July 21, 2014

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Last month, the U.S. Government implemented a novel way to establish new national marine sanctuaries – exceptionally valuable areas in the ocean and Great Lakes that are protected as marine parks – and you can get involved! Folks at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is in charge of designating new sanctuaries, have worked tirelessly over the last few years to come up with a locally-driven nomination process that incorporates ideas from over 18,000 public comments, replacing a now defunct “site evaluation list” that was less community-driven. This innovative new approach allows groups of people across the nation to put together proposals for NOAA to designate their favorite watery regions (within U.S. jurisdiction of course) as official national marine sanctuaries.

National Marine Sanctuary designation offers special protection to beautiful and valuable ecosystem throughout our marine and Great Lakes waters. (Photo © Greg McFall, NOAA's National Ocean Service)

National Marine Sanctuary designation offers special protection to beautiful and valuable ecosystem throughout our marine and Great Lakes waters. (Photo © Greg McFall, NOAA’s National Ocean Service)

This new process is easy to navigate and even has a snazzy new website to help you understand what it takes to submit a nomination. Basically, it involves getting together with a broad group of people who all care about protecting a special area, gathering key information about that area and building widespread community support, and submitting a nomination that answers important questions about the ecological, cultural and recreational significance of the area to show how important it is to protect.

Fabien Cousteau’s recent Mission 31 took place in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Image © http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov)

Fabien Cousteau’s recent Mission 31 took place in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Image © http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov)

 

Once you’ve completed the nomination process NOAA will update you on its progress in reviewing your group’s proposal and you’ll be well on your way to protecting one of your most treasured places for generations to come. Remember, nominating an area is just the beginning of the road for official marine sanctuary designation, which is a separate process that can take years to complete. Nevertheless, it’s a crucial first step!

To learn more about the new sanctuary nomination process and how you can get started, visit www.nominate.noaa.gov.

Featured image © nominate.noaa.gov

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