National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Celebrates 50 Years of Spectacular Sanctuaries

Silver Spring, Md. – October 23, 2022 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, recognizing the spectacular wonders they conserve and looking toward strengthening the System over the next 50 years.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Act was enacted on October 23, 1972 in response to environmental crises such as the Santa Barbara oil spill that focused public attention on ocean conservation. Since then, the National Marine Sanctuary System has grown to include 15 national marine sanctuaries and 2 marine national monuments spanning from the central Pacific across to the North Atlantic, and from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys. 

The 50th anniversary’s campaign theme, “Save Spectacular,” is a celebration of our great waters to demonstrate the importance of national marine sanctuaries, inviting all people to discover the wonders of these protected waters and work together as stewards to conserve our ocean and Great Lakes.

Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said “For fifty years, our National Marine Sanctuary System has safeguarded species and the places they call home, offered opportunities for research, education, recreation, and conservation, and protected our nation’s maritime and cultural heritage. We are proud of our part in this work alongside our partners at NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

“The National Marine Sanctuaries Act has left an incredible legacy of ocean and coastal conservation and continues to be a shining beacon of hope for continued progress in the face of a changing planet and continued conservation challenges,” Sarri said. “As we look forward to the next half century, we can use this this inflection point to build on and strengthen the National Marine Sanctuaries Act by expanding our national system of protected waters with permanent protections for biodiversity, increase resilience and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and ensure equitable access to nature for all.”

A nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation revealed insights into Americans’ opinions on ocean conservation and climate change. The poll shows that Americans, regardless of demographics, political party, or geographic location, care deeply about the ocean and its health. They want the government and business to do more to protect the ocean and ensure activities do not harm ocean life.

National marine sanctuaries and other marine protected areas (MPAs) are effective tools to protect the ocean, improve our understanding of how the climate impacts resources, and strengthen resilience. According to the survey, two-thirds of Americans favor providing increased funding for community-led efforts to create more marine protected areas, including national marine sanctuaries.

Marine sanctuaries support coastal communities and drive local economies by providing jobs and opportunities for people to discover, recreate, and form life-long connections with these spectacular places. They connect people and communities with endless opportunities for discovery and enjoyment. And they safeguard our seascapes, protect awe-inspiring species, and preserve cultural and maritime heritage.

On Friday, Rep. Jared Huffman (CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), the co-chairs of the Congressional National Marine Sanctuary Caucus, introduced a House Resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuary System.



The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve cultural and maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at 


Contact: Chip Weiskotten 

Director of Strategic Communications