The First Ever National Marine Sanctuary Day Celebrates Sanctuary Stories Inspiring Solutions

October 23 coincides with the anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act 

Silver Spring, Md. – October 23, 2023 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation joined national and community leaders, policymakers, Indigenous and Tribal leaders, scientists, educators, explorers and people who make their living on the water in celebrating the first National Marine Sanctuary Day.  

Joel R. Johnson, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, said, “Our national marine sanctuaries are partnerships of people, and sources of solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing America. From the East Coast to the Pacific, the Great Lakes to the Gulf, sanctuaries illuminate maritime history and heritage, protect biodiversity, and fight climate change. On this day going forward, we share the stories of our sanctuaries and urge their support as sources of solutions to the great challenges facing our ocean and our world.” 

Sanctuaries are a key tool in addressing and responding to global issues, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and historic inequities. In Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, local and national partners convened in the face of an unprecedented marine heatwave for the emergency rescue of thousands of corals that will benefit the long-term health of the reef ecosystem. In Stellwagen Bank and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries, research on ship strike patterns, training for entanglement responses, and exploring innovative technologies to reduce and prevent entanglements are addressing key causes of whale mortality. In Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and several sanctuaries currently in the designation process, Indigenous peoples, Tribal nations, federal and non-federally recognized, and Native Hawaiian leaders are partners in determining the future of their cultural heritage. 

October 23rd marks the anniversary of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which was signed into law in 1972. The National Marine Sanctuary System today includes 15 sanctuaries and 2 marine national monuments and spans more than 620,000 square miles of American waters. Designating in a highly public and participatory process, there are currently six additional sites undergoing the sanctuary designation process: Chumash Heritage, Hudson Canyon, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Pacific Remote Islands, and Papahānaumokuākea.  

John Armor, Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said, “I’m excited to celebrate National Marine Sanctuary Day with our partners at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Partnerships are absolutely critical to how we work to safeguard America’s National Marine Sanctuary System, and the National Marine Sanctuaries Act gives us the flexibility to engage partners in the enormous challenge we have. From working closely with other federal agencies and tribal nations to conservation organizations and industry groups, partnering to solve problems is a part of who we are.” 

Members of Congress introduced resolutions in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to commemorate National Marine Sanctuary Day. The resolutions were led by Congressional Sanctuaries Caucus co-chairs Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) in the House and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in the Senate, with original Senate co-sponsors Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT). These Congressional champions recognize the value of sanctuaries as models for marine conservation worldwide—promoting ocean health, honoring heritage, bolstering local economies and jobs, supporting public access to recreation, and advancing education and community-building. 

“In Wisconsin, the Great Lakes are essential to our way of life. Last year, I was proud to help establish the first national marine sanctuary in the Badger State to ensure that Wisconsinites can enjoy our pristine natural waters for generations to come,” said Senator Baldwin. “This resolution will honor the critical role that marine sanctuaries play in preserving our abundant fresh waters, supporting local economies and driving tourism for coastal communities.” 

“Marine sanctuaries are near and dear to my heart and the people I represent. I’m fortunate to have not one, but two national marine sanctuaries in my district – Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank – and know firsthand the important role they play in protecting critical ocean ecosystems and conserving wildlife,” said Rep. Huffman. “Designating a special day to celebrate the history, beauty, diversity, and accomplishments of the sanctuary system will help reiterate the importance of our nation’s treasured underwater places.” 

Marine protected areas like sanctuaries are one of the most effective tools to safeguard ocean health and the species that call the ocean home, yet only 1.9 percent of waters surrounding the continental U.S. are currently protected. According to a 2022 nation-wide survey from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and NORC at the University of Chicago, two-thirds of Americans favor providing increased funding for community-led efforts to create more marine protected areas, including national marine sanctuaries. 

America’s national marine sanctuaries are the essential network of protected waters, which sustain miraculous species, coastal communities, and our shared heritage. The National Marine Sanctuary System includes 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments. These unique waters sustain critical, breathtaking marine habitats that provide homes to endangered and threatened species. They preserve America’s rich maritime heritage and are living laboratories for science, research, education and conservation. Sanctuaries also offer world-class outdoor recreation experiences for all ages and support local communities. Communities across the nation look to sanctuaries to protect nationally significant areas of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. 



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