Time and Tide: A History of the National Marine Sanctuary System

Fifty years ago, on October 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act. There are no known photos of the president signing the bill and his signing remarks called out the significance of the ocean dumping portion of the act but made no mention of Title III, which authorized the creation of a marine sanctuary program. Title III itself was a bitterly debated, last minute addition in committee conferences between the House and Senate as they hashed out differences in competing bills. But the act was quietly revelatory. It was, and remains, the only authority to address marine conservation in U.S. waters from a holistic, ecosystem perspective.

The full history of the creation, management, and impacts of the National Marine Sanctuary System is told for the first time in "Time and Tide". The first seven chapters tell the story of the development of the sanctuary system as a whole, from its roots in the history of parks and protected areas to its contemporary identity as a member of international, national, and local communities. The last 19 chapters relay the stories of how each national marine sanctuary and marine national monument came to be, what they have achieved, and how they are working toward the future.

Join us for a voyage of time and tide, and explore the story of your National Marine Sanctuary System. To see our history in a graphic format, check out our timeline.