2016 was quite a year! From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank each and every National Marine Sanctuary System employee, contractor, partner and advisory council member for your contribution to the many successes we have achieved during the last 12 months. From educational programs that put students on a path of learning and discovery to the scientific missions that revealed new species and enhanced understanding, what we all do together every day makes a real difference for the resources we protect and the communities that rely on them.
I cannot possibly list every single one of our accomplishments this year, but I would like to share some highlights:
- We are days away from formally proposing the first two national marine sanctuary designations in nearly 20 years– Wisconsin-Lake Michigan and Mallows Bay – Potomac River.
- We approved two new national marine sanctuary nominations for the inventory: Lake Erie Quadrangle and Chumash Heritage.
- We also have received four new nominations for national marine sanctuaries: Mariana Trench, Baltimore Canyon Urban, Hudson Canyon, and St. George Unangan Heritage.
- Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, we announced a proposal to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to protect additional critical Gulf of Mexico habitat.
- We proposed the expansion of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary to include additional WWII heritage sites.
- Using cutting-edge technologies, including manned submersibles, 3D laser scans and photogrammetry, we conducted research to document and preserve an important World War II battlefield found off the North Carolina coast near the shipwreck site of the USS Monitor.
- On March 23, we joined the U.S. Navy to announce the discovery of the USS Conestoga, a Navy tugboat, in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, 95 years after it sank with a 56-man crew aboard.
- We published the inaugural issue of “Earth is Blue: Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries.”
- Focusing in on diversity and inclusion, we formed the ONMS People’s Committee and provided funding for six projects designed to enhance our diversity and inclusion.
- On June 25-26, sanctuaries across the system welcomed the public to the second national “Get into Your Sanctuary” celebration under the unifying theme of building awareness of these iconic destinations and encouraging responsible enjoyment of their natural and cultural resources. More than 8,000 visitors took part in sanctuary activities that included guided kayak, maritime history and eco-tours.
- On August 26, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Previously the largest contiguous fully-protected conservation area in the United States at 139,797 square miles, the expanded boundaries made (for a short while) it once again the biggest protected area on the planet at 582,578 square miles, nearly the size of the Gulf of Mexico.
- In September we hosted 10,000 people from 192 different countries around the world at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. Our team put national marine sanctuaries, marine national monuments, and marine protected areas on world stage and a very positive light.
- In December, we held our first ever Sanctuary System Recreational Fishing Summit with members from advisory councils to continue to improve our efforts to support and improve recreational experiences in sanctuaries.
And let’s not forget all of the coastal clean ups, volunteer activities, science and heritage missions, visitor center updates and events, and public outreach efforts we do every day. Additionally, I want to recognize all of the “behind the scenes” work that is critical to our daily operations such as coordinating advisory councils, supporting volunteers, processing personnel actions, executing formal agreements, processing contracts, supporting our IT infrastructure and ensuring its security, and safely operating our small boat fleet.
I continue to be amazed by the expertise and dedication that each of you brings to work every day.
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
NOAA’s National Ocean Service
phone: (240) 533-0681