The federal government is considering a vast expansion of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (MNMS).
The MNMS was the nation’s first national marine sanctuary. It was created in 1975 to protect the wreck of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor and consists of a water column one mile in diameter surrounding the shipwreck from the seafloor to the sea surface.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the trustee for the Sanctuary network. NOAA is now proposing to exapnd the MNMS (“Notice of Intent To Review Monitor National Marine Sanctuary Boundary”) in ways that range from reasonable to a vast “sea grab,”the most extreme of which is a thematic shift as well taking the idea of a “Monitor” National Marine Sanctuary” to more of a “Graveyard of the Atlantic” National Marine Sanctuary that includes three separate designated areas located near Cape Lookout, Cape Hatteras, and Nags Head.
NOAA”s stated purpose of this approach is to “…highlight several ‘stories’ of maritime heritage along the entire Outer Banks, allowing the benefits of sanctuary designation to be enjoyed in multiple communities along the coast. Many historically important wrecks and culturally significant archaeological artifacts from many timeframes and representing several ocean uses are included. It also provides the ability to protect and manage any future potential discoveries within the larger designated areas, and to promote exploration within the boundaries to discover new maritime heritage resources.”
Why should we care?
While each sanctuary has its own unique set of regulations some sanctuaries prohibit other activities such as; (1) the disturbance of marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles, (2) operation of aircraft in certain zones, (3) use of personal watercraft, (4) mineral mining, and (5) anchoring of vessels.
It is not hard to reach the conclusion that this could negatively impact the commercial and recreational fishing industries, recreational boating, the SCUBA industry, dredging, sand and gravel extraction, and future mariculture opportunities in the general area of Bogue Banks.
Public comments are due March 18, 2016. You can make yours at:
- Electronic Submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NOS-2015-0165, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
- Mail: David Alberg, Superintendent, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News, VA 23606-3759.