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Ready to Perform? Planning and Management at the National Marine Sanctuary Program

Six years ago, an Academy Panel evaluated the field management of National Marine Sanctuaries (NMSP). This report suggests next steps for the program.

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Key Findings

Like many agencies, NMSP cannot succeed without enlisting active support from a network of other federal and state agencies, local communities, non-profit organizations, user groups and citizens. In addition, many factors affecting environmental quality at sanctuaries are beyond the program’s direct control; changes in conditions may or may not be attributable to NMSP activities. The path to effective management of such networks begins with setting shared, measurable goals for performance, and then building systems to monitor progress toward those goals. NMSP has made an excellent start and must continue its efforts to streamline its planning processes and focus on performance.


Recommendations

The Panel offered two overarching recommendations:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Executive Branch, and Congress should look to the National Marine Sanctuary Program as an essential part of ocean governance, and invest resources in the program accordingly; and
  • The program should continue to build the four key systems it has for performance-based management: its national strategic plan; sanctuary management plans; condition reports; and annual operating plans. Over 30 specific findings and recommendations can be found in the report.