celebrating 50 years

Let's Celebrate 50 Years of Ocean Conservation and Stewardship

Fifty years ago, a new era of ocean conservation was born by creating a system of national marine sanctuaries. Since then, the National Marine Sanctuary System has grown into a nationwide network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments that conserve more than 620,000 square miles of spectacular ocean and Great Lakes waters, an area nearly the size of Alaska.

Each national marine sanctuary and marine national monument has its own unique history and purpose. These underwater parks were set aside for both protection and enjoyment, now and in the future—and decisions about how to best manage each of these special places continue to be made using the best available scientific data, as well as extensive public input.

We believe that water is a thread that connects us all. National marine sanctuaries and monuments support coastal communities and drive local economies by providing jobs and opportunities for people to discover, recreate, and form lifelong connections with these spectacular places. The successes throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System show that conservation, economic prosperity, and human well being not only go well together, but they are deeply woven together in our national character.

The National Marine Sanctuary System turns 50 on October 23, 2022. Please join us throughout the next year as we celebrate the history, accomplishments, and beauty of these incredible underwater parks across the United States!

From the Director

Welcome to the 50th Anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuary System! Starting from modest beginnings, this "good idea" has grown into a vibrant network of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments that protect some of our nation's most treasured seascapes, wildlife, and maritime heritage resources. Sanctuaries and monuments work with and connect to other networks of marine protected areas throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Read the Director's message
Director John Armor
people wlak on a beach

National Marine Sanctuaries 50th Anniversary Events

Public events and activities celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuary System or site anniversaries

View Events
photo of collage of deep coral sea life

Discover Spectacular Educational Materials

Check out our educational materials that bring the ocean and Great Lakes into your classroom, home, facility, or wherever you learn best.

Educational Materials

A Journey Through Time

This timeline provides highlights of the last 50+ years of national marine sanctuaries.

Join the Fun!

As part of the 50th anniversary, a new commemorative poster will be released periodically to capture the beauty and diversity of your National Marine Sanctuary System—starting with Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in October 2021.

monitor poster drawing of the wreck of the monitor, a lantern from the monitor, a diver, fish and an rov
A crew of modern-day Chumash pullers paddle a Tomol (plank canoe) under the milky way and past Anacapa Island's lighthouse and arch rock. Below the waves reveal a kelp forest where California sea lions swim among a garibaldi, leopard shark, white abalone, California spiny lobster, California sheephead, giant sea bass, sea stars, and red and purple urchins.
The Farallon Islands provide a dramatic backdrop to the highly productive and diverse marine ecosystem around them. Common murres can be seen nesting in colonies on the rocky cliffs and diving for food. Below the waves, a white shark takes center stage while sea lions swim among bull kelp forests. Other species offshore and along the rocky shore include Chinook salmon, blue rockfish, red abalone, sea stars, red and purple urchins, and pink encrusted algae.
Gray's Reef is a marine oasis. On the surface, recreational anglers try for grouper, sea bass, and snapper, while a northern gannet flies overhead, and a NOAA weather buoy collects data. Beneath the waves, divers share the waters with a host of colorful tunicates, sponges, soft corals, and other residents of the live-bottom reef, like a loggerhead sea turtle, octopuses, nurse sharks, schools of spadefish, jellyfish, and North Atlantic right whales.
Samoan culture, customs, and language underpin a traditional way of life and stewardship of marine resources. The poster features an ava bowl used for ceremonial practices, a Samoan fale (house) found in villages, and fautasi or long boat canoe. Underwater, tropical coral gardens teem with marine life, including iconic humphead wrasses, endangered hawksbill sea turtles, giant clams, massive Porites corals, and colorful parrotfish, while an oceanic whitetip shark and yellowfin tuna swim near the reef edge.
Ocean conditions and undersea topography combine to fuel a rich and diverse marine community around Cordell Bank. The rocky bank is encrusted with colorful anemones, sponges, and corals and provides habitat for species like top snails, decorator crabs, rosy rockfish, lingcod, and giant Pacific octopus. The waters above and around the bank concentrate krill, juvenile rockfish, anchovy, and jellies attracting ocean sunfish, California sea lions, and the blue whale.

Save Spectacular

During the campaign, we will follow five focused themes highlighting various aspects of the national marine sanctuary system.

fish swimming among a coral reef

Celebrate Spectacular

From this October through December, we'll kick-off our 50th celebration and emphasize the history and accomplishments of the sanctuary system over the last 50 years.

kids watching a whale breach from a boat

Discover Spectacular

From January to March we'll start the new year with a focus on the diversity of education and outreach programs developed and delivered by sanctuaries and our partners throughout the system.

Fisher releasing a tarpon in the waterr

Explore Spectacular

From April to June we'll dive into our sanctuaries and focus on how exploration and research help us understand and manage threats to sanctuary resources.

two surfer walking on the beach with their surf boards

Enjoy Spectacular

From July to September, we’ll embark on our "Get Into Your Sanctuary" campaign throughout the sanctuary system by promoting responsible recreation, tourism and stewardship, and explore the various ways in which people build personal connections to these special places.

risso dolphin leaping out of the water

Save Spectacular

From October to December we’ll conclude the 50th celebration by inviting people to share why sanctuaries are special places and should be conserved for future generations, celebrating our 50th anniversary in late October 2022, and launching a new strategic vision for the system.

Web Stories and Signature Series Articles

How has America's connection to maritime places changed over the years? How have past presidents shaped the protection of special ocean places? What are some of the most exciting discoveries in your national marine sanctuaries? Each month, check back for new articles that delve into these topics, and more!

two birds standing on two green sea turtles

Media Resources

We welcome news media outlets and ocean-loving individuals/social media influencers to get involved. See our resources for press and social media below. Contact vernon.smith@noaa.gov for all media and influencer inquiries.

Media Resources