NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) is responsible for identifying, designating,
and managing ocean and Great Lake areas of special national significance as national marine
sanctuaries. Sanctuaries are managed to protect and conserve their resources and to allow uses
that are compatible with resource protection. Management of sanctuaries is composed of a number
The National Marine Sanctuaries Act
authorizes the existence of the ONMS, describes the purposes and policies of the ONMS, and
provides authorization for appropriations. The NMSA is reauthorized every four to five years,
allowing for updating and adaptation as necessary. While the NMSA provides the basis for everything
else that follows, the ONMS must also develop regulations, management plans, policies, and
represent the detailed implementation of the NMSA in the protection and conservation of sanctuary
resources. Upon designation of a sanctuary or during a management plan review, sanctuary-specific
regulations are issued that restrict a narrow range of activities, because an activity has already
been found to be incompatible with the primary mandate of resource protection or is a proactive
step necessary for the protection of a specific resource. The ONMS can also revise existing
regulations or issue new regulations after the designation of a sanctuary. This may occur after a
sanctuary has been in operation for several years and either a new activity is identified that did
not exist prior to the sanctuary's designation, or new information about an existing activity
reveals it is incompatible with resource protection or is resulting in user conflict. Under certain
circumstances, the ONMS can also issue emergency regulations. Although the ONMS would generally
seek non-regulatory means to address an issue, circumstances may warrant the issuance of a new
Regulations specific to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Management plans are sanctuary-specific documents that NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
uses to manage individual sanctuaries.
- summarize existing programs and regulations
- guide preparation of annual operating plans
- articulate visions, goals, objectives, and priorities
- guide management decision-making
- guide future project planning
- ensure public involvement in management processes
- contribute to the attainment of system goals and objectives
In 1998, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries began a comprehensive process that lead to the
review and revision of management plans at all 13 sanctuaries. Reviews of management plans have
been undertaken because:
- most existing management plans are 10 years old or older and evolving issues may not be adequately addressed
- most existing management plans do not incorporate state-of-the-art concepts and practices associated with management of marine protected areas
- the NMSA has a statutory requirement that management plans should be reviewed on a periodic basis
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has recently completed a 3-year
management plan review process
The revised OCNMS Management Plan
was published in October 2011.
Assessing management effectiveness (the achievement of a planned effort or action) is a critical
element of the management of sanctuaries. ONMS assesses management effectiveness at the national,
regional, and individual sanctuary levels through national program assessments and sanctuary
management plan reviews. In drafting the 2011 management plan, OCNMS developed performance
measures to better understand the how well the sanctuary's goals and objectives were being met.
OCNMS has committed to reporting to partners and the public annually on the implementation of the
management plan, particularly on performance measure achievement.
Download the 2011 Management Plan Implementation Report (425k pdf)
Download the 2012 Management Plan Implementation Report (704k pdf)
Download the 2013 Management Plan Implementation Report (436k pdf)
Download the 2014 Management Plan Implementation Report (1.1Mb pdf)
Download the 2015 Management Plan Implementation Report (1.4Mb pdf)
The ONMS conducts strategic and policy planning to provide a framework for the development of
plans and policies at both the sanctuary and system level. While this proactive approach to
resource management is best, in reality most policies are developed in response to something
that has already become a problem. The simple scale of some issues may seem prohibitive (e.g.,
fishing impacts), while in other cases the newness of an issue makes response difficult since
little information may be available about its impacts (e.g., acoustic research, fiber-optic
cable installation). Policies are used not only to address issues by themselves, but to provide
guidance regarding the use of other management tools, such as marine zoning, permits, and regulations.
Sites should, for complex issues or those with broad national implications, work within the
guidelines of national policies that have been or are being developed.
The ONMS has the authority to issue permits to allow some types of activities that are otherwise
prohibited by sanctuary regulations, but which generally present a public benefit by furthering the
management and protection of sanctuary resources.
usually include conditions that are designed to minimize or eliminate impacts to sanctuary resources.
Permit conditions may also be included to minimize user conflict.
For more information specific to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary permitting, see our
Contact for page content: George Galasso