Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Management section includes Management 101, Management Plan, and Intergovernmental Policy Council
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Management section includes Management 101, Management Plan, and Intergovernmental Policy Council
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Management section includes Management 101, Management Plan, and Intergovernmental Policy Council Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Management section includes Management 101, Management Plan, and Intergovernmental Policy Council

Management 101

photo of rock cairns 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 of components:


The National Marine Sanctuaries Actimage indicates link leaves this site 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 operational procedures.


Regulationsimage indicates link leaves this site 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 regulation.

Regulations specific to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Management Plans

Management plans are sanctuary-specific documents that NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries uses to manage individual sanctuaries.

Management plans:

  • 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.

Management Effectiveness

In early 2018, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary staff completed an internal evaluation of the progress made toward implementing the OCNMS Final Management Plan finalized in 2011. This evaluation demonstrates the sustained relevance of the goals, objectives, and priorities of the existing management plan. As part of this evaluation, OCNMS completed a FY11-17 Implementation Report (below) that highlights major accomplishments and reports on the actual level of effort for each management plan strategy since 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.

Policy Development

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. Permitsimage indicates link leaves this site 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 permitting page.

Contact for page content: olympiccoast@noaa.gov
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