Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Establishment of the SBNMS
Significance of the Resources
Bank National Marine Sanctuary is an area of approximately 638 square
nautical miles (2181 square kilometers; 842 square miles) of ocean waters,
and the submerged lands thereunder, over and around Stellwagen Bank
and other submerged features, off the coast of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
of physical and oceanographic characteristics in this area result in
cycles of biological productivity that support exceptionally large and
diverse populations of fish, seasonal populations of cetaceans (including
several classified as endangered) and seabirds. The proximity to land
and accessibility of this biologically rich and diverse system have
attracted high levels of human activity, principally, commercial fishing
of the Sanctuary encompasses the entirety of Stellwagen Bank; Tillies
Bank to the northeast; and southern portions of Jeffreys Ledge to the
north of Stellwagen Bank (Figure 1). The Sanctuary is entirely within
federal waters, i.e., beyond the Exterior Line of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (G.L.C. 132A, s. 13). Segments of the Sanctuary boundary
are coterminous with the seaward boundaries of three Ocean Sanctuaries
designated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under G.L.C. 132A, ss.
13-16 and 18. The northwestern border of the National Marine Sanctuary
is contiguous with the North Shore Ocean Sanctuary and the southern
border coincides with segments of both the Cape Cod Bay Ocean Sanctuary
and the Cape Cod Ocean Sanctuary.
border of the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary is approximately 25 nautical
miles east of Boston, Massachusetts. It is about three miles north-northwest
of Race Point (Provincetown) and three miles southeast of Cape Ann (Gloucester),
Massachusetts. The Sanctuary boundary is identified by the following
coordinates, indicating the most northeast, southeast, southwest, west-northwest,
and north-northwest points: 42¡45'59.83"N x 70¡13'01.77"W
(NE); 42¡05'35.51"N x 70¡02'08.14"W (SE); 42¡07'44.89"N
x 70¡28'15.44"W; (SW); 42¡32'53.52"N x 70¡35'52.38"W
(WNW); and 42¡39'04.08"N x 70¡30'11.29"W (NNW).
Bank is located in the southwestern Gulf of Maine, which is formed by
the bight of the northwest Atlantic coastline between Cape Cod, Massachusetts
and Cape Sable, Nova Scotia (Figure 1). Massachusetts Bay is the southwest
corner of the Gulf, embraced by Cape Ann and Cape Cod. Stellwagen Bank,
a shallow, glacially-deposited, primarily sandy feature, curving in
a southeast-to-northwest direction for almost 20 miles, lies at the
Bay's eastern edge and partially blocks its mouth. Water depths over
the Bank range from 61 to 120 feet. Surrounding waters are more than
300 feet and seaward of the Bank the seafloor slopes to depths of 600
feet or more.
1. Chart of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays and Stellwagen Bank National
Marine Sanctuary (U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, Massachusetts).
National Marine Sanctuary Program was established by Title III of the
Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, (16 U.S.C.
1431 et seq.) as amended. The Marine Sanctuary Act authorizes the Secretary
of Commerce to designate discrete marine areas of special national significance
as national marine sanctuaries. The purpose is to promote comprehensive
long-term management of their conservation, recreational, ecological,
historical, research, educational, or aesthetic values. National marine
sanctuaries may be designated in those areas of coastal and ocean waters,
the Great Lakes and their connecting waters, and submerged lands over
which the United State exercises jurisdiction, consistent with international
law. National marine sanctuaries are built around the existence of distinctive
natural and cultural resources whose protection and beneficial use require
comprehensive planning and management. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) administers the National Marine Sanctuary Program
through the Sanctuaries and Reserves Division (SRD), in the Office of
Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM).
of the Stellwagen Bank
National Marine Sanctuary
7, 1992, Congress passed legislation reauthorizing and amending Title
III of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA).
This legislation was signed into law on November 4, 1992 (P.L. 102-587).
Section 2202 of that law designates the Stellwagen Bank National Marine
Sanctuary. Further, it establishes a Sanctuary boundary; prohibits the
exploration for and mining of sand and gravel and other minerals in
the Sanctuary; requires consultation with the Secretary of Commerce
by Federal agencies proposing agency actions in the vicinity of the
Sanctuary that may affect Sanctuary resources; authorizes funding levels
for fiscal years 1993 and 1994; and directs the Secretary of Commerce
to consider the establishment of a satellite Sanctuary office.
of Stellwagen Bank as the nation's twelfth (and New England's first)
National Marine Sanctuary was the culmination of over a decade of effort.
Stellwagen Bank was first nominated for consideration as a national
marine sanctuary in 1982 by the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown,
Massachusetts and the Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. The
following year NOAA added Stellwagen Bank to its "Site Evaluation
List" from which NOAA chooses ocean areas as active candidates
for designation as national marine sanctuaries.
the Stellwagen Bank proposal to Active Candidate status on April 19,
1989 (54 FR 15787). This was done in response to a requirement in the
1988 amendments to the National Marine Sanctuary Program that a prospectus
on the Stellwagen Bank proposal be submitted to Congress by September
30, 1990 (P.L. 100-627, s. 205(b)(1)). NOAA commenced gathering public
comment and prepared the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Management
Plan and the Prospectus to Congress. These were published on February
8, 1991, initiating a 60-day public comment period and a 45-day Congressional
review period. During the comment period, a series of public hearings
was held, 860 written comments were submitted, and petitions signed
by more than 20,000 persons supporting designation of the Stellwagen
Bank National Marine Sanctuary were received by NOAA (Sanctuaries and
Reserves Division, 1993).
of the Resources
Bank and surrounding areas provide one of the richest, most productive
marine environments in the United States. The Stellwagen Bank area sustains
a large variety of marine mammals and fishery resources which constitute
an important ecological and economic resource for the region. Due to
its accessibility, the bank is used extensively for whale watching,
commercial and recreational fishing, and recreational boating.
Bank's topography allows for cold, nutrient-rich bottom water to surface
and mix with sunlight, causing suitable conditions for plankton production.
It is this plankton-rich water that attracts many species of animals
to the Stellwagen Bank area.
Bank area is recognized as one of the most important areas in the North
Atlantic for whales. serve as an important feeding and nursery grounds
for many species of marine mammals including large and small whale species,
including humpbacks, fins, minkes, northern rights, pilots, and orcas.
Seasonal visitors also include white-sided and white-beaked dolphins,
harbor porpoises, and bottlenose, common, and striped dolphins. Harbor
seals, gray seals, and leatherback sea turtles make rare visits to the
Bank. Over 30 species of coastal and pelagic seabirds, from the common
herring gull to the endangered Roseate tern can be spotted at Stellwagen
biological productivity of the bank also sustains commercially and recreationally
valuable fishery resources.
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