Posts Tagged 'national marine sanctuaries'



Thoughtful Thursday: Our National Marine Sanctuaries Tell an Important Story

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Over the years, we’ve been lucky to share America’s aquatic treasures with millions of visitors. Chief among those treasures is our nation’s network of marine sanctuaries!

Earlier this week, our Chief Conservation Officer Eric Schwaab sat on a panel on Capitol Hill to discuss the successes and importance of our Marine Sanctuary Program. His role was to highlight the shared goals of aquariums and the program – including to help people appreciate the economic and environmental importance of healthy ocean resources and to emphasize the wonder, diversity and importance of our National Marine Sanctuaries.

guam national marine sanctuary

Just like their terrestrial counterparts, the National Parks, National Marine Sanctuaries are protected areas of our oceans and Great Lakes that preserve the natural and cultural heritage of our country. They are places of recreation, research, conservation, protection and managed use. Since 1972 when the Marine Protection, Research and Protection Act was passed, 14 Marine Protected Areas (13 Sanctuaries and 1 Marine National Monument) have been designated. In total, more than 170,000 square miles of aquatic habitats are under the protection of the National Marine Sanctuary Program.

map of national marine sanctuaries

Map of National Marine Sanctuaries (via NOAA).

Why are these areas singled out for protection? The answer is different for each sanctuary. Some, like the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary were created to protect significant cultural sites. Sixteen miles off the coast of North Carolina, the final resting place of the USS Monitor became the first sanctuary in 1975. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaii. It is considered one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats, providing protected breeding, calving and nursing areas.

Many sanctuaries were designated because of their combined habitat and economic value. Managed, sustainable use of resources within sanctuary borders is allowed and strictly regulated. Recreational diving, ecotourism and fishing are all activities that are supported to varying degrees within the sanctuaries.

A loggerhead turtle in our Gray's Reef gallery

With all of the threats our oceans are facing, it is critically important that we continue to support underwater protected areas like these sanctuaries. It’s in these special places that we can study oceanographic processes and man’s effect on them. We can protect endangered species and habitats. We can learn how to manage for the sustainable use of our ocean’s resources. We can explore our underwater world in its natural state!

Finally, there are things we can all do to make sure these sanctuaries and our oceans are protected and healthy. You can volunteer (many sanctuaries need help with education, outreach, data collection and monitoring), sit on an advisory council or change one thing in your daily routine that will make a difference for our oceans and these special places.

Have you ever had the opportunity to visit a National Marine Sanctuary? Tell us about it in the comments section!

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Animal Updates – May 31

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

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Sea Raven

We have a sea raven in our Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuaries exhibit!

sea raven

Sea ravens, Hemitripterus americanus, are a species of sculpin, from the Scorpaenidae family. They are bottom-dwelling fishes that feed on small invertebrates, and are found in the northwest Atlantic and north Pacific oceans. They have a wide range of amazing colors including deep red, dark brown, purple and  various shades of yellow.

This ambush predator has fleshy protrusions extending from their large head that help disguise it against rocky bottoms. Their prickly skin (covered in small spines) and ragged looking dorsal fin come together to make this one bizarre, yet awesome looking fish.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Animal Update – January 25

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

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Habitat Adjustment for Lobsters, Toby and Larry!

Last year, our Washington, DC venue welcomed two rare, brightly-colored lobsters into their collection. Toby, a blue lobster found off the Maryland coast, resides in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuaries exhibit.

Like most of his species, Toby likes to spend his time nestled under rock formations. In the wild, this behavior helps protect the lobster from possible predators.

Toby

This week, staff dove in this exhibit to create similar “habitat spots” for our second lobster, Larry, a bright orange lobster donated to the Aquarium by a local market. Lobsters can be quite territorial, so to prevent any aggression between our two, we’ve provided them each their own space within the habitat! Visitors will be able to see Larry on exhibit in the next few weeks!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Animal Update – January 4

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

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Longsnout seahorses

We have added two new Caribbean longsnout seahorses to our National Marine Sanctuaries and National Parks gallery!

longsnout seahorse

Did you know this species of seahorse only reach a maximum size of six inches?  Their small size allows them to explore even the slimmest crevices of reefs! This is where they search of food and find coral pieces to anchor on for rest and protection.

longsnout seahorses

As with other seahorse species, when longsnout seahorses mate the female deposits her eggs into a pouch in the male’s belly. The male is then responsible for carrying the eggs until they hatch and the male is ready to give birth to the live young!

longsnout seahorse

Both males and females are typically a yellow color, with flecks of brown and black (allowing them to blend into their reef habitats). This camouflage coloration along with their bony body allows the longsnout seahorse to have very few predators.

Unfortunately, these beautiful creatures are still seriously threatened by habitat loss!

