NOAA's national marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers are currently closed to the public, and in accordance with Executive Order 13991 - Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask Wearing, all individuals in NOAA-managed areas are required to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on mask-wearing and maintaining social distances. Sanctuary waters remain open for responsible use in accordance with CDC guidance, U.S. Coast Guard requirements, and local regulations. More information on the response from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can be found on

Monitoring Programs


The southwest corner of the Western Gulf of Maine Closed Area (WGoMCA), which overlaps the SBNMS for a total of 132 square nautical miles, or 22% of the Sanctuary, presented the opportunity to study seafloor habitat recovery following anthropogenic disturbance by bottom-contact mobile fishing gear (such as trawls and dredges).

The Seafloor Habitat Recovery Monitoring Project (SHRMP) was initiated in April 1998, one week prior to the closure of the WGoMCA, to investigate the recovery rates in the SBNMS following impacts from fishing. In August 2001, several sites along the route of a new fiber optic cable and in adjacent areas were added to the existing SHRMP stations to investigate the recovery of seafloor habitats following the laying of the cable by plow. The SHRMP is a collaborative effort between the SBNMS and scientists at the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research (PIER), the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut (NURC-UCONN), the US Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the University of Maine, and Brown University (Brown participated from 2001-2003), with database management provided by Perot Systems.

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The human-induced sources of underwater noise and their potential impacts on marine animals are topics of substantial interest and concern among scientists and the public. Although these concerns have mainly focused on injury and/or behavioral disturbance of whales exposed to short-duration sounds, such as sonars, possible impacts to marine animals exposed to continuous sources, such as commercial shipping, have recently begun to garner more attention.  For more information click Background.

Preliminary assessments of background underwater noise levels within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) were conducted in the summers of 1996 through 1999.  In addition, preliminary passive acoustic surveys for sound-producing fish were conducted in the sanctuary in 2001 and continued through collaboration with fishermen between 2002 and 2005.  For more information on this research click Ambient Noise, Soniferous Fish.

Following a pilot project in 2004, in 2006, a year-long passive acoustic monitoring project was conducted to characterize the sanctuary’s low frequency “noise budget”. Integration of acoustic data with ship tracking data provided initial estimates of noise contributions from large commercial vessels within the frequencies used by vocally-active marine animals in the sanctuary. For more information on this research click Noise Budgets.

Building on these results, a research project was initiated in 2007 to better understand the acoustic environment experienced by, as well as created by, vocally-active animals in the sanctuary. By combining information on the distributions and behaviors of vocalizing marine animals and the distributions, operational conditions and acoustic signatures of vessels and other human and natural sources of underwater sound, researchers are examining the potential for impacts to sanctuary species, including possible changes in communication capabilities due to background noise levels For more information on this research click Noise Mapping.


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Understanding water quality in the SBNMS is important to overall management

While the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) in conjunction with its Harbor and Outfall Monitoring program supports some water quality monitoring with the sanctuary, the spatial and temporal coverage of the effort is limited to six surveys on the western side only. Concern about possible effects of the MWRA outfall in Massachusetts Bay prompted the SBNMS to pursue an expanded sampling program in the sanctuary after the outfall went online in September 2000. Under a contract with the SBNMS, Battelle has been sampling additional stations in the sanctuary since late summer of 2001. In addition to providing data to assess possible outfall effects, sampling has provided new water quality information about the eastern boundary of the sanctuary.


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