As sanctuaries approach 50, an invitation to Save Spectacular

By Kris Sarri

When I go to the ocean, the smell of the air, the whoosh of the waves on the shore, and the water rushing through my toes transport me back to some of my favorite memories.  They are memories of growing up in Michigan, canoeing with my dad, getting spun head over heels in the waves on family vacations, and staring for hours at the life and activity within tide pools. I am thankful that in 1972, the National Marine Sanctuary Act gave us the means to protect spectacular places in our ocean and Great Lakes permanently.

Today the National Marine Sanctuary System encompasses 15 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. Together these protected waters cover over 620,000 square miles.

In 2022, the National Marine Sanctuary Act turns 50.  In the year leading up to the anniversary, we celebrate the progress made over the past 50 years and look to the future and the actions we need to take to make sure our ocean and Great Lakes thrive for the next 50 years and beyond.  Our theme for the anniversary, Save Spectacular, is an invitation to discover the wonders of our national marine sanctuaries—wonders that belong to all of us, whether we live along the coast or in the heartland—and work together as stewards to conserve our ocean and Great Lakes.

We invite students, scientists, visitors, businesses, and volunteers to work with us to monitor the health of our sanctuaries and monuments, restore fragile ecosystems, remove marine debris, and build public awareness of our ocean and Great Lakes and the role we play in their stewardship. We want to inspire new guardians for our great waters and demonstrate how the sanctuaries can serve as a model for protecting marine ecosystems across the globe. Our sanctuaries and monuments are an essential part of the global effort to conserve more of nature, reduce biodiversity loss, build climate resilience, and increase our ability to adapt to climate change.

The health of our environment underpins the health and well-being of communities, especially communities that rely on marine and Great Lakes resources for their livelihoods, culture, and subsistence.  As we celebrate the anniversary and focus on the future, we must work every day to deepen justice and equity in our work and take time to build partnerships for conservation that reflect the diversity of the United States.

We are all stewards of our ocean and Great Lakes—for the species that depend on them, the communities that rely on them, and for future generations. Through sanctuaries and monuments, we can work collectively to conserve these resources for all Americans to enjoy. We need to be their voice in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, city halls, and corporate board rooms advocating for greater protection and sustainable business practices that help them thrive for future generations. We hope you will join us in our efforts to advocate for more spectacular protected areas in our ocean and Great Lakes, especially those that strongly safeguard natural and cultural resources.

We invite you to Save Spectacular.