Management Plan Frequently Asked Questions

A sanctuary condition report is a tool NOAA uses to assess the status and trends of national marine sanctuary resources. Condition reports provide a standardized summary of resources in national marine sanctuaries, drivers and pressures on those resources, and current conditions and trends for resources and ecosystem services. They describe existing management responses to the pressures that threaten the integrity of the marine environment.

Condition reports include information on the status and trends of water quality, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources, and the human activities that affect them. They present responses to a standardized set of questions. The reports also rate ecosystem service status and trends. A scale from good to poor is used to rate resource and ecosystem service status, and timelines used for comparison vary from topic to topic. Trends in the status of resources and ecosystem services are generally based on observed changes in status since the previous condition report, unless otherwise specified.

Condition reports document the condition of sanctuary resources and ecosystem services following consultation between sanctuary staff and stakeholders and review of the best available information and data. The reports help determine if the sanctuaries are achieving their resource protection and improvement goals as reflected in NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries performance measures.

Condition reports are structured on Driver-Pressure-State-Ecosystem Services-Response (DPSER) framework. This is an expanded framework from the first generation of sanctuary condition reports (2007-2013) which were structured on a Pressure-State-Response (PSR) framework.

Beginning in 2019, sanctuary condition reports are now structured on a framework that describes the interactions between driving societal forces (Drivers), resulting threats (Pressures), resource condition (State), derived benefits (Ecosystem services), and management responses (Response). This DPSER framework recognizes that human activities are ultimately linked to demographic, economic, social, and/or institutional values and conditions (collectively called drivers). Changes in these drivers affect the nature and level of pressures placed on both natural and heritage resources, which can alter their condition (e.g., the quality of natural resources or aesthetic value). This affects the availability of benefits that humans receive from the resources (ecosystem services), which prompts targeted management responses intended to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the undesirable changes.

Yes, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, in consultation with other NOAA legal and program staff, has determined that the condition reports are considered "Influential Scientific Information," subject to the review requirements of the White House Office of Management and Budget. More information on this is available on the Office of the Chief Information Officer website.

A management plan is a road map that: (1) guides site programming and management actions toward achievement of the sanctuary's goals; and (2) informs sanctuary constituents, including the general public, about the sanctuary and planned actions by NOAA and its partners for the next five to 10 years. The management plan contains information about the sanctuary's priority management issues and actions proposed to address them, as well as staffing and administration. The sanctuary's current management plan was published in 2010.

Over time, all management plans should be reviewed and updated to adapt to changing conditions and needs. Since the adoption of the current management plan in 2010, new partners, technologies, and opportunities have emerged, as have new resource management issues. An evaluation of what has been implemented and what else the site needs will allow site managers and partners to shift efforts to new priorities.

Condition Report. The process began with the release of a new condition report to inform the management plan update process.

Notice of Intent. Publication in the Federal Register of a Notice of Intent (NOI) announced the start of the management plan review process. The Notice of Intent, published on February 7, 2020, provided information about public scoping meetings and opened a 45 day public scoping comment period that extended through April 10, 2020.

Public Scoping. Public scoping meetings were scheduled to be held in Boston, Gloucester, and Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts; however they were canceled due to the pandemic, and one virtual meeting was held on March 31, 2021. This meeting provided the public with an opportunity to learn about the sanctuary and to suggest issues and strategies to be included within the scope of sanctuary management considerations and priorities over the next 5 to 10 years. Comments were recorded at the meetings, and were also submitted in writing. The public comment period was extended from February 7 through April 10, 2020.

Issue Identification and Action Plan Development. After the public scoping period, sanctuary staff reviewed all comments and worked with the sanctuary advisory council and subject matter experts to identify and prioritize issues to be addressed in the management plan. Tailored action plans were developed to address these priority issues, and form the foundation of a draft management plan.

Draft Environmental Review and Draft Management Plan. This Draft Management Plan contains a series of action plans to address resource protection and general management of the sanctuary. Accompanying the Draft Management Plan is an environmental assessment of the activities proposed within the plan, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Public Review and Comment. The Draft Management Plan and Environmental Assessment are being released for public review and comment, and virtual public meetings will be held on January 11 and 12, 2022, to invite public comment. After the close of the public comment period, sanctuary staff will review comments and make any necessary changes to action plans and environmental assessment.

Final Environmental Review and Final Management Plan. At the completion of the process, a Final Management Plan and Environmental Assessment will be released.

The entire process is estimated to take 2-3 years.

Members of the public may submit comments during the public comment period by any of the following methods:

  • Electronic Submission:

    Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to and enter the docket number NOAA–NOS–2020-0003, select the “Browse and Comment on Documents” tab, click the "Comment" button, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.

  • Mail:

    Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
    Attn: Management Plan Revision
    175 Edward Foster Road
    Scituate, MA 02066
  • In person at the virtual public meetings: January 11 and 12, 2022
  • Via email to

Comments sent by any other method, to any other address or individual, or received after the end of the comment period, may not be considered by NOAA. All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted for public viewing on without change. All personal identifying information (e.g., name, address, etc.), confidential business information, or otherwise sensitive information submitted voluntarily by the sender will be publicly accessible. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter ‘‘N/ A’’ in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

NOAA is not at this time considering changing the sanctuary boundaries.