Coastal & Marine Resources
|Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is located in the central Pacific Line Islands about 1000 miles south of Honolulu. |
|Credit: Kydd Pollack|
Ocean and Coastal Refuges
The National Wildlife Refuge System includes 180 refuges that protect ocean, coastal or Great Lakes habitats. Spanning from above the Arctic Circle to south of the Equator, the Refuge System protects an incredible diversity of marine and coastal ecosystems including salt marshes, rocky shorelines, tide pools, sandy beaches, kelp forests, mangroves, seagrass meadows, barrier islands, estuaries, lagoons, tidal creeks, tropical coral atolls, as well as open ocean.
With the addition of the Mariana Trench and the Arc of Fire National Wildlife Refuges in 2009, the Refuge System can now add deep-sea hydrothermal vent communities to this list of protected habitats. The Refuge System also includes 107 sites that are members of the National System of Marine Protected Areas. These marine resources are facing a number of mounting threats including a warming ocean, ocean acidification, increased pollution, coastal development, diseases, overfishing and illegal fishing, and marine debris.
It’s a Fact!
- The largest National Wildlife Refuge is the Marianas Trench National Wildlife Refuge , which includes over 50 million acres of seafloor habitat (That’s bigger than the State of Nebraska!).
- The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge spans more than 1,000 miles and includes more than 2,500 islands, islets, spires, rocks, reefs, waters and headlands.
- Kingman Reef National Wildlife Refuge contains only about 3 acres of emerged land but 483,751 acres of shallow coral reef and other marine habitat.
- Navassa Island National Wildlife Refuge , an unincorporated U.S. territory located about 35 miles west of Haiti, protects some of the most pristine coral reefs in the Caribbean.
- Located about 28 miles west of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, Farallon National Wildlife Refuge provides essential haul-out and breeding habitat for five species of pinnipeds.
- Each winter over 100,000 people visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge to the view the 500+ endangered West Indian Manatees that congregate there.
- Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S. Virgin Islands was created in 1984 to protect the largest nesting population of endangered leatherback sea turtles under U.S. jurisdiction. In fact, at least 30 National Wildlife Refuges see some level of sea turtle nesting.
- Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge , stretching across 20.5 miles along Florida’s east coast, protects the most significant habitat for loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the Western Hemisphere.
- Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge supports more than twice the number of stony coral species as found in Hawai‘i, nearly four times as many as Florida Keys, and nearly three times more than in the entire Caribbean.
- Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge hosts more than 1.4 million visitors each summer who come to enjoy the unique undeveloped beach and to see the famous wild ponies.
- Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge , south of Cape Cod, is the largest haul-out site for gray seals on the Atlantic Seaboard with approximately 5,000 seals.
Marine and Coastal National Wildlife Refuges (1 MB PDF)
List of the 180 ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes National Wildlife Refuges (108 KB PDF)
|Seals gather at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. |
|Credit: Keith Shannon/USFWS|
The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), enacted in 1972, prohibits the taking of marine mammals and imposes a moratorium on the import export, and sale of any marine mammal, along with any marine mammal part or product within the United States. The MMPA gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responsibility for sea and marine otters, walrus, polar bear, three species of manatees, and the dugong.
The National Marine Fisheries Service was given responsibility for seals, sea lions and cetaceans. The Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) was later established as an independent federal agency to review and make recommendations on the policies and actions of the Service and NOAA. Coordination among these agencies is criticalto providing the best management of these marine mammals. The MMC produces annual reports to Congress describing its activities and accomplishments. The Service works closely with NOAA to monitor and protect marine mammals that haul-out and breed on national wildlife refuges.
USFWS Marine Mammal Information
Alaska Region Marine Mammals Management
North Florida Ecological Services Office - Florida Manatee information
Ventura Field Office - Southern Sea Otter Information