 1972, the National Marine Sanctuary System has served as the national trustee for a growing network of marine parks. The system, administrated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), is designed to promote sustainable ocean uses and ensure the health of the nation’s ocean locales. These marine parks are designated as National Marine Sanctuaries or National Marine Monuments. Sanctuaries and monuments host recreational, conservation, research, and educational activities, and serve a critical role in their locality’s economy and culture.

As of September 2020, there are 13 sanctuaries and monuments, encompassing more than 600,000 square miles in a diversity array of locales, from the Pacific islands of American Samoa and Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea to Thunder Bay in Lake Huron and the Florida Keys. Beyond wildlife and natural resources, sanctuaries and monuments are frequently home to artifacts of American heritage, such as shipwrecks.


If you have any questions or comments regarding the study, please contact, Brenna Isman, Director of Academy Studies, at