A marine sanctuary is a general type of marine protected area (MPA). An MPA is a section of the ocean where a government has placed limits on human activity. Different types of MPAs allow different types of activities, such as scientific research, recreation, or commercial fishing

It is important to note that MPAs and marine sanctuaries have different names in different countries. The restrictions on extractive activities are dictated by the marine protection legislation in those countries. For example, a marine sanctuary in the United States often allows fishing, but in Ecuador it means an area without fishing.

Sanctuary waters may provide a secure habitat for endangered species. Sanctuaries may also protect shipwrecks and historic artifacts. They serve as outdoor classrooms for schoolchildren and laboratories for researchers who want to better understand and protect the ocean environment. Sanctuaries also protect economically important fisheries.

Marine sanctuaries often have different zones, which allow different activities. A permit system usually regulates these activities, such as fishing or recreational water sports. Only a certain number of permits are issued every year. The permits allow the MPA to prevent overfishing or pollution due to boats or other personal watercraft.

A marine sanctuarys staff also educates the public about responsible behavior. This allows the public to enjoy marine sanctuaries for recreation, tourism, and fishing in a sustainable manner.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 underwater areas protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The sanctuary protects three separate sand banks that are located 112 to 184 kilometers (70 to 115 miles) off the coasts of the U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana. These banks are actually underwater mountains called salt domes.

Salt domes formed about 190 million years ago, when the Gulf of Mexico was a shallow sea. The hot, dry climate caused the seawater to evaporate quickly, leaving a thick layer of salt on the seafloor. Eventually, the Gulf of Mexico deepened and rivers, such as the Mississippi, began to flow into it. Mud, sand, and silt were steadily deposited over the salt layers. The pressure from these denser sediments caused the salt layer to push upward. Some salt layers broke through the sediments completely, while others forced the seafloor to bulge upward in mountainous domes. Salt domes occur across the entire northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

Flower Garden Banks received its MPA status for the abundance of marine life. The domes are dotted by coral reefs, which provide a habitat for hundreds of fish, sponges, and invertebrates such as shrimp. The endangered loggerhead sea turtle lives in Flower Garden Banks.

Like most marine sanctuaries, Flower Garden Banks provides different zones for human activities. The MPA has ongoing research projects, so biologists and other scientists can monitor marine life in the area. The brightly colored coral reef ecosystems are a popular site for snorkelers and scuba divers. Commercial fishing is not allowed in the sanctuary, but sport fishing using traditional hook-and-line gear is permitted. By not allowing fishing nets, the sanctuary protects against the accidental bycatch of loggerhead sea turtles.


Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Animals

The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals is a vast marine protected area in the Mediterranean Sea. The Pelagos sanctuary reaches France, Monaco, Italy, the French island of Corsica, and the Italian island of Sardinia.

The sanctuary is a feeding area and breeding ground for a variety of marine mammals called cetaceans. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are cetaceans. Pelagos sanctuary is home to fin whales, sperm whales, Cuviers beaked whales, long-finned pilot whales, Rissos dolphins, common bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, and short-beaked common dolphins.

The Pelagos sanctuary includes busy ports such as Nice, France; Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Genoa, Italy. The human activity surrounding these ports puts pressure on the marine environment. Pollution linked to cruise ships, fishing vessels, and offshore motorboat racing threatens the habitats and organisms in the sanctuary. This pollution increases during the summer, as tourists migrate to the sanctuarys coast, known as the Riviera.

Restrictions aim to regulate and lessen the impact of these human activities in the sanctuary. The governments of France, Monaco, and Italy have agreed to begin phasing out the release of toxic pollutants in the sanctuary. They also monitor pollution levels and fine individuals or businesses that illegally dump in sanctuary waters.

Fishing is allowed in Pelagos sanctuary. However, permits are required for both commercial and sport fishing. There are also limits on how much fish can be caught and what methods can be used. Limitations are designed to protect the sanctuarys cetacean population. Fishing limits prevent a severe reduction in fish eaten by cetaceans. Fishing methods must reduce the risk that marine mammals (mostly cetaceans and sea turtles) are accidentally caught instead of fish.

