Congress designated Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary as part of the reauthorization of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on November 4, 1992.


To conserve, protect, and enhance the biological diversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of the sanctuary while facilitating compatible use.

What is a National Marine Sanctuary?

National marine sanctuaries are special areas in ocean and Great Lakes waters around our country; they are often called America's underwater parks. Sites have been designated for their aesthetic beauty, the bounty of their natural resources, and/or the wealth of their cultural resources. Although some areas within national marine sanctuaries restrict certain activities to protect sanctuary resources, all are managed for compatible use such as recreation, tourism, travel, and commerce.

Why Stellwagen Bank?

The productive waters surrounding Stellwagen Bank have made the area famous as a fishing ground, and its regularly returning whales make it one of the world's premier whale watching destinations. The 400-plus years of active vessel traffic inevitably led to accidents, with the sanctuary seafloor now providing the final resting place for many shipwrecks -- some of special national significance. These cultural resources give us insights into our nation's maritime history.

stellwagen bank map
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Image: NOAA

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is located completely within federal waters. The 842-square-mile (682-square-nautical-mile) marine protected area stretches from three miles south of Cape Ann to three miles north of Cape Cod. It is approximately 21 miles from Boston to the sanctuary's western border. Sanctuary headquarters are located in Scituate, Massachusetts.

Stellwagen Bank is one of 15 sanctuaries and two marine national monuments in the National Marine Sanctuary System that stretches from the Gulf of Maine to the South Pacific, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Florida Keys to the Pacific Northwest. It is New England's only national marine sanctuary.

Diversity and Inclusion Statement

NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary values diversity and inclusion; we strive to create an inclusive workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment. We are committed to creating a welcoming environment framed by multilingual, multicultural, and gender-equitable practices. We all share a responsibility to ensure that we live, work, and interact in an environment that fosters care, respect, and belonging. At the sanctuary, inclusion is the celebration of diversity put into action and remains an essential part of advancing our mission.

Indigenous Land Recognition Statement

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary sits at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay between Cape Ann and Cape Cod. The sanctuary's headquarters, located in Scituate, Massachusetts, and coastal areas closest to our offshore sanctuary, are within the indigenous homelands of the Wampanoag (Wôpanâak) and Massachusett people. From these shore-side departure points, our staff, researcher partners, and community members explore sanctuary waters, which are also open for recreation, tourism, travel, and commerce to diverse communities. All of us must remember to respect and honor the land we stand on, for the ancestors of the Indigenous peoples who rest below and as pathways to greater understanding of the biological, physical, and cultural legacies of the sanctuary region.