5 Marine Sanctuaries In The US To Visit In 2023

5 Marine Sanctuaries In The US To Visit In 2023
The Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has a spectacular coastline, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Endangered species live in these protected underwater areas, temperate reefs thrive here, and shipwrecks narrate the tales of a nautical past.

Piali Gupta
January 15 , 2023
03 Min Read

Marine sanctuaries are protected underwater areas where you can find habitats of species like stony reefs, kelp forests, deep-sea canyons, and even some ancient underwater sites. These underwater preserves act as safe havens for species that are on the verge of extinction or guard historically valuable shipwrecks, just like national parks do on land. The sanctuary sites range from less than one square mile to 139,797 square miles and together form the National Marine Sanctuary System of the USA. Here's a look at five diverse marine sanctuaries in the US where huge humpback whales breed and give birth, temperate reefs thrive, and shipwrecks narrate the tales of a nautical past. 

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary: In order to breed, give birth, and rear their young, thousands of humpback whales migrate to the warm, shallow seas of Hawai'i each winter. These whales and their environment are safeguarded by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Visitors to the refuge can view whales from land and at sea from November through April.


An elephant seal in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. They are among the largest seals in the world. Five species of pinnipeds, including California sea lions, elephant seals, and harbor seals depend on the sanctuary for feeding and breeding.The marine sanctuary protects 1,470 square miles of ocean waters around the Northern Channel Islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara islands. It is a safe haven for endangered species, sensitive habitats, and cultural resources, the sanctuary provides protection through research, education, conservation, and stewardship. One of the largest and most varied clusters of kelp forests in the world can be found at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Sea urchins, sea stars, crabs, sea otters, sea lions, seals, sharks, and whales all use the 45 metres tall giant kelp as a habitat.

A diver inspects the bow of the wreck of the steel bulk freighter Grecian, where it rests in Lake Huron's Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Sometimes marine sanctuaries also protect shipwrecks. Located in Lake Huron off the coast of Michigan, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary safeguards a collection of almost 100 old shipwrecks. The sanctuary seeks to ensure that future generations can enjoy these underwater treasures by doing research, providing education, and engaging the community. The shipwrecks of Thunder Bay serve as a microcosm of the 200-year history of commercial navigation on the Great Lakes. The collection showcases changes in ship architecture and construction, from early steel-hulled steamers to wooden schooners, as well as a number of odd vessel forms.

 Located near Dry Tortugas National Park, Tortugas Ecological Reserve in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects diverse habitats including seagrass beds and coral reefs. The 2,900 square nautical miles of waters surrounding the Florida Keys, from Biscayne Bay westward to include the Dry Tortugas, except Dry Tortugas National Park, and northward to the southern edge of Everglades National Park, are protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Since the sanctuary's mean high-water mark serves as its shoreward boundary, once you step foot in Florida Keys waters, you have effectively entered the sanctuary. The Florida Coral Reef, extensive seagrass beds, lovely sandbars, islands fringed with mangroves, and more than 6,000 different species of marine life are just a few of the marine resources that are spectacular, distinctive, and of national significance that are found within the sanctuary's boundaries. Shipwrecks and other archaeological treasures that are a part of our country's history are also protected by the sanctuary.The stunning unspoilt coastline and one of North America's most prolific marine ecosystems are represented by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. 3,188 square miles of marine waters off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula are included in the marine sanctuary. A productive upwelling zone, which is home to marine mammals and seabirds, is protected by the sanctuary. Fish and other marine creatures abound in the abundant kelp and intertidal habitats that line its borders. There are almost 200 shipwrecks listed here. The lively modern communities of the Hoh Tribe, Makah Tribe, Quileute Tribe, and Quinault Indian Nation have also created unbreakable linkages to the ocean environment, upholding historical customs while addressing contemporary difficulties.

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