By protecting the Pelagos sanctuary from pollution and overfishing, the governments of the Riviera hope to preserve the areas environmental and economic importance.

marine sanctuary
Fishes and corals and sponges, oh my.

Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument
The Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument, in northeast Hawaii, is the single largest conservation area in the United States and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. Spanning 362,073 square kilometers (139,797 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean, the monument is 100 times larger than Yosemite National Park. In fact, its larger than all U.S. national parks combined.

It's also harder to pronounce: pah-pah-HAH-noh-moh-koo-aah-kay-ah. Listen to it pronounced correctly here.

abundance
Noun

large amount.

Noun

material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.

biologist
Noun

scientist who studies living organisms.

breeding ground
Noun

place where animals mate, give birth, and sometimes raise young.

bycatch
Noun

fish or any other organisms accidentally caught in fishing gear.

cetacean
Noun

type of marine mammal, such as whales and dolphins, whose body is similar to a fish.

Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

Noun

edge of land along the sea or other large body of water.

commercial fishing
Noun

industry responsible for catching and selling fish.

coral reef
Noun

rocky ocean features made up of millions of coral skeletons.

cruise ship
Noun

vessel transporting tourists on a trip.

dense
Adjective

having parts or molecules that are packed closely together.

deposit
Verb

to place or deliver an item in a different area than it originated.

dolphin
Noun

marine mammal related to the whale, but smaller and always toothed.

economic
Adjective

having to do with money.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

Noun

organism threatened with extinction.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

evaporate
Verb

to change from a liquid to a gas or vapor.

fine
Verb

to punish, usually by charging an economic penalty or fee. Or, the penalty or fee itself.

fishery
Noun

industry or occupation of harvesting fish, either in the wild or through aquaculture.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

hook-and-line
Adjective

traditional method of catching fish, with baited hooks at the end of lines of wire.

illegal
Adjective

forbidden by law.

invertebrate
Noun

animal without a spine.

loggerhead sea turtle
Noun

reptile native to non-polar oceans.

marine mammal
Noun

an animal that lives most of its life in the ocean but breathes air and gives birth to live young, such as whales and seals.

marine protected area (MPA)
Noun

area of the ocean where a government has placed limits on human activity.

Noun

part of the ocean protected by the government to preserve its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy it in a sustainable way.

migrate
Verb

to move from one place or activity to another.

monitor
Verb

to observe and record behavior or data.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Noun

U.S. Department of Commerce agency whose mission is to "understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others, and; to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources."

Noun

large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

overfish
Verb

to harvest aquatic life to the point where species become rare in the area.

permit
Noun

official, written permission to do something. Sometimes called a license.

Noun

introduction of harmful materials into the environment.

porpoise
Noun

marine mammal related to dolphins.

Noun

place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

public
Adjective

available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.

recreation area
Noun

specific area that allows camping, boating, fishing, diving, kayaking, picnicking, and other activities.

regulate
Verb

to determine and administer a set of rules for an activity.

research
Noun

scientific observations and investigation into a subject, usually following the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation, analysis, and conclusion.

Riviera
Noun

luxury resort area along the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the southeast coast of France to the northwest coast of Italy.

salt
Noun

(sodium chloride, NaCl) crystalline mineral often used as a seasoning or preservative for food.

salt dome
Noun

structure formed as water evaporates from a salty lake or sea. The remaining salt is buried by sediments, but eventually pierces through the rock, forming a hill.

sand bank
Noun

large underwater deposit of sand, often tall enough to reach the water's surface.

scuba
noun, adjective

(self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) portable device for breathing underwater.

Noun

large part of the ocean enclosed or partly enclosed by land.

secure
Verb

to guarantee, or make safe and certain.

Noun

solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

shipwreck
Noun

remains of a sunken marine vessel.

Noun

small sediment particles.

sponge
Noun

simple type of marine animal permanently attached to something in the water.

sport fishing
Noun

catching fish for competition or recreation.

sustainable
Adjective

able to be continued at the same rate for a long period of time.

tourism
Noun

the industry (including food, hotels, and entertainment) of traveling for pleasure.

toxic
Adjective

poisonous.

vast
Adjective

huge and spread out.

whale
Noun

largest marine mammal species.

Noun

area separated from others by artificial or natural divisions.