Could Erie become National Marine Sanctuary

This is Erie’s opportunity to tell the world “this watery place is special.”

For the first time in more than two decades, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is considering new areas for designation as national marine sanctuaries.

Communities across the U.S. have been invited to nominate their most treasured places in America’s marine and Great Lakes waters for protection. Currently, there are 14 protected areas. The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for these sites chosen for their scenic beauty, cultural heritage or ecological significance for America. They include beautiful coral reefs, lush kelp forests, whale migration corridors, spectacular deep-sea canyons and underwater archaeological sites.

These exceptional places, which provide homes to thousands of unique or endangered species, range in size from one square mile to almost 140,000 square miles. They contain natural classrooms, cherished recreational spots and valuable commercial industries, and they have proved that protecting marine resources can enhance local economies.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary on Lake Huron near Alpena, Mich., is the only protected freshwater site. Since it was established in 2000, the Thunder Bay sanctuary has benefitted the area enormously, becoming an engine for economic diversification and stability for the area. NOAA and the state of Michigan are working with local agencies and private and nonprofit organizations to conduct, support, promote and coordinate scientific research and monitoring of the maritime heritage resources to ensure their long-term protection.

Thunder Bay features some of the world’s best preserved shipwrecks, and visitors can explore them first hand through diving, snorkeling and kayaking. This sanctuary has hosted scientific and archaeological researchers; held global student robotics competitions and partnered with educational institutions to help students develop maritime careers; and it has attracted tourists from around the world.

Recently the boundaries were expanded from 448 square miles to encompass 4,300 square miles. The expansion, which was driven by strong public support and based on several years of research by NOAA and its many scientific partners, now protects an additional 100 known and suspected historic shipwreck sites. The expanded area includes the waters of Lake Huron adjacent to Michigan’s Alcona, Alpena and Presque Isle counties to the Canadian border.

Because national marine sanctuaries promote an understanding that the Great Lakes and oceans are critical to our future, they ensure that future generations will continue to experience and value irreplaceable marine treasures.

Reopening the public process to nominate new areas provides an excellent opportunity for communities to actively participate in protecting their special ecological, historical, archaeological and cultural sites.

Download the pdf of the page to see more photos and information.

Next week: More about the nomination process.

Issue Publication Date: 
Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Main Office: Tom Ridge Environmental Center 301 Peninsula Dr., Suite 3 Erie, PA 16505 814-217-9011