Part 1
Introduction

Authority for Designation

Title III of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq., as amended (MPRSA) (the 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 States 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).

Mission and Goals of the National Marine Sanctuary Program

In accordance with Title III of the MPRSA, the mission of the National Marine Sanctuary Program is to identify, designate, and comprehensively manage nationally-significant marine areas, based on the criteria noted above. National marine sanctuaries are established for the long-term benefit, use and enjoyment by the public. To meet these objectives, the following National Marine Sanctuary Program goals have been established:

1. Enhance resource protection through comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management tailored to specific resources that complements existing regulatory authorities;

2. Support, promote, and coordinate scientific research on, and monitoring of, the site-specific marine resources to improve management decisionmaking in national marine sanctuaries;

3. Enhance public awareness, understanding, and wise use of the marine environment through public interpretive, educational, and recreational programs; and

4. Facilitate, to the extent compatible with the primary objective of resource protection, multiple uses of national marine sanctuaries.

Terms of Designation

Section 304(a)(4) [16 U.S.C. 1434(a)(4)] of MPRSA provides that as a condition for establishing a national marine sanctuary, the Secretary of Commerce must set forth the terms of the designation. The terms must include: (a) the geographic area included within the proposed Sanctuary; (b) the characteristics of the area that give it conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, research, educational or aesthetic value; and (c) the types of activities that will be subject to regulation in order to protect those characteristics. The terms of the designation may only be modified by the same procedure through which the original designation was made.

Status of the National Marine Sanctuary Program

Thirteen national marine sanctuaries have been established since the Program's inception in 1972 (Figure 1):

• The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary serves to protect the wreck of the Civil War ironclad, U.S.S. MONITOR. It was designated in January 1975, and is one square nautical mile in diameter. The Sanctuary is located 16 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

• The Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary was designated in December 1975, and provides protection and management to a 100 square-nautical-mile area of tropical coral reefs south of Miami, Florida. The Sanctuary is a seaward extension of the John Pennekamp State Coral Reef Park.

• The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in September 1980, and encompasses 1,252 square nautical miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The Sanctuary surrounds the four northern Channel Islands and Santa Barbara Island, and provides protection to valuable habitats for marine mammals, including extensive pinniped assemblages, and seabirds.

• The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary was designated in January 1981 and consists of a submerged section of the Florida reef southwest of Big Pine Key. The five square-nautical-mile site includes a beautiful "spur and groove" coral formation supporting a diverse marine community and a wide variety of human uses.

• The Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, designated in January 1981, is a submerged live bottom area located on the South Atlantic continental shelf due east of Sapelo Island, Georgia. The Sanctuary encompasses about 17 square nautical miles, and protects a highly productive and unusual habitat for a wide variety of species including corals, tropical fish, and endangered and threatened sea turtles.

• The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary was designated in January 1981, and encompasses 948 square nautical miles off the northern coast of San Francisco, California. The Sanctuary includes important habitats for a diverse array of marine mammals and seabirds, as well as pelagic fish, plants, and benthic biota.

• The Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa was designated in April 1986. The 163-acre bay site contains deepwater coral terrace formations that are unique to the high islands of the tropical Pacific. The Sanctuary protects habitat for a diverse array of marine flora and fauna, including the endangered hawksbill sea turtle and the threatened green sea turtle.

• The Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, located approximately 20 miles west of Point Reyes, California, was designated in May 1989. The 397 square-nautical-mile site surrounds a granitic formation which provides habitat for an unusual assortment of marine and intertidal species, including colonies of purple hydrocorals. Abundant fish species attract feeding cetaceans and seabirds.

• The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was Congressionally-designated in November 1990, and encompasses approximately 2600 square nautical miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and related shoreline habitats off Florida. NOAA is required to complete a comprehensive management plan including implementing

regulations by May 1993. Upon its completion, existing National Marine Sanctuaries at Key Largo and Looe Key will be incorporated into this plan.

• The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary encompasses approximately 42 square nautical miles surrounding two separate submerged features, the East and the West Flower Garden Banks, situated over 100 miles off the coast of Texas. Designated in January 1992, the Sanctuary protects the northernmost coral reefs on the North American continental shelf.