Can’t get enough of these beautiful creatures? Download this month’s customized, free wallpapers of the lined seahorse to your computer, mobile device and/or social platform! 

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Happy 40th Birthday, NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries!

For 40 years, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary system has preserved some of the most treasured and endangered resources in our oceans. This underwater network of national parks, first established in 1972 – exactly 100 years after America’s first national park was created, protects more than 18,000 square miles of ocean waters and habitats!

national marine sanctuaries

Congratulations & happy birthday to all our friends at NOAA!

Visit the National Marine Sanctuaries all in one place!
Our Washington, DC venue highlights all thirteen sanctuaries as well as marine national monument as part of a partnership with NOAA to help spread awareness and inspire conservation of these amazing ecosystems. You can explore the following sanctuaries during your visit:

  • Florida Keys NMS - This sanctuary is a complex marine ecosystem surrounding the Florida Keys archipelago, an island chain known worldwide for its extensive offshore coral reef. The waters surrounding most of the 1,700 islands that make up the Florida Keys have been designated a sanctuary since 1990. The Florida Keys marine environment is the foundation for the commercial fishing and tourism-based economies that are vital to southern Florida.
Florida Keys

Florida Keys Gallery

  • USS Monitor NMS – located off the coast of Newport News, Virginia, this wreck of a Civil War-era ship was the first designated marine sanctuary!
  • Flower Garden Banks NMS - Flower Garden is located about 110 miles off the coast of Texas and Louisiana. It harbors the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States and serves as a regional reservoir of shallow-water Caribbean reef fishes and invertebrates.
  • Gray’s Reef NMS - Gray’s Reef is located 17 miles off Sapelo Island, Georgia. It is one of the largest near-shore sandstone reefs in the southeastern United States. The rocky platform, some 60–70 feet below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface, is wreathed in a carpet of attached organisms. This flourishing ecosystem provides not only vertical relief, but also a solid base for the abundant invertebrates to attach to and grow upon.
Loggerhead turtle

A loggerhead turtle in our Gray’s Reef gallery

  • Cordell Bank NMS - Cordell Bank is located approximately 52 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge at the edge of the continental shelf. Upwelling of nutrient-rich ocean waters and the bank’s topography create one of the most biologically productive areas on the West Coast. The site is a lush feeding ground for many marine mammals and seabirds.
  • Olympic Coast NMS – along the Olympic Peninsula coastline of the Pacific Northwest, sits this protected continental shelf and several submarine canyons. This upwell zone is a home to marine mammals such as orcas and seabirds. Throughout the sanctuary, kelp keeps pockets of tidal communities teeming with fish. In addition to these ecological resources, this area also preserves over 200 shipwrecks.
  • Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale NMS – In the shallow waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, this sanctuary represents one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats.
  • Stellwagen Bank NMS – located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay, this sanctuary was the first in New England. It was first designated to protect endangered whales from the shifting of shipping lanes in busy commercial waters. Since its establishment, striking of these whales has been reduced by 81 percent, according to NOAA.
Stellwagen Bank

Toby, our blue lobster, in the Stellwagen Bank gallery

  • Fagatele Bay NMS - Fagatele is located on Tutuila, the largest island of American Samoa, and is the only true tropical coral reef in the National Marine Sanctuary Program. This complex ecosystem, with its exceptionally high level of biological productivity, is the smallest and most remote of all sanctuaries.
Fagetele Bay

Fagatele Bay gallery

  • Gulf of the Farallones NMS – near San Francisco, this sanctuary was critical to the creation of Beach Watch, one of the first citizen-science monitoring projects within NOAA. This volunteer program helps to protect a lush cold water coral reef, abundant with many threatened and endangered species.
  • Monterey Bay NMS – this rocky, rugged area off the coast of Southern California acts as a home or migration corridor for 26 species of marine mammals, close to 100 species of seabirds, close to 400 species of fish and invertebrates and four species of sea turtles. A mixture of habitats including open ocean, rocky shores, sandy beaches and lush kelp forests.
  • Channel Islands NMSThe Channel Islands are located 25 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The waters that swirl around the five islands within the sanctuary combine warm and cool currents to create an exceptional breeding ground for many species of plants and animals.
Leopard sharks

Leopard sharks in our Channel Islands gallery

  • Thunder Bay NMS – off the eastern coast of Michigan, this sanctuary protects a collection of shipwrecks in Lake Huron. Not only are these developed ecosystems an important research tool, but this area has become a major tourist destination and economic stimulant in the area – further spreading awareness of how important it is to protect marine wildlife.
  • Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument – located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, this is the single largest conservation area in the US and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The monument encompasses close to 140,000 square miles of Pacific Ocean – an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.

We are so happy to  share these small glimpses into such a diverse and beautiful network of environments. Thanks to NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act for allowing us to continue to enjoy and protect America’s underwater treasures for many years to come!


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