Coastal & Marine Resources

Palmyra Atoll
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. 

Visit, explore, and connect with the ocean and Great Lakes in Marine Protected Areas! Learn more at our new Make the Most of the Coast MPA Story Map

It’s a Fact!

Marine and Coastal National Wildlife Refuges  (1 MB PDF)


Seals gather at Monomoy National Wildlife
Refuge in Massachusetts.
Credit: Keith Shannon/USFWS

Marine Mammals

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