National marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers closed to the public; waters remain open

NOAA's national marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers are closed to the public while the waters remain open for responsible use in accordance with CDC guidance and local regulations. More information on the response from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can be found on


April 19, 2007

Contact: Anne Smrcina
Stellwagen Bank National Marine
(781) 545-8026 ext. 204

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program today released the first-ever status report evaluating the health of Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, home to one of the richest and most productive marine ecosystems in the nation. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report presents an initial summary of the pressures and trends facing sanctuary resources, which sanctuary staff will address in detail in the upcoming Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Draft Management Plan.

The condition report, which examines the status of everything from water quality in the sanctuary to its endangered right whale population, distills a wealth of information about the sanctuary's complex marine resources into a straightforward, easily understandable document.

The status and trends of the four main resource categories examined in the report - water, habitat, living resources and maritime archaeological resources - are summarized in a color-coded table ranging from "good" to "poor," with notes on the basis for the ratings and sanctuary responses to various pressures.

"A great deal of thought went into the process of making the Stellwagen Bank sanctuary condition report easily understandable," said Stellwagen Bank sanctuary Superintendent Craig MacDonald. "It's a lot of complex information that has been assimilated in a concise, straightforward visual way."

More than half of the categories examined in the report had fair through poor ratings, with eight to ten relating to habitat or marine life resources. The general trend for marine life appears to be static and in need of improvements, an indication that pressures on marine life are high, requiring targeted management efforts. The status of seafloor communities and habitats remains problematic as well. The report also suggests that monitoring programs for water quality and a number of other resources (e.g., habitat contaminants and invasive species) needs to be enhanced.

Topping the list of concerns for the sanctuary are threats like damage from fishing gear to seafloor habitat and archaeological sites, depletion of some key species, and ship collisions with whales.

The report was compiled by sanctuary staff with the help of qualified experts, drawing on data taken from a wide range of past studies of sanctuary resources. The report was also peer-reviewed by science experts in accordance with standards outlined in the Infromation Quality Act.

The completion of the Stellwagen Bank condition report is the first step in the sanctuary program's efforts to compile similar evaluations of every site in the National Marine Sanctuary System. With several more condition reports slated for completion in 2007, sanctuary program staff will continue to work toward the goal of creating a sound baseline for scientific monitoring throughout every marine sanctuary in the nation.

Such a reporting tool will give marine resource managers an unprecedented ability to evaluate environmental changes and potential threats to some of the nation's most precious underwater areas, allowing them to make well-informed and timely management decisions.

The full report is now available online at, along with an interactive Web version featuring a breakdown of its findings.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary supports a rich assortment of marine life, including marine mammals, more than 30 species of seabirds, over 60 species of fishes, and hundreds of marine invertebrates.

NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

High resolution images for this press release are available at:

Digital video footage for this press release is also available. Low resolution video clips are available at:

[Media representatives should contact the sanctuary for information on downloading high resolution files.]

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