a diver swims near a shipwreck covered in fish nets
A diver swims near a wreck draped with lost fishing nets. Photo: NOAA

Shipwrecks are among the resources protected by the sanctuary for several important reasons. Not only do they provide habitat for a variety of marine life, but they serve as time capsules of our maritime heritage. In addition, many are memorial sites representing the last resting place of fishers and sailors. Although damage caused by incidental traditional fishing operations are exempted from the sanctuary regulation that prohibits the moving, removing, or injury (or any attempt) of any historical resource, this activity has had a significant impact on maritime heritage resources. Sanctuary staff are working with the fishing and diving communities to find solutions to create a safer environment for shipwrecks.

Shipwreck Avoidance Program (SAP)

an anchor and other debris from a shipwreck
The wreck of the historic steamship Portland is festooned with various types of fishing gear, making exploration with ROVs difficult. Photo: WHOI/NOAA

The Shipwreck Avoidance Program (SAP) is a voluntary initiative that encourages commercial and recreational fishing vessels to avoid historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary. By maintaining a distance of at least 400 feet from each shipwreck, fishing boat captains will have less chance of losing fishing gear, will protect the ecological and historical value of the sites, and preserve the wrecks for safer exploration by divers. A variety of outreach tools are being used to publicize the historic wreck locations as well as some modern wrecks that are active dive sites.

Coordinates for Historic and Modern Shipwrecks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Vessel Name Status North Latitude West Longitude Depth
Unknown Historic 42 11 07 -70 12 03 19 fathom
Unknown Historic 42 11 52 -70 11 01 20 fathom
Unknown Historic 42 13 50 -70 09 05 27 fathom
Unknown Historic 42 23 42.1794 -70 29 21.9114 48.5 fathom
Unknown Historic 42 25 15.765 -70 28 10.4772 18 fathom
Unknown Historic 42 26 21.1956 -70 24 44.3628 47.5 fathom
Unknown Historic 42 21 32.2122 -70 23 45.132 46 fathom
Heroic Historic 42 22 20.7798 -70 22 13.7604 16 fathom
North Star Modern 42 23 2.004 -70 21 21.6966 16 fathom
Patriot Modern 42 24 15.3606 -70 27 11.8182 16 fathom
Josephine Marie Modern 42 10 55 -70 13 28 16 fathom

Mooring Buoys for Divers

The sanctuary has worked with the dive community to install mooring buoys at several sites to reduce deterioration of the wrecks from dive boat anchoring. See our dive section for more information about locations.

Marine Debris Removal Program

The sanctuary has worked with fishers to remove lost fishing and lobster gear from the sanctuary seafloor and organized missions with the dive community to remove marine debris from shipwrecks. This unattended ghost gear continues to trap fish, seals, and other types of marine life, while creating an ever-present threat to divers.