• The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 4,024 square nautical miles of coastal and ocean waters off Monterey, California. Designated in September 1992, the Sanctuary protects a a variety of nearshore and offshore habitats, including Monterey Canyon, which measures over 10,000 feet in depth at its seaward edge. Abundant marine mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates and floral and faunal communities depend upon these habitats, and are important to central and northern California.

• The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary was Congressionally designated in November 1992 and encompasses 638 square nautical miles of biologically productive waters between Cape Cod and Cape Ann, Massachusetts. The Bank feature supports plankton, invertebrate and fish species important to a variety of marine mammals, including humpback, fin, sei, and northern right whales. The Bank is heavily used for both fishing and whalewatching activities.

• The Hawaiian Islands National Marine Sanctuary was Congressionally designated in November 1992. The Sanctuary includes waters within the 100-fathom isobath of the islands of Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and a portion of Kaui. Among Sanctuary purposes are protection of humpback whales and identification of additional marine resources and ecosystems of national significance. Unless determined to be unsuitable, waters around the island of Kahoolawe will be added to the Sanctuary in January 1996.

In addition to Stellwagen Bank, the Sanctuaries and Reserves Division is actively developing designation documents for four additional proposed Sanctuaries. The proposed Sanctuaries are: Northwest Straits, Washington; Olympic Coast, Washington; Norfolk Canyon, Virginia; and Thunder Bay, Michigan.

History of the Proposal

In January 1982, NOAA published a Program Development Plan (PDP) for the National Marine Sanctuary Program, describing the Program's mission and goals; site identification procedures and criteria; and establishing a sanctuary nomination and designation process. Pursuant to the PDP and Program regulations, NOAA initiated a public process in February 1982 to establish a Site Evaluation List (SEL), to be comprised of highly-qualified marine sites meeting Program criteria for further evaluation as possible national marine sanctuaries. Potential SEL sites were identified and recommended to NOAA by regional resource evaluation teams, in accordance with the Program's mission and goals, as set forth in the PDP and in Program regulations.

A marine area of approximately 500 square miles (1294.99 sq. km) surrounding Stellwagen Bank (offshore Massachusetts) was nominated jointly by Defenders of Wildlife, Inc. and Dr. Charles A. Mayo, of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, to the North Atlantic Regional Resource Evaluation Team for its consideration. The nomination was subsequently recommended by the evaluation team to NOAA for placement on the proposed SEL. A proposed SEL, including the Stellwagen Bank site, was published on March 1, 1983 (48 FR 8527); and, following a public comment period, the final SEL was published August 4, 1983 (48 FR 35568).

The Secretary of Commerce (acting through NOAA), will from time to time select sites from the SEL as Active Candidates, which formally initiates evaluation of a site for possible designation, through implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Prior to the 1988 Congressional amendments to Title III of the MPRSA, there was no time limit on NOAA's consideration of a site for national marine sanctuary designation. However, the 1988 amendments to the National Marine Sanctuary Program (Title II of Pub. L. 100-627, codified at 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) establish (at Section 304(b)) a finite period of time (i.e., 30 months) from the time of Active Candidacy to a notice of designation (or findings regarding why such notice has not been published).

Additionally, the 1988 Amendments specifically require (Section 304(e)) that a prospectus on the Stellwagen Bank proposal be submitted to Congress for its review and comment no later than September 30, 1990. The prospectus on a proposed national marine sanctuary contains, among other information, the draft environmental impact statement and the draft management plan (DEIS/MP). To meet this Congressionally-mandated deadline, NOAA elevated the Stellwagen Bank proposal to Active Candidate status on April 19, 1989 (54 FR 15787).

Following the Federal Register notice announcing Stellwagen Bank as an Active Candidate for National Marine Sanctuary designation, NOAA conducted four public scoping meetings during the week of June 12-16, 1989 at Provincetown, MA; Portsmouth, NH; Gloucester, MA; and Boston, MA. The purpose of the meetings was to gather information and comments from individuals, organizations, and government agencies on the range and significance of issues related to the Sanctuary proposal. Attendees were provided information sheets on the study area for the proposal, and were asked to comment on identified management issues; to suggest additional issues for examination; and to provide information useful for NOAA's evaluation of the site's potential as a National Marine Sanctuary.

Significant concerns were identified through this process regarding possible threats to the Stellwagen Bank environment from proposed human activities. Natural resources at risk include the Bank feature itself, as well as commercially-important fisheries and endangered cetaceans.

The DEIS/MP on the proposed Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and the Prospectus to Congress were published on February 8, 1991, initiating a 60-day public comment period, and a 45-day Congressional review period. during this period, a series of public hearings were conducted (March 11-18, 1991) in Portsmouth, NH; Gloucester, MA; Duxbury, MA; Provincetown, MA; and Washington, DC. Approximately 225 persons attended the public hearings, and over 860 written comments were received during this period. Additionally, petitions signed by more than 20,000 persons supporting designation of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary were also received by NOAA by the comment deadline of April 9, 1991.

Prior to the issuance of this FEIS/MP, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed into law the National Marine Sanctuaries Amendments Act of 1992, which reauthorizes and amends Title III of the MPRSA (P. L. 102-587, Nov. 4, 1992). Section 2202 of P. L. 102-587 designates the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary; 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 establishment of a satellite Sanctuary office in Provincetown, Gloucester or Hull, MA.

Purpose and Need for Designation

The combination of physical and oceanographic characteristics over and around the Stellwagen Bank feature produces two distinct peak productivity periods annually. This occurs when overturn and mixing of coastal waters with nutrient-rich waters from deeper strata result in a complex system of overlapping mid-water and benthic habitats. This cyclic biological productivity supports a large variety of fishery resources, including mackerel, bluefin tuna, bluefish, shad, menhaden, herring, cod, haddock, flounders, quahog, and sea scallop. Large populations of the predominant forage fish, the sand lance, support larger fish species and seasonal populations of cetaceans. Sand lance are also responsible for seasonal concentrations of a variety of seabirds. Several species of cetaceans have been recorded at Stellwagen Bank, including Atlantic white-sided dolphins, white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, orca whales, pilot whales, minke whales, humpback whales, fin whales, sei whales, and northern right whales. The latter four species are Federally-listed as "endangered."

The proximity to land and accessibility of this biologically rich and diverse system have resulted in extensive levels of human activities. The primary commercial use of the Bank's resources is fishing, which has occurred in the area for several generations. More recently, commercial whalewatching also has become a principal commercial activity. Whalewatchers visiting the Stellwagen Bank region number more than 1.25 million a year, involving more than 40 vessels.

Commercial vessel traffic lanes in and out of Boston Harbor traverse directly across the Bank feature. Waters near the Stellwagen Bank have been and continue to be used for disposal of dredged materials. There are also activities currently underway to establish an extended outfall tunnel, ending approximately 15 miles from Stellwagen Bank, to carry and release treated wastewater effluent from Boston Harbor.

Public awareness of and attention to coastal management issues, and the desire to ensure the future of such areas for commercial, recreational, and other uses, have highlighted both the importance of the Stellwagen Bank system and the current lack of comprehensive and coordinated management for this area. The Sanctuary occurs in Federal waters not fully protected from potentially harmful activities, and lacking the benefits of coordinated, multiple-use management. Sanctuary designation will provide both the coordination of ongoing and planned human activities, and the mechanism for ensuring long-term protection of the system, through regulatory, research, monitoring, and interpretive/educational programs.

On October 7, 1992, Congress passed legislation reauthorizing and amending Title III of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (Title III). This legislation was signed into law on November 4, 1992 (P. L. 102-587). Title III, as amended, designates the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and additionally mandates the adoption of a Sanctuary boundary described in this document as boundary alternative 5; 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 fiscal years 1993 and 1994 funding levels for the Sanctuary; and directs the Secretary of Commerce to consider establishment of a satellite Sanctuary office in Provincetown, Gloucester or Hull, MA (Section 2202).